An uptick in catalytic converter thefts has a lot of street parkers concerned. Here’s how to prevent a catalytic converter theft from happening in the first place.

Depending on the make and model of a car, certain catalytic converters, like the ones under a Toyota Prius, can fetch over $1,000 on the used market. And, with a few turns of a wrench, it’s no wonder thieves are getting bold, stealing catalytic converters in the middle of the day, effectively making a grand in less than a minute. Here are a few DIY ways you can probably use to prevent catalytic converter theft.

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Determine if your catalytic converter is under your car or in front of your engine under your hood.

There’s a reason catalytic converter thefts happen mostly on trucks, most truck catalytic converters run directly underneath the chassis where it’s easily accessible. Some cars, like the Toyota Prius Hybrid, also have their catalytic converters here.

But, some cars, vans, suvs, and trucks have their catalytic converters directly in front of the engine, part of the exhaust manifold. In order to take those out, you’d have to pop the hood to reach them. These “under the hood” cats are harder to steal so, for the most part, you don’t have to worry about those being stolen.

First, confirm the catalytic converter’s location. A quick google search like, “1999 Honda Civic Catalytic converter location” should do the trick.

Be sure to indicate your car’s trim level, too. Some cars, like the 1996-2000 Honda Civic, have catalytic converters in front of the engine or underneath the car depending on your model. DX trim level Civics have their cats in front while LX EX Civics have theirs underneath the car.

Secure the cat with a DIY rebar cage welded on

If you’re a bit handy, have the tools to bend, cut, and weld rebar, you can effectively make your own DIY rebar cage to surround your catalytic converter.

The news is full of a handful of individuals who did just that. I recommend looking up “Rebar Cage Catalytic Converter.” You’ll come across some great ideas to work on your own catalytic converter.

These Toyota Tacoma owners linked here came up with some DIY Rebar cages of their own to, at best, deter thieves from their catalytic converters.

The Sacramento Bee reports that a one pickup truck owner deterred a would-be catalytic converter theft from happening thanks to a welded on a piece of rebar on their catalytic converter.

If you’re not really handy but still want a cage of your own, go ahead and call your local dealership or surrounding muffler shops. You’re probably not the first person to call asking for a rebar cage around their catalytic converter and a muffler shop or the dealership can install one on for you for a small fee.

This is one rebar job done by a muffler shop in Northern California. 

Be advised, if you plan on using any other metal besides rebar steel, know that different metals react differently to heat. Catalytic converters can reach temperatures of up to 1,600 degrees F so plan your metal choice accordingly.

Etch your VIN and/or spray paint your cat with high-temp paint

Some dealerships and exhaust shops will, for a small fee, etch your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and other identifying information on catalytic converters so when a would-be thief sees this, they may just walk away from your car.

Google around your area and maybe ring up your local police department about Catalytic Converter etching. Some police departments, like this Roseville community in Sacramento, do it for free certain times of the year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZlzLN2x74s

You can also etch on your VIN and license plate number, two pieces of information that should raise alarms to scrap metal yards that this cat converter is stolen.

Also, spray painting your catalytic converter a bright red or blue with some high-temperature BBQ spray paint might deter some thieves, turned off by having to sell something spray-painted to a scrap yard.

Install a dashcam

For as little as $50, in addition to the above theft prevention methods, you can get yourself a dashcam that records upon motion detection, whether it’s movement in front of the camera or physically rocking your car.

You’ll want to choose a dashcam with a standby mode, sometimes referred to as a parking mode, that records when motion is detected.

Although this won’t protect your catalytic converter per say, you can catch the license plate of the offending party and their faces.

It’s generally a good idea to have a dashcam now anyway.

Special catalytic converter cages

Not particularly DIY but it’s worth mentioning there are special catalytic converter cages that you can buy, the most popular ones called “Cat Clamp” and “Cat Strap”, that secures your catalytic converter. These options do cost several hundred dollars.

Like the above-mentioned methods, a determined thief with a cordless Sawzall can still defeat these special cages despite what they might advertise.

To sum up, deterring thieves is the name of the game. No prevention method is 100 percent foolproof but they’re better than doing nothing.

Do you have any catalytic converter theft prevention tips to share? Let me know in the comments and I’ll update this blog post accordingly.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. My neighborhood has been getting hit really hard with Prius catalytic converter theft. I got a catshield from millercat 6 months ago and I’ve had no issues with catalytic converter theft! Super happy.

  2. This is all so sad because it is left completely up to the vehicle owners to add another level of security that requires installing a Cat guard of some type that will cost an average of $200-$300 at the very least to prevent this from happening. Unless of course you are lucky enough to be able to park in a garage at home or have the best antitheft alarm. If you don’t and have to park while you are shopping or whatever for even as little as 10 mins it may happen and your SOL. If these things are regulated and they have to be taken
    to a either a recycler that has a licence to process them to get those precious metals out and supposedly they are required to have some legalized proof for their records such as a VIN # or scrap title to each converter, where are all these obviously “not” documented Cats going to be processed? We all know if something that is easily stolen and generates easy cash for thieves then it will be stolen. If the middleman isn’t taken out of the equation in this type of situation (I guarantee you they are making money too!) Cat theft is generating cash for all parties involved it will continue being stolen more often. Why do we even have some lame half assed regulations in place to guard against this kind of thing if it doesn’t alter anything? As far as I can tell the law enforcement hasn’t been able to or doesn’t want to follow the real money. My insurance company probably could advise me or at least offer incentives for adding extra coverage or a discount for prevention but I haven’t heard anything about that or even seen a alert for me to take extra preclusions. Are they possibly making some money off of this? The reason I started to respond is because unfortunately my Bf and I both have Honda Elements and they are a common target for Cat theft. Just a week ago Bf’s Cat was nicked while he was at work in a well lit parking lot. Last summer when I had to park my Element on the street for 2 days because my apartments parking lot was being resurfaced, I kind of lucked out when a thief tried but failed to steal my converter but stopped for some reason and although they cut through one side and fracked up my O2 sensor it was still there and I was able to get it welded and replace the sensor for around $500. My repair was considered betterment… whatever that is? Well lesson learned if it is only partly stolen it costs the owner more but if it is completely removed comprehensive insurance will cover replacement minus a deductible.

    • Bad idea ! It may have to be replaced one day and a novice might try to do this with their battery connected .

  3. Had conveter ripped off my honda accord,,, Aftermarket cat put on but failed completing emmisions test after that …if ripped off get an OEM catalytic conveter and OEM O2 sensors,
    I dont understand why purchasers of these stolen merch cannot be tracked,,,

  4. FOUR attempts and one successfully got my cat. After having anti theft chain and plate installed I now I’m wanting to add even more low tech solutions. Tell if I’, crazy. If you can’t get a jack under the car, you can’t get to the car, right? I’m thinking 4 divots for the tires in my driveway leaning only about 1-1/2″ clearance and easy to pull into and out of should just about do the trick. Other similar measure are possible for parking garages by building up the area under the car.

  5. All people should ask congress to shut down the recycle metal or restrict number of recycle CATs. Otherwise there is no way really to protect drivers. These thieves are professional crime organization. Drivers not only lost money but also the car cannot driver without CATs. The dealerships sell the CATs make money, thieves sell CATs to recycle metal center to make easy money and so on. This is mystery why thousands of stolen CATs in the United States.

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