Top 7 Signs of Stolen Catalytic Converter

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In this article, we will discuss the signs of stolen catalytic converter. A catalytic converter helps to regulate harmful emissions caused by fuel burning in the engine of your car, truck, or SUV. It is an essential part of your vehicle, which contains expensive precious metals like platinum, rhodium, and palladium.

However, these precious metals can be highly valuable commodities, so people have been stealing catalytic converters for years. Over the past two years, the incidence of stolen catalytic converters rose to a whopping 325% nationwide between 2019 and 2020.

In 2021, State Farm State Farm paid $62.6 million for 32,265 catalytic converter theft claims nationally — a 1,173% increase from 2019.

How do I know if the catalytic converter is stolen?

A catalytic converter is part of the vehicle’s exhaust system thus, if stolen, your car will start showing changes in performance. If you suspect your catalytic converter has been stolen, you don’t have to take your car to a mechanic to find out. Here are some ways you can check yourself:

  1. Loud noise
  2. Check engine light
  3. Unusual exhaust fumes
  4. Reduced low-end torque
  5. A slight decrease in mileage
  6. Emission test failure
  7. Missing components

1. Loud noise

If you have been a victim of catalytic converter theft, you may notice subtle changes in your car’s performance. One of the first things you will notice is a louder sound from your exhaust system.

This is because, without a catalytic converter, there is no way to reduce the amount of noise produced by your car. As you may know, a muffler’s purpose is to muffle the loud noise caused by the exhaust exiting your vehicle. The catalytic converter does the same thing.

Related: How to Fix a Rattling Catalytic Converter? Top 3 Easy DIY Fix

2. Check engine light

Will the check engine light come on if the catalytic converter is stolen? The answer is yes. The engine control unit (ECU) may detect a fault code if your catalytic converter is missing.

If your catalytic converter goes missing, you may see a check engine light on your dashboard and an error code in the vehicle’s computer. However, there are other ways to trigger this message on your dashboard besides having a missing or bad catalytic converter.

3. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms

Since the 1970s, these devices have been installed in vehicles to reduce CO emissions and other pollutants. The catalytic converter transforms harmful gases into less harmful ones before they exit the exhaust system and enter the environment. If your catalytic converter is removed from your car, you may experience headaches, especially if your windows are rolled down.

Related: Can I sleep in car with AC on? It’s dangerous. Here’s why

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when too much CO builds up in your body, causing symptoms such as headache, nausea, and confusion. In severe cases, exposure to high levels of CO can cause death within minutes due to oxygen deprivation.

If you experience headaches, dizziness, and shortness of breath, you must take steps immediately to protect yourself from CO poisoning.

4. Reduced low-end torque

Reduced acceleration and sluggish engine performance are one of the signs that your catalytic converter might have been stolen. If someone steals your catalytic converter from your car or truck, you’ll probably notice it immediately when you go for a drive.

The first thing that will happen is you’ll feel a loss in low-end power and performance when driving around town or on the highway. This can affect how quickly you accelerate and how well the vehicle handles turns and corners on highways or city streets.

5. A slight decrease in mileage

Another sign that your catalytic converter might have been stolen is a slight decrease in mileage. Once the catalytic conversation is stolen, the exhaust gases are now free-flowing. Consequently, speeding up the exhaust gases, the air and fuel sensor will read slightly more oxygen in the exhaust gas.

This means that your ECU will translate this as a lean condition and will inject more fuel. However, the impact on fuel economy is negligible and may cause other issues.

6. Emission test failure

The catalytic converter is a pollution control device that attaches to a car’s exhaust manifold. It converts harmful chemicals in the engine’s exhaust into less toxic substances. Without a catalytic converter, your engine would produce more pollutants than allowed by law.

This can affect both the environment and your health. Without a catalytic converter, it allows the engine to emit pollution that exceeds the allowable standards.

Without complete and working emissions control devices, your car will fail any emissions test.

7. Missing components

The most obvious sign of a stolen catalytic converter is when there are missing components underneath the car. Knowing what it looks like and where it is located will be helpful. So what does a catalytic converter looks like?

Why Do Some Replacement Exhaust Manifolds Come With Catalytic Converters?

