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It’s something that happens to many car owners worldwide: catalytic converter theft. Unfortunately, it’s the frustrating and tragic reality of vehicle ownership. No matter how careful drivers are, a stolen catalytic converter is a lucrative, albeit risky maneuver for criminals. So, how do you know that your “cat” is missing? Further, what can you do if your car gets targeted? 

How can you tell your catalytic converter is missing?

Most owners will discover their catalytic converter, or “cat,” is missing upon startup. Specifically, a vehicle with a missing cat will be louder than before. In addition to a noisy start, you’ll notice the following:

  • An increased amount of exhaust fumes
  • Louder acceleration
  • A missing section of your exhaust system (underneath the car)

Unfortunately, a cat’s location makes it an easy target for thieves. Catalytic converters typically reside between the mid-pipe and muffler sections of an exhaust system. As a result, seasoned opportunists can slide a cutting tool into position and make off with a cat in a couple of minutes or less.

What’s more, a stolen catalytic converter yields a tidy return for criminals. A stolen cat could be worth around $1,500 or more, not bad for a few minutes of work. However, it’s not the part itself that nets a valuable sum for thieves; it’s the precious metals within. Catalytic converters incorporate rhodium, platinum, and palladium, all worth serious cash. For instance, an ounce of rhodium could be worth as much as $15,000, per data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

What does a car sound like when the catalytic converter is missing?

A stack of catalytic converters, one of the most stolen vehicle parts, awaits installation.
A stack of cats | Chris Ratcliffe, Bloomberg via Getty Images

A car, truck, or SUV with a missing cat will sound louder on startup. Furthermore, at higher revs, volume will increase. However, your vehicle will definitely sound differently than it did with a functional catalytic converter. After all, your vehicle is missing a connective piece of its exhaust system. 

It’s a frustrating discovery, considering the noise could irritate owners who now have to source a replacement for the expensive part. And expensive they are; the Honda Accord, the most targeted sedan for cat theft, has a typical catalytic converter replacement cost of $2,700. Ouch. 

What can you do if your catalytic converter is stolen?

Vehicle owners have options to remedy a stolen catalytic converter. For instance, many comprehensive insurance policies will cover cat theft, as irritating as it is. Furthermore, car enthusiasts may treat the event as a cat delete and weld in a section of pipe or purchase an aftermarket system

Proactive owners can take steps to prevent theft

You can purchase an anti-theft device if you want to stay a few steps ahead of thieves. However, regardless of device type, criminals can still defeat them. Donut Media tested several anti-theft devices and discovered that, while some are more effective than others, no device is perfect.

At the end of the day, the best anti-theft measure is to make your vehicle difficult to access. Parking your car in a locked garage can dissuade opportunists. Keep up with MotorBiscuit for the latest consumer advice and automotive content!


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