Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ June 2021

Toyota Prius Catalytic Converters Targeted for Theft

By Linda S. Perlman

The catalytic converter on my Toyota Prius was stolen in March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.  When I started the car that morning, it made a rumbling or roaring sound that got louder as the car was driven.  I had no idea what was wrong.  I thought perhaps the muffler had failed, but my mechanic explained to me that the catalytic converter had been cut out and removed from the car.  My Prius was parked on Caddington Avenue, the busy street directly in front of my house, when the theft occurred.  Presumably, the theft was done at night, as the car drove all right the day before.  None of my immediate neighbors saw the theft or noticed anything amiss.

After the theft, I learned that there has been an epidemic of catalytic converter thefts and that hybrid cars, such as my Toyota Prius, are particularly targeted for their catalytic converters.  The catalytic converter is part of the car’s exhaust system and helps to reduce emissions.  Catalytic converters contain precious metals — such as platinum, palladium, or rhodium — that are valuable to scrap metal dealers.  Hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius, are popular among catalytic converter thieves because their converters (and the metals inside them) are less contaminated by exhaust gases than other cars.  Older hybrids are often targeted as they contain more precious metals than newer models.

This symbol shows that a ‘cat cage’ — a metal shield bolted around the catalytic converter — has been installed.  It can still be cut through, but takes so much longer the thieves usually don’t bother to try.

It only takes minutes for a thief to steal a catalytic converter using a wrench or power tools to remove or cut off catalytic converters located in the vehicle’s undercarriage.  The parts are then sold to scrap metal dealers, who extract the precious metal contained inside, or to dismantlers and wholesalers who resell the stolen catalytic converter as replacement parts for the very vehicles that have been preyed upon.

Fortunately, I had comprehensive coverage on my automobile insurance policy, so the cost of replacing my catalytic converter was covered, minus the deductible.  Comprehensive insurance covers stolen auto parts.  (My insurance adjuster told me that I had a stupid thief who had taken the wrong catalytic converter part from my Prius and that the thief would only be able to get a small sum or nothing for his effort.  That information made me happy.)

Security devices are available to attach to the catalytic converter to foil thieves.  Investing in a locking device (~$400) is cheaper than paying out-of-pocket to replace a catalytic converter (~$3,600).  Some of the antitheft devices available include a metal plate or shield that is installed over the Prius’ catalytic converter to keep it safe from theft and a cage made of rebar or steel that is difficult to cut.  The converter also may be welded to the car frame.

An alarm or security system on the car can be calibrated so it is set off if the converter is accessed.  A motion-sensitive dash camera can notify you of a theft in progress or possibly record the license tag number of the getaway car.  Another idea is to engrave the vehicle’s VIN number onto the catalytic converter so the converter can be easily identified if it is stolen.

In addition to security devices, alarms, and cameras, motion-sensitive lights and parking in your driveway or a closed garage whenever possible may prevent or deter thefts.  An experienced thief can steal a catalytic converter in less than a minute as such thefts easily go undetected even in front of homes and in the daytime.

File a police report if your catalytic converter is stolen from your car.  This will help the police track such crimes and might assist in arrests.   ■

   © 2021 NFCCA  [Source:]