Catalytic converters are a target for theft due to a high scrap value for the rare earth metals they contain. Knowing what to do if yours is stolen is important.
Signs of Theft
Sometimes the theft is obvious before you even get in the car. The catalytic converter is typically installed at the rear of the vehicle by the tailpipe and muffler. When walking out to your car, inspect the rear to see if there are any wires or other components that are hanging down. If you see something awry, then your catalytic converter may have been stolen.
A cleaner theft may not be visually obvious, but you will notice once you begin to drive. Your car will be extremely loud due to the missing component and resulting damage to the muffler system. Toxic fumes will also leach into the vehicle with obvious odors. Some vehicles may also have issues getting up to speed if the catalytic converter is missing.
The first thing to do is report the theft to both the police and your insurance company. Reporting to law enforcement likely won't get your catalytic converter back, but it can help officers prevent future thefts since they will know to increase patrols in the area. Many insurance companies also require a police report before initiating a claim.
Whether insurance will cover the theft depends greatly on the policy you have, but many comprehensive insurance policies will cover all or part of the damage and repair. Your insurance company will provide you with the necessary information you need to provide your repair shop so that they can file for reimbursement on the repairs.
It is unsafe for you and bad for the environment to drive without a catalytic converter. If the shop is close to your home, such as within a mile, driving the vehicle in is possible. Opt to have it towed for longer distances, though. Plan for the repair to take a couple of days, as parts often need to be ordered. Plus, most thieves aren't mechanics, so there is often additional damage from a messy removal job.
The shop will provide you with the option of a factory or aftermarket catalytic converter. Factory is preferred if it fits within your budget or is covered by insurance. In areas with high levels of theft, it may be best to go with whichever is available or you may have to wait for the factory part to be back ordered. You can also have your repair service install a catalytic converter harness, which protects the component from future theft attempts.
Contact an auto repair shop right away if you have been the victim of a catalytic converter theft.