You have probably seen the national and local headlines about catalytic converter thefts. But what happens after the converter has been cut from the vehicle? What must be done to get the victim back on the road?
Most catalytic converter thefts are covered under the customer’s comprehensive insurance policy. You might have to work with the insurance company to determine if they will cover replacement with an OE equivalent or aftermarket catalytic converter. Direct fit exhaust components are the best bet. But depending on how the converter was cut from the vehicle, you might have to repair a flange on the vehicle.
Some customers might not have comprehensive insurance, so the replacement might be on their dime. Don’t even try to source a used catalytic converter. The EPA made selling used catalytic converters illegal in 1990, unless tested and certified by the agency. They also enacted requirements that shops must follow if a catalytic converter is replaced to document the procedure.
Do not replace the missing converter with a “test pipe” or just a length of pipe. First of all, it will not keep the check engine light out, and it can cost you a $10,000 fine from the EPA.
No matter who is paying the bill, both the customer and installer must sign a statement explaining why the converter was replaced. Manufacturers either provide such a statement with the converter or have an example in their catalogs. You must retain copies of the invoices and statements for up to six months.
Protecting the converter on vehicles like a Toyota Prius, Ford F-250 or Honda Element has created a cottage industry. These devices are designed to prevent thieves from accessing the converter or make it difficult to cut the pipes. Some muffler shops that can still weld have been fabricating cages and shields to stop thieves or make it more challenging to steal the converter. Some police departments are also offering services where they will etch the VIN onto a converter’s shell. Another strategy has been to spray paint the catalytic converter with red or orange high-temperature paint that might make a thief reluctant to steal the converter.