How To Stop Your Catalytic Converter Being Stolen

How To Stop Your Catalytic Converter Being Stolen

Catalytic converter theft is a growing problem across the UK, and as hybrid vehicles increase in popularity (which are a target for cat theft), the problem isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon.  

With nearly 100 thefts per day being reported across the UK, what can you do to protect your catalytic converter from being stolen? Scroll down to learn the top 4 ways to prevent catalytic converter theft. 

What is a Catalytic Converter? 

A crucial part of your car’s exhaust system, the catalytic converter uses precious metals such as Platinum, Palladium, and Rhodium to convert the more harmful emissions into less harmful gases and water vapour.  

What Does A Catalytic Converter Look Like?

From underneath, the catalytic converter looks very similar to any other part of the exhaust system, a slightly larger box than the main pipe, that is usually located underneath the car, just behind the front wheels.  

Whilst the actual converter is a relatively small box (usually around the size of a shoe box) a replacement one usually comes with a section of exhaust, including things like exhaust mounts and other silencer boxes. 

Why Are Catalytic Converters Being Stolen? 

Catalytic converters are stolen for the precious metals, platinum, palladium, and rhodium that are inside them. Even though they are under the car, and welded into the exhaust system, thieves can steal one with nothing more than a car jack and power tool in less than 5 minutes. 

Hybrid vehicles, with their engines turning on and off regularly, use catalytic converters with higher precious metal content than regular vehicles, to keep the harmful emissions low. This means cars such as Toyota Prius see the worst levels of cat theft.  

How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft 

If you drive a petrol car, particularly a hybrid or Japanese brand such as Toyota or Honda, it would be a good idea to take some steps to prevent your catalytic converter from being stolen.  

1. Think Carefully About Where You Park 

Catalytic converter thefts happen when parked, so parking strategically is the best way to prevent the theft.  

  • A garage is the best place to park, not only does it make it harder for the thieves to access the car, but they won’t be able to see it when searching for cars on the street or in open car parks to target 
  • Park near walls or fences to restrict access to the underside of the car. Thieves will generally jack up the car and crawl under, parking tight up against a wall or curb restricts their access and might make them choose a different target.  
  • Don’t park on the curb. If possible keep all 4 wheels on level ground, putting two on the curb will make it easier for thieves to gain access to the underside. 

2. Fit An Alarm and install Cameras 

  • Some car alarms have sensitive tilt sensors built in, that will detect when a car has been moved or jacked up, these can cause enough noise when activated the thieves will decide to give up with your car 
  • Many doorbells and normal CCTV cameras have motion detection sensors that can be set up in specific areas, tagging the area around your car could send you a notification that someone is near your car 

3. Fit a Catalytic Converter Guard 

  • Have a look online for Catalytic Converter shields or guards, these are specially designed components made of steel that get welded or bolted in around your cat, making removal much harder. Many garages will be happy to fit such a device. 
  • Weld the bolts up. This is only really applicable if your cat has bolted joints just in front and behind it, if it doesn't most thieves will simply cut through the pipe with a power tool. When used in conjunction with a guard it adds an extra layer of protection. 

4. Be Aware and Report Any Suspicious Activity 

  • Catalytic converter thieves usually target an area before moving on, so make sure to keep an eye on local community Facebook groups and neighbourhood group chats, if cars are being targeted in your area, be on high alert. 
  • Report any suspicious activity, such as gangs of people looking under cars at night, or carrying out-of-place tools such as angle grinders and other power tools. They will often have their faces covered.  

Does Insurance Cover A Catalytic Converter Theft? 

Yes, in most cases car insurance will cover the theft of your catalytic converter. This will usually apply if you have either comprehensive or third-party fire and theft. Be sure to check with your insurer for your specific car and area though. 

How to Claim on Your Insurance For a Stolen Catalytic Converter 

As soon as you find out your catalytic converter has been stolen, you should phone your insurer to make a claim. This ensures there are no delays in getting the coverage to pay for the repair, but you may be entitled to recovery or expenses to get home due to the theft. 

