Catalytic Converter Theft and the Smog Check Program

A catalytic converter is an essential emissions control part and is a key component inspected during a Smog Check. It contains rare metals responsible for converting smog-causing pollutants that pass through a vehicle’s exhaust system into less harmful compounds. Because these metals have a high recycle value, catalytic converter theft has become increasingly common.

Experienced thieves can remove a catalytic converter in one to two minutes using basic tools. What can net a thief hundreds of dollars at a scrapyard or recycler can then cost you thousands of dollars to replace, depending on the make and model of your vehicle. Learn more below on how you can protect your catalytic converter and prepare for your vehicle’s next Smog Check.

How can I protect my vehicle from catalytic converter theft?

  • Install a theft prevention device on your catalytic converter – A licensed auto shop can install a protective plate, shield, clamp, cage, strap, or other device to secure your catalytic converter. The device must be properly installed to avoid any damage to the catalytic converter and ensure all identifying information is visible. The device should not be welded or attached directly to the catalytic converter.
  • Mark your catalytic converter – Engraving or etching your catalytic converter with your vehicle identification number (VIN) or license plate number may deter theft. It may also alert a reputable scrap dealer that the device is stolen and can help to identify the owner. If you choose to also have your catalytic converter painted with bright, fluorescent paint, be sure that the paint does not cover any identifying information. Check with your local law enforcement agency for information on any upcoming no-cost engraving/etching events.
  • Adjust your vehicle’s alarm – A well-calibrated alarm can detect vibration and alert you or scare thieves away.
  • Park your vehicle in a safe location – If you have a garage, use it. Consider installing motion-sensitive lights if you park in your driveway. Park close to a building entrance or in a well-lit and high-traffic area when parking in a public lot.

Will a catalytic converter theft prevention device impact my vehicle’s Smog Check results?

A vehicle will fail Smog Check if the theft prevention device modifies or damages the catalytic converter or if any required identifying information is not visible. In addition, a theft prevention device should not be welded or attached directly to the catalytic converter. To help ensure the proper installation of a theft prevention device on your vehicle, visit a licensed auto shop.

My vehicle requires a Smog Check, but its catalytic converter was stolen. What do I need to do?

A licensed Smog Check station will help ensure the correct replacement converter is installed before your vehicle can be inspected. The replacement converter must be from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) or a California Air Resources Board approved aftermarket converter with an assigned Executive Order (EO) number that meets the exact requirements for your vehicle.

Use BAR’s Auto Shop Locator to find a Smog Check station to complete the installation. For assistance with locating a hard-to-find replacement converter, contact the vehicle manufacturer or visit www.asktheref.org.

Will my vehicle insurance cover the cost to replace a stolen catalytic converter?

Check with your vehicle insurance provider to determine if your policy covers stolen auto parts. Please note, BAR’s Consumer Assistance Program does not cover the replacement of a stolen catalytic converter.

Additional Information