How to Protect Your Car From Catalytic Converter Theft, and What to Do if It Happens

A pair of hands removing a catalytic converter.

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Replacing a stolen converter can cost thousands. Here are some precautions you can take:

How can I protect my car from catalytic converter theft?

Insurance companies, mechanics and police departments have recommended a wide range of anti-theft measures designed to deter a would-be thief. “It’s a holistic approach,” Glawe said.

The simplest solution is to keep your car out of public access when not in use. If you have access to a garage, keep your car there. Those without a garage should try to park their car in a well-lit area, or somewhere you can install a security camera.

But even a garage may not be enough to protect your car. Public parking lots of all kinds have become targets for daytime theft, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a recycling industry trade group, has warned.

“[At] hospitals, it’s happening because people go to the hospital and either park and visit, or they’re at the hospital for an extended period of time and their car sits there,” said Todd Foreman, the group’s director of law enforcement. It’s happening with the trucks of big, with the churches”.

Some cities have organized workshops where car owners can get their vehicle identification numbers etched into their catalytic converters for free – an indication to potential buyers that the converter has been stolen.

Foreman also recommends painting your converter with brightly colored, high-temperature paint, which might deter a thief from having to scratch it all off before selling it. “If they climb under a car and see it’s spray-painted,” he said, “they know they’re more likely to get caught stealing those catalytic converters.”

Other solutions can cost a bit of money: Homeowners can put together alarm systems that are triggered by the vibration of a burglar’s saw. Other more expensive anti-theft devices are designed to make a converter more cumbersome to remove. Mechanics can also weld on metal plates or armor to protect the converter.

What should I do if it is stolen?

If your converter is stolen, you’ll likely notice right away: Without the converter, your car will be much louder than usual.

Most cars will run without a catalytic converter, although it is not advisable to do so for longer than necessary. Because the purpose of a catalytic converter is to reduce harmful emissions, cars without one will pollute much more than an intact car, and you may fail an emissions inspection in states that require them.

When thieves use a hacksaw to remove a catalytic converter, they can also cause damage to nearby parts of your car, such as the alternator or fuel lines. It is best to have your car checked by a mechanic as soon as possible.

And check your car insurance. Comprehensive coverage in an auto insurance policy will cover damage to your car that occurs outside of a collision – including theft.

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