As well as your insurer, also phone the police to report the theft, this will be useful when discussing the insurance claim later on, as you will have a crime reference number to refer to.  

What Happens If Your Catalytic Converter Is Removed? 

If your catalytic converter has been stolen, you’ll need to get the car towed to a garage to have it replaced. The converter forms part of the exhaust system, and without it, the car will be extremely loud, and run poorly and exhaust fumes will enter the cabin whilst driving.  

Does Not Having a Catalytic Converter Damage Your Car? 

Not always, your car will still drive as normal without the catalytic converter, but if any part of the exhaust is hanging down, catching this on the floor or a speed bump could cause major damage. 

It’s also extremely likely you’ll get warning lights on the dash, poor performance, and an extremely loud exhaust noise. 

We’d recommend not driving your car if the cat has been stolen unless you’re 100% sure the rest of the exhaust is still secure.  

Some cars have their catalytic converters intentionally removed, e.g. racing cars, but these are not suitable for road use, and the cat is replaced by a piece of pipe, retaining the exhaust's purpose of routing the fumes to the rear of the car.  

How Much Does Replacing A Catalytic Converter Cost? 

If your catalytic converter has been stolen, expect to pay between £600 - £1,200 to have it replaced. Not only are the converters themselves expensive due to the exotic materials used inside, but many cars have them built into a larger exhaust section that adds to the cost. 

Labour times to replace a catalytic converter are usually minimal, most cars only require one hour of labour to change, but lead times on replacement parts may be up to a week. 

Other Costs Of Catalytic Converter Theft 

Whilst the new part plus fitting will set you back a hefty chunk of money, there may well be more costs involved. As we’ve discussed, you shouldn’t drive a car that has had its catalytic converter stolen, so you’ll likely need to pay for a recovery truck too.  

Depending on the type of policy you have, claiming for the cost back through your insurance may also affect your no-claims discount, causing your premiums to rise.  

What To Do If Your Catalytic Converter Has Been Stolen 

If you return to your car to find that your catalytic converter has been stolen, follow these steps for the easiest solution:  

1. File a Police Report 

Call the non-emergency number to file a report, describing what has happened, when and where the car was parked, and more. This step is not necessarily for the recovery of the stolen converter, but to bolster any insurance claim you may want to make.  

If you or your car is in a dangerous situation, let the operator know during the call.  

2. Call your insurance provider 

Most insurance policies will cover catalytic converter theft, and as such you should ask them to start a claim. Another reason for calling immediately, though, is that you may have breakdown or recovery cover included in your policy.  

This could save you money on recovering the vehicle, and calling to report the theft straight away is always recommended to help the claims process along.  

3. Get the car to a garage 

Depending on the outcome of the insurance and police phone calls, it may now be up to you to get your car somewhere it can be repaired. Whilst on the phone to your insurer, check what garage you should take the car to.  

Arrange for a tow truck or recovery vehicle to collect the car, Google is the best tool to search for local service providers, so make sure to get an estimate of the cost before committing.  

Signs Your Catalytic Converter Has Been Stolen 

If you’re worried your catalytic converter has been stolen and you don’t fancy getting under your car to have a look, there are a few symptoms you can try to spot.  


This is the biggest indicator, your car will now be extremely loud when the engine is running and will get louder when you rev the engine or drive. This is because the exhaust gases are now no longer passing through the silencers as they should. 

Dash Lights 

Whilst there isn’t a dedicated light for catalytic converter issues on most cars, the lack of this section of your exhaust is likely to cause an Engine Warning Light on the dash, as the exhaust sensors will be reporting very different values to normal. 

You Can See Damage To The Exhaust 

Have a look under the car, if you can see open-ended pipes hanging down from the underside of the car, that’s where your catalytic converter should be.  

There may also be some damage to the underside of the car, caused by the thieves' power tools, but this won’t be easy to see without jacking the car up. 

Bumper Can Help Repair Your Car 

If you’re having to foot the bill of your catalytic converter theft on your own, Bumper can help. We offer zero-percent interest financing on car repairs, carried out at our many approved Bumper garages across the UK. 

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