prius catalytic converter theft

10 Prius Cat Converter Theft Prevention Tips (July 2022 Update)

One unforeseen side effect of the COVID-19 has been a significant increase in Prius catalytic converter theft. Since the worldwide pandemic began to create hardships across the country, police departments have seen more and more converters being stolen. High unemployment rates have left many folks struggling to make ends meet. That despair, combined with a hike in the cost of precious metals, is one of the key reasons for the catalytic converter (also known as a cat converter) theft. If you own a car and don’t have a secure parking spot, you may find yourself a target for these crimes. Luckily, there are steps you can take to protect your vehicle’s catalytic converter.

Why Are Catalytic Converters Stolen?

The cat converter is an emissions control device located in your car’s exhaust system. Harmful gases from the engine flow through the catalytic converter, where they’re transformed into carbon dioxide and water vapor. The result is a reduction in pollutants from the vehicle’s exhaust pipe. Perpetrators are drawn to catalytic converters because they contain precious metals, making them worth quite a lot. Toyota Prius cat converter is one of the most stolen catalytic converters since it features a high price since their gasoline engines aren’t in as much use. So, it can take longer for the vehicle to burn out the precious metals.

What Precious Metals Are in a Cat Converter?

Catalytic converters contain precious metals platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Together, these elements act as a catalyst—a chemical that starts a reaction without undergoing any change itself. As we said, this catalyst effect transforms pollutants from the car’s engine into harmless carbon dioxide and water.

What Catalytic Converters Are Legal in California?

To be legally installed and sold in California, a catalytic converter must go through extensive testing to prove that it is durable and satisfies emission control requirements. California is currently the only state with Air Resource Board known as the California Air Resource Board or CARB. This is impactful because CARB has precise and strict rules around cat converter replacement. An aftermarket part must be on an approved list before it can be considered a legal alternative to a factory part. Sadly, there are no approved parts for any model year Prius as of now approved by CARB.

The state of California requires businesses to check the ID of anyone attempting to sell a converter, take the seller’s photograph, and retain it for two years.

How Thieves Steal and Sell Catalytic Converters

Crooks only need simple tools to steal your catalytic converter. They’ll use a battery-powered cut-off device, like an angle grinder, to separate the cat from the tailpipe. Some may even utilize a traditional, hand-operated hack saw. Once the robber has the cat in their possession, they can sell it to a scrap dealer and get fast cash.

How Much is a Prius Catalytic Converter?

The cost can run around $500 with insurance. Without insurance, the bill can cost from $2,500 to $5,000 – depending on whether it’s OEM or after-market part. For their part, perpetrators can pocket $300 per cat converter. Since a Toyota Prius cat converter takes longer to burn out the precious metals, higher prices are paid for Prius converters. Each converter contains approximately 3-8 grams of precious metals that a smelter can extract. The metals can then live second lives inside jewelry, electronics, and other commercial products.

What Model Are Most Targeted?

Thieves particularly target 2004-2009 second-generation Prius models, though model years up to 2015 have experienced increased cat converter theft.

How to Prevent Prius Catalytic Converter Theft?

Here are 10 most effective tips to keep your catalytic converter safe.

1. Catalytic Converter Shield – Best Overall Theft Protection

Cat converter shiel is a large aluminum plate that, once installed, delivers a powerful barrier against catalytic converter theft. It’s easy to install, requiring no welding. This product utilizes the factory studs and comfortably aligns with the Prius undercarriage. Special fasteners also help as a theft deterrent, keeping unwanted hands out of your vehicle. The guard may help with the aerodynamics of the Prius too. This catalytic converter cover could translate into increased fuel economy, though there is no data to support this possibility currently.

2. Full Auto Insurance

Most car insurance policies will cover an after-market part. However, our auto experts assure you that any parts other than the Toyota assembly won’t get through a California smog inspection. To get an OEM catalytic converter, you’ll need to have selected OEM coverage on your insurance policy, or you’ll need to pay the difference in costs. There is little practical difference between an OEM and after-market part — it comes down to personal preference and how much you’re willing to spend.

3. Park Close to Curbs

In an attempt to steal the catalytic converter, thieves have to slide under the automobile and use cutting tools to detach the box from the pipes around it. This means parking your car close to walls, curbs or fences will make theft much more difficult.

4. Cat Converter with a Serial Number

Some auto repair services will engrave a unique serial number onto your cat converter so it can be easily identified if it’s stolen. You’ll get a sticker displayed in the window that indicates your catalytic converter is marked – which prevents thieves from targeting your vehicle.

5. Ask Mechanic to Weld the Bolts Shut

In case your catalytic converter is bolted on, you can ask local service to weld the bolts to make it more difficult to remove.

6. Install Security Cameras

Installing security cameras such as CCTV or Ring Doorbell are also a great way to protect your car. Unfortunately, if you don’t park on your driveway, this can be quite difficult to implement. With the cost of CCTV systems falling and becoming a simple job to install (not requiring specialists), it’s never been easier to keep an eye on your vehicle. It’s worth considering for catalytic converter theft.

7. Park in Well Lit Places

Thieves are often opportunistic, and the equipment required to cut out a catalytic converter is pretty heavy-duty, but once a car is targeted – offenders tend to wait for an opportunity to strike as the theft itself takes a matter of minutes. If you park in a well-lit area, which people regularly walk past, you’re less likely to come back to find your converter vanish.

8. Install Car Alarm

If your Prius doesn’t have a car alarm system and you live in an area where cat converter thefts are on the rise, like California, it’s definitely time to invest in one. The noise of the alarm should be enough to scare off any perpetrators.

9. CatClamp

The CatClamp clamps to the exhaust pipes, not the converter, enabling different sized and shaped converters to be guarded. This eliminates the risk of damaging the cat converter, oxygen sensors or heat shield. Locked to the car’s chassis up to 7 times, it makes stealing your catalytic converter very difficult for a crock in a hurry.

10. Keep Your Vehicle Stored Off-Road

This catalytic converter protection won’t be adequate for everybody, but if you have a garage, you can use it – it makes sense to keep your auto in there, especially if you live/work in an area where these thefts are common. If you don’t have a garage you can access, try to park alongside other cars or in designated parking areas –  lots, multi-stores, etc.