Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

How to prevent catalytic converter theft

Prevent catalytic converter theft

When the stock market goes down, the price of precious metals goes up and that means your catalytic converter fetches a higher price at the recycler. That’s all the incentive a catalytic converter thief needs to go out and steal yours.

Understand how they steal your catalytic converter

First, they know which cars and truck converters fetch the most at the recycler. Second, they know which cars have enough ground clearance to allow them to slide under without having to use a jack.

It only takes about two minutes to steal your catalytic converter

Once the thieves are under your car, they simply saw through the exhaust pipe with a battery-powered reciprocating saw equipped with a metal sawing blade or they use a handheld exhaust pipe cutter (makes less noise). In some cases, a team of thieves can do it in less than a minute. They toss it in their car/truck and they’re off.

Preventing catalytic converter theft is a three-step process

Step 1: Install welded wire mesh under the cat converter

welded wire mesh to prevent catalytic converter theft

welded wire mesh to prevent catalytic converter theft

Purchase heavy gauge welded wire mesh from any steel supplier. The heavier the gauge, the better. The heavy gauge will force them to cut out a section instead of just making a small cut and bending the mesh away.

Also choose wide spacing so the crooks will have to cut each wire. If you choose tight spacing, they’ll just zoom down the row with a cutting wheel.

Mount the mesh to the side frame rails with different sized security fasteners.

Step #2 Engrave your VIN into the catalytic converter housing. Then spray paint a warning on the heat shield

When police stop converter thieves, it’s hard to prosecute them unless they can tie the stolen converters to your vehicle. VIN etching


Etch your VIN into the catalytic converter housing, not the heat shield

is the way to prove the thieves stole your converter because legit recyclers won’t touch an engraved catalytic converter. And warning the thieves with orange heat-resistant paint is the best way to convince them to change their mind before they even start sawing. It’s not totally foolproof, but it is a huge disincentive. No cat thief wants to be caught with a VIN etched converter

Then spray paint the converter with the words VIN ENGRAVED using heat-resistant orange paint. See this post on how some police departments are offering this service. A converter can run at temps around 1,200° but the paint is rated to 500° so make sure you spray the heat shield, not the converter itself.

catalytic converter markings

Step #3 Add a catalytic converter defeat device to your vehicle

Catalytic converter defeat devices come in two flavors:

• Skid plate protectors that block access to the catalytic converter and prevent removal even if the thieves manage to saw it off and,

• Catalytic converter cages that surround the converter and weave through the vehicle’s structural supports.

Both styles cost around $200 and require under-the-vehicle installation, which brings to full cost to around $300. Why should you spend this kind of money when you have insurance? Because catalytic converter replacement can cost upwards of $1,500 to $2,500 for a factory replacement. On an older vehicle, that may exceed the value of your car, causing the insurance company to call it a total loss. Do you really want to have your car “totaled” just because of a stolen catalytic converter?

Even if the insurance company pays for the replacement, be warned, the thieves will be back to steal the replacement catalytic converter too!

Several companies make catalytic converter shields and skid plates. The mount directly below the catalytic converter and allow for air circulation but deter theft. With enough time, any determined thief can cut through the shield. But cutting through the plate makes a LOT more noise and takes a lot more time. Do a search for a catalytic converter shield. Two well know companies are catscurity and millercat

cat Shield Millercat

Catalytic Converter shield by Millercat.com

Protect your catalytic converter with a cage device

A catalytic converter cage uses hardened steel clamps attached to the inlet and outlet of your converter. The installer secures the cables to structural members under your car on each end using eight cables. The cables are very difficult to cut with a reciprocating saw. Thieves can use a special cable cutter, but they’d have to all eight cables on each end. That’s 16 cuts before they can even start sawing. For more information on cat cages visit catclamp.com

cat clamp

CatClamp by catclamp.com


catclamp installed on vehicles.

Step #4 Practice preventative measures when parking

Make it harder to get under your car

  1. Park inside a locked garage rather than on your driveway or street.
  2. Park your car right next to a fence or garage and pull straight in (don’t back in). That limits them to only one side of your vehicle.
  3. Place your garbage can and recycling bins on the open side of your car, forcing them to move noisy items in order to get access
  4. Park on dirt or gravel rather than a smooth concrete or asphalt area. You wouldn’t want to crawl on gravel, neither do they.

Make your parking area less attractive to thieves

    1. Light up your parking area. Swap out all your floodlights with LED bulbs and turn them on all night. Motion detectors lights don’t deter thieves; they know motion sensor lights false alarm. What they fear is a well-lit area. Running LED floodlights all night, every night costs about 0.35/month. In fact, the more light you add, the better your chances of deterring the thieves.
    2. Park on dirt or gravel rather than a smooth concrete or asphalt area. You wouldn’t want to crawl on gravel, neither do they.
    3. Install real or fake video cameras with warning signs. If you have a Wi-Fi signal in your parking area, purchase a Wi-Fi camera with person-detecting recording capabilities. Mount the camera high enough to avoid removal or disablement. If you install a fake security camera, avoid the most common fake camera mistakes shown below.
    4. Add video surveillance signs around the area.

fake security camera
yard security signs

Prevent catalytic converter theft at parking lots and ramps

  1. Don’t park in isolated areas
  2. Park in well-lit areas
  3. Park between vehicles
  4. In a ramp, park near the elevator or stairway, wherever there’s likely to be the most foot traffic.
  5. In a ramp, don’t back in where there’s a wall or another vehicle behind you. That just provides cover for the thieves. You want the rear and sides of your car to be the most visible to others.
  6. In a parking lot, park near a busy sidewalk

©, 2020 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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