Catalytic Converter Theft Is On The Rise - How Can You Protect Yourself?

Catalytic converter theft is on the rise, and there are a growing number of Toyota Prius owners finding their vehicles targeted. In fact, thieves are going after the 2004-2009 Toyota Prius more than any other vehicle.

Whether you drive a Prius or another Toyota, you may be looking for a way to prevent catalytic converter theft. Read on to find out why this part is so valuable and what you can do to protect your vehicle.

What Is A Catalytic Converter?

OEM toyota catalytic convertor

A catalytic converter is also known as a "cat". It's a tube-shaped metal part that's a critical component of the exhaust system. Typically a catalytic converter is is mounted close to the engine, and it may be bolted to the exhaust manifold. The exhaust pipe connects the cat to the muffler. 

A cat helps reduce pollution by converting harmful gases into less harmful ones. The most common harmful gases include:

  • Nitric oxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Carbon monoxide

A catalytic converter has a honeycomb structure. The structure is coated in precious metals that create chemical reactions. These chemical reactions convert harmful gases into less harmful ones like carbon dioxide or water vapor. Cars with functioning catalytic converters don't emit as many noxious fumes.

Why Are People Stealing Catalytic Converters?

Catalytic converter theft

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These days, precious metals are worth a lot of money for two reasons:

  • They're difficult to mine
  • Current supplies are low

Catalytic converters contain valuable rare earth elements and precious metals such as rhodium and platinum. This means that catalytic converters can be worth upwards of $1000 each at auto recycling centers.

Some states are cracking down on catalytic converter theft by forcing auto recyclers to track VINs, but it remains a common crime nationwide. A practiced thief can remove a catalytic converter with simple tools in less than a minute.

Why Are Thieves Targeting The 2004-2009 Prius?

Cars with low emissions engines like the Toyota Prius are popular targets for catalytic converter theft because the catalytic converters on these cars contain more precious metals. Therefore, they're more profitable to steal.

The Best Way To Prevent Thieves From Stealing Your Catalytic Converter: Install A Catalytic Converter Shield

Toyota catalytic converter shield

Anyone who's had their catalytic converter stolen will tell you that it's expensive to remedy.

For starters, replacing a catalytic converter on a vehicle like the Prius can cost upwards of $3,000. Also, you may have to wait weeks for a replacement part to come in, meaning your car would be out of commission. If the cat is missing, there would be nothing to support the exhaust pipe. Additionally, cars without catalytic converters are loud.

The best way to protect your catalytic converter is to install a catalytic converter shield, a metal plate that's securely affixed over the catalytic converter. It's designed to protect exhaust components from cutting tools. Catalytic converter shields are less than $300 and easy to install, meaning low labor costs or a quick DIY project.

You can see our catalog of Prius catalytic converter shields here.

In addition to catalytic converter theft, car thefts are on the rise, too. While your looking to protect your vehicle, it would be a good idea to take a few other anti-theft measures, as discussed in this blog post.