If you are unsure what a catalytic converter looks like, you may have to look closely underneath your car. You will usually find it near the exhaust manifold and muffler.

It is either beaded or honeycomb-shaped and coated in a metal catalyst, usually a combination of platinum, rhodium, and palladium.

Related: Can a Bad Catalytic Converter Ruin Your Engine?

What to do if the catalytic converter is stolen?

If you find out that your catalytic converter has been stolen, don’t just let it go at that. You need to know what steps to take next to get your money back from your insurance company or if you have any other legal recourse against whoever stole it. Here is a list of what you should do if the catalytic converter is stolen:

  1. Call the cops. You need to call the police immediately so they can file a report and investigate further into this matter. Not only will this help with getting your money back from insurance, but it will also provide the police with valuable information regarding who may have stolen it and where they could be hiding out now.
  2. Don’t drive it. After calling 911, turn off your engine and do not attempt to drive anywhere until an officer arrives. This is because driving with no catalytic converter installed could cause serious damage to your car’s engine due to excess exhaust fumes being released into the cabin area of your car instead of being burned off by a functioning catalytic converter unit.
  3. Have it towed. The next step that you should take after finding out that your catalytic converter has been stolen is getting it towed. You need to have it towed to an auto body shop so they can look at the damage and give you an estimate on how much it will cost to replace or repair your car’s catalytic converter.

    This way, when you go to file a claim with your insurance company, they will be able to look at the estimate and see how much money they will have to pay for repairing or replacing the catalytic converter.
  4. Call the insurance company. The theft of a catalytic converter may be covered by your insurance policy if you have comprehensive coverage on your car and home insurance policy, so make sure to check with them first before filing a claim with your insurer.

    If your insurance company refuses to cover theft of parts or offer adequate compensation for damages resulting from their forced removal, contact an attorney who specializes in auto insurance claims.

Does insurance cover catalytic converter theft?

If a thief cuts the catalytic converter off your car, your comprehensive insurance will cover the cost of replacing it. Still, it’s essential to double-check your coverages with your current insurance agent to make sure you’re insured in the event of theft like this. Despite its name, comprehensive insurance does not cover everything.

What cars are targeted for catalytic converter theft?

Signs of Stolen Catalytic Converter
Carfax: Toyota Prius the top target for catalytic converter thefts in the West

Not all catalytic converters are made the same. In 2022, CarFax released a list of vehicles most likely to have their catalytic converters stolen. While many people might think that the most expensive cars would be those most often stolen, it turns out that’s not always the case.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) annual Hot Spots report found that while luxury cars are indeed hot targets for theft, they’re not necessarily the most frequently stolen vehicles. Instead, the NICB found that pickup trucks — including both full-size and compact models — are by far the most frequently stolen vehicles in America.

Here is a list of car models most frequently targeted by catalytic converter thieves:

  1. 1985-2021 Ford F-Series pickups
  2. 1989-2020 Honda Accord
  3. 2007-17 Jeep Patriot
  4. 1990-2022 Ford Econoline vans
  5. 1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado pickups
  6. 2005-21 Chevrolet Equinox
  7. 1997-2020 Honda CR-V
  8. 1987-2019 Toyota Camry
  9. 2011-17 Chrysler 200
  10. 2001-21 Toyota Prius

Can I drive my car if the catalytic converter has been stolen?

Yes, you can still drive your car without a catalytic converter. The catalytic converter is a bit like an exhaust system on steroids. It’s designed to clean up the pollutants in your vehicle’s exhaust and make them less harmful to the environment. Without one, your car won’t run as well or as efficiently. But it will still run just fine.

You should also know that if you’re caught driving around in a vehicle without a catalytic converter installed, some hefty fines could be involved.

Conclusion

If any of these signs apply to your car, it’s time to take a test drive and investigate further. Catalytic converters are essential to the operation of your car because they help make exhaust fumes a lot less toxic.

If your catalytic converter has been stolen, you can report it to the local police. Be sure to have your car model, make and license plate number ready. And if you discover that your catalytic converter has been stolen, try to remember what vehicle may have been around your vehicle in the prior week or so.

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