6 Signs of a Stolen Catalytic Converter

Catalytic converters are an essential component of your exhaust system that changes highly toxic gasses emitted by your engine into less toxic gasses by promoting redox reactions. One of the interesting facts about the automobile industry is that they utilize a lot of different metals besides steel and aluminum, including rare ones. Rare metals such as rhodium, palladium, and platinum are all found within catalytic converters.

Because of a variety of factors, theft of catalytic converters has risen sharply during the coronavirus pandemic. Because of supply line problems, shortages, and an increase in unemployment, more people are turning to less than legal ways to make ends meet. One of these ways include stealing catalytic converters off of vehicles to scrap for a few hundred dollars at scrap yards. How would you know if your vehicle has fallen victim to catalytic converter theft? The following are 6 signs of a stolen catalytic converter:

1)     Your Vehicle is Very Loud

The most obvious and easy to recognize sign that your vehicle has had its catalytic converter stolen is that your vehicle is suddenly very loud. When operating a vehicle without a catalytic converter, a loud offensive noise will begin. You will immediately be taken aback by the volume of your vehicle, and it will prompt you to investigate.

When a catalytic converter is removed from a vehicle, it makes the vehicle sound much more like an airplane than a normal passenger car. Since it is hard to mistake, the volume of your vehicle is a clear sign letting you know if your catalytic converter has been stolen or not.

2)     Your Check Engine Light is On

Although it is possible for your catalytic converter to be stolen and it not trigger a faulty code, usually your check engine light will come on. Vehicles are equipped with an engine control unit, also known as an ECM, that monitors various sensors around your vehicle’s engine bay. This way, the ECM can control the car’s air to fuel mixture, as well as the emission control systems.

Within one full drive cycle, the engine control unit will run its tests, realize something is off, and turn on the check engine light if your catalytic converter has been stolen. The only way to turn your check engine light off if your catalytic converter has been stolen is by having someone reset it with a scan tool. If you do not have your catalytic converter replaced though, the ECM will just detect the problem again and turn the check engine light back on after the next full drive cycle.

3)     You Are Getting a Headache When Your Windows are Down

Although most deaths and cases of carbon monoxide poisoning occur while operating a vehicle inside of a closed garage, a significant number of deaths and illnesses from carbon monoxide poisoning happen while stranded in a vehicle or because of a faulty exhaust system. Having no catalytic converter qualifies as having a faulty exhaust system.

The addition of catalytic converts to exhaust systems has reduced the amount of carbon monoxide produced by vehicles by 95%. This means that with your catalytic converter stolen you will be exposed to 20 times the amount of carbon monoxide than you usually would. Even though emissions will be pouring out under your vehicle where your catalytic converter once was, the carbon monoxide can easily enter your vehicle through openings in the body of your vehicle.

If fumes are reaching the cabin of your vehicle, especially if you have your window open, you can begin to exhibit symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning such as a headache. Additionally, people who are experiencing carbon monoxide exposure will have severely limited reaction times and will likely become confused and not be able to operate a vehicle safely increasing the risk of getting into a crash. Even if you are not exhibiting symptoms, do not think that you are safe. Sometimes people have no symptoms until it is too late.

4)     Less Low-End Torque

If you are interested in what the best bolt on mods are for horsepower, you may also be looking for other ways to increase horsepower. Unfortunately, having your catalytic converter stolen does not have a silver lining and the slight increase in horsepower from removing a catalytic converter is negligible. Instead, what it is more likely to do is reduce your low-end torque.

If your vehicle was manufactured within the last decade or so, having your catalytic converter stolen will cause a noticeable reduction in low-end torque. Low end torque is the torque available at lower RPM, which is better than high-end torque for everyday cars because we generally drive at lower RPMs.

Low-end torque allows your vehicle to be more responsive and for you to have a better driving experience in general. If your catalytic converter has been stolen, the opposite may be true and your vehicle will be less responsive, though this may not be noticeable to the average driver.

5)     You Have a Truck, Delivery Vehicle, or a Toyota Prius

If someone is going to steal your catalytic converter, chances are you have a vehicle that has a catalytic converter that they can make more money off of. Although it is possible for any vehicle to have its catalytic converter stolen, thieves are going to go out of their way looking for vehicles who have larger catalytic converters, have more than one, or are easiest to get to.

Some trucks are more likely for thieves to look for. For example, larger pick-up trucks and delivery vehicles are often targeted because the catalytic converter is generally larger and easier to access. On the other hand, Toyota Priuses are one of the main vehicles that thieves look for when trying to find catalytic converters to scrap. This is because Toyota Priuses have two catalytic converters instead of the typical single catalytic converter on other vehicles.

6)     Components Are Missing Under Your Vehicle

The most surefire way to know if your catalytic converter has been stolen is to simply get on the ground and look. Visually inspecting your exhaust system will show that the catalytic converter has been cut out if it has been stolen.

When investigating if your catalytic converter has been stolen, you are going to want to focus your attention after the exhaust manifold and y-pipe, but before the exhaust pipe and muffler. You will be able to see it was clearly cut out. While you are down there, you may want to take that opportunity to install and bumper protector such as the SLiPLO ULTRA Universal Bumper Scrape Guard DIY Kit.

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