July 9

Stay Informed: Avoiding Catalytic Converter Theft



What Is It? What Does It Do? Do I Care?

The catalytic converter is made of metal and is in-line with your vehicle’s exhaust system. It is designated to help reduce harmful emissions, such as hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxide from getting into the air we breathe. Your engine’s exhaust travels through it and passes through a ceramic honeycomb looking “filter” structure. The internal honeycomb structure is made of ceramic, but lined with platinum, rhodium, and/or palladium metals. This inner structure area is known as the catalyst. Each converter is made a bit differently in terms of its size and which kind of metals or internal components the manufacturer uses. The purpose of the catalytic converter is to convert the harmful exhaust gases from the engine into less harsh gases, such as carbon dioxide, steam (h20), and nitrogen.

Internal Catalytic Converter

Current Issue At Hand?

Thieves are going around in small groups and cutting off catalytic converters from vehicles and selling them as scrap metal to auto recycling companies or used parts suppliers. There are countless news stories about what has been happening and thankfully a number of thieves are being caught and charged for their criminal acts. It only takes a few seconds to cut it off and it is required for your car to run properly. Your car will sound extremely loud, as if you’re driving an old diesel truck. When the catalytic converter is removed from your vehicle, it means that you’re unable to drive your car until you can get it replaced. 

Where is my catalytic converter?

Can I Prevent Mine From Being Taken?

This sounds like a hassle and I don’t want mine to get stolen. How can I keep this from happening? There are a few options to consider when trying to prevent converter theft and some are easier than others. Park in a well lit area of the parking lot away from other vehicles so thieves cannot easily sneak around and under one vehicle after another. Park in your garage at night, instead of the street or driveway. One option people have done is weld their converter to the vehicle’s frame. This can get tricky to fabricate a bracket for, may not work on every vehicle, it’s time consuming, and also makes it that much harder to have it replaced if it fails in the future. Some have said that they are going to put a straight pipe in and avoid the converter altogether. This option is illegal and it is required by law to have your exhaust monitored by a catalytic converter and to have your exhaust gases converted into a less harmful gas emission. The best option we have found is to have it painted. This may sound like it won’t work because it’s only paint and it can be washed or grinded off. Here is the deal, criminals are looking for a quick and easy pay day. They aren’t going to want to cut your painted converter off and go grind off paint for an hour and then go in to sell a freshly grinded converter to the used parts recycler. This paint is made for high temperatures and will stay on long term. If touch ups are needed, simply have your shop or Victory Auto Service and Glass apply another coat. The local police departments in the Minneapolis & St. Paul metro area, as well as the Eau Claire, WI and Wyoming, MN police departments are on board with the parts recyclers and scrap metal buyers to ensure that they are looking for the red or orange paint markings and refusing to purchase stolen catalytic converters and even assisting in the reporting of stolen converters to the authorities. With painting your converter, there is no guarantee, but nothing in life is ever guaranteed. It’s the best way to try and prevent you from having to pay $1,000 to $3,000 in replacement costs! Some insurance policies include the cost of repairs if this happens to you. Visit any of our locations to have your converter painted for free today! Find a location near you.

Does It Ever Need Replacement?

What happens when a catalytic converter goes bad? Considering that the converter gets extremely hot and plays a crucial role in the vehicle’s exhaust system, a range of symptoms can arise when it starts to experience the end of its life.

5 Signs Your Catalytic Converter May Need Replacement:

  1. Check Engine Light or Service Engine Soon Light: When catalytic converters were first manufactured and installed in vehicles, they needed a way to see if your converter was malfunctioning or not doing its job. The air-to-fuel ratio or oxygen sensors might trigger the light to come on.
  2. Slow or Limited Acceleration: Picture yourself blowing into a plastic straw with your finger on the other end. The air can’t escape. Increased exhaust pressure from a clogged converter may cause accelerating to be quite difficult. You may hear a technician describe this as an exhaust “back pressure” issue. 
  3. Fuel Efficiency: When a catalytic converter gets plugged up, it can limit the amount of air flowing through your engine and engine air filter. In turn, your engine will start to burn more fuel than normal, resulting in poor fuel efficiency.
  4. Rotten Egg Smell: The catalytic converter can take on internal damage that causes it to have a hard time converting exhaust gases. The conversion process failing produces the sulfuric “rotten egg” smell. Try following behind a vehicle with a failing converter as they accelerate quickly. It stinks!
  5. Issues Starting The Engine: Referring to a plugged converter again, this results in increased exhaust pressure and causes your car to sputter or stall when you’re trying to start it up.

Some key takeaways to remember when it comes to your catalytic converter: 

  • To prevent it from being stolen, get it painted!
  • Report your converter as stolen if this happens to you or someone you know.
  • Catalytic converters are expensive to replace!
  • The sole purpose of a catalytic converter is to protect the environment.
  • If you have any symptoms of converter failure, bring your vehicle in for an inspection.


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