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What Is A Catalytic Converted and Why Does Every Thief Want Mine?


You may have heard that in recent years, thefts of catalytic converters have been on the rise. You may even have heard this news from a mechanic you took your car to after someone made off with your own catalytic converter. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the number of these parts stolen from cars has nearly quadrupled since 2020, with over 64,000 thefts taking place in 2022. But what is this mysterious car part, and why does everyone suddenly seem to want to steal them?

What is a catalytic converter anyway?

It may sound like a part of a rocket ship or something out of a science fiction novel, but the catalytic converter can in fact be found nestled in the undercarriage of all cars with combustion engines made since roughly 1975 . The device was introduced to help automotive manufacturers meet the emissions standards included in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act of 1970.


The catalytic converter helps decrease the amount of gas pollutants—namely carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides—that are released in your car’s exhaust, making it less harmful to the environment. The converter does this by filtering the exhaust through a structure that resembles a honeycomb and is coated in noble metals like palladium and platinum, before it travels out of the car’s tailpipe. These metals catalyze (or set off) chemical reactions that neutralize some of the exhaust’s harmful gasses.

Why are catalytic converters stolen so often?

The noble metals (so-called because of their classification on the periodic table of elements) found in the converter aren’t only good for cleaning exhaust. They’re also quite valuable. Stolen catalytic converters are generally sold for up to $300—and can even more than $1,000 if they’re more advanced models from hybrid vehicles. 


Add to that the fact that a practiced thief can slip under a vehicle with a saw in one hand and emerge with your converter in the other in a mere 90 seconds, and you can understand the appeal of this particular crime. A replacement converter can cost you into the thousands, even with insurance, and take weeks to arrive and be installed.

How do you know if your catalytic converter has been stolen?

One of the consequences of sawing off a part of a car’s exhaust system is a serious increase in the noise produced by that car. That means you don’t have to worry that your converter has been stolen without your knowledge—if the red check engine light on your car’s dashboard isn’t indication enough, you’ll be alerted by an unignorable rattling emanating from under your vehicle.


You can’t drive the car safely with a gap in the exhaust system, so if your catalytic converter is stolen, you should have your car towed to a shop. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can get back on the road with a replacement converter (and possibly an anti-theft cage, cable, or lock, which prevents theft by making it more of a hassle to remove the part). If you do find yourself in this unfortunate situation, click here to find an AAA mechanic near you who can help.