Catalytic converter theft: how to protect your car

Catalytic converter theft from cars isn’t a new crime, but it has increased significantly in recent times.

Police forces around the UK, including those in West Yorkshire, London and Nottinghamshire, are advising owners of any car fitted with a catalytic converter to take precautions.

Any car fitted with a catalytic converter could be at risk. In Toyota’s case it is second and third-generation Prius models (2004-2009 and 2009-2016 respectively) and second-generation Auris Hybrids (2012-2018) which have been particular targets for thieves.

Below we’ve gathered the best advice for Toyota owners who may be concerned.

What is a catalytic converter? 

The catalytic converter is part of the car’s emissions control system. It cleans up the exhaust gases before they are expelled from the car through the exhaust pipe. Its internal elements react with the gases, breaking them down into less harmful substances and water vapour. All cars sold in Europe since 1993 have had to be fitted with catalytic converter by law.

Why are they a target for thieves?

Clearly the police are best placed to offer advice on the motives behind this crime, but we understand that in the main, the value of the catalytic converter for recycling is the main attraction to thieves, because they contain precious metals such as rhodium, platinum and palladium.

What is Toyota doing to stop its cars being targeted?

In May 2021, Toyota (GB) announced that it would be covertly marking more than 100,000 catalytic converters in order to combat theft. By working with police and Smartwater, catalytic converters can be tagged with an invisible yet traceable marking, meaning that a stolen catalytic converter can be traced to a specific crime, helping police in their attempts to fight the organised gangs responsible. It also raises the risk to all those handling the devices along the criminal chain, from theft to eventual disposal and recycling.

It is free to get the catalytic converter marked, all customers need to do is call their local Toyota or Lexus retailer to arrange a visit.

In addition to this, Toyota has issued 20,000 Smartwater kits to police to support their local anti-catalyst theft initiatives. The company is also working with the AA, Toyota’s roadside partner, so its patrols can point customers to where they can get a free kit.

We have also developed and reduced the price of a ‘Catloc’ device which can deter theft and make it more difficult. Toyota teams in the UK and other countries are urgently exploring new technical possibilities to deter criminals as well.

We are working with the police, as well as talking to government about changes in the law around scrap metal sales that would make it harder for criminals to sell stolen catalysts for cash.

However, these are criminal operations and our scope is therefore limited. A number of police forces are taking action and some forces, such as Nottinghamshire, are also starting awareness campaigns. It is vitally important for anyone who is a victim of this crime to report it to their local police force as quickly as possible.

In the main, it remains older cars that are targeted because advances in efficiency and technology mean the latest generations of Toyota catalytic converters contain vastly lower amounts of precious metals, whilst still doing their job just as well or even better; this means their value for recycling is very low and they are not attractive to thieves.

Does a Catloc give my car 100% protection from thieves?

Sadly not. It can make theft more difficult but thieves are using high-powered cutting tools to remove catalytic converters and because of this it is not possible to make catalytic converters ‘unstealable’. A Catloc makes it harder to steal a catalytic converter, slowing thieves down and acting as a deterrent. As mentioned above, we’re doing all we can to seek further technical options for customers.

Is Catloc available for my Toyota?

Catloc devices are available for a growing proportion of our range, but not all. We recommend speaking to your local Toyota centre.

How much does it cost to replace a catalytic converter?

Toyota’s first priority is to do all we can to support our customers who have been victims of crime.

We have moved to reduce the prices of replacement catalytic converters and Catlocs to a level where Toyota GB does not make any profit from supplying them to customers.

Your nearest Toyota centre can advise on exact costs after inspecting your vehicle.

Is it true that there is a long wait for replacement catalytic converter parts for Toyota cars?

The rapid rise in this crime in 2019 is one we could not have envisaged, set against many years of low incidence of catalytic converter theft. This initially impacted our ability to source enough of the parts we needed in some cases, for which we sincerely apologise.

Toyota has restarted production lines in Japan and France that made catalysts for many of the older models targeted in order to supply affected owners, developed a Catloc security device which helps deter theft (and has been granted a “Sold Secure with Gold Status” security ranking) and ensured it makes no profit at all from the sale of replacement catalysts or from Catlocs, providing them at cost.

If I’m worried about my Toyota model, what should I do?

If you are worried about potential catalytic converter theft from your Toyota, we recommend you use our locator tool to find your nearest Toyota centre and contact them to discuss the best way to protect your car.

This article was last updated on 13 May 2021, so some of the responses to reader comments below have been superseded by more recent information.

1,777 comments

  1. I have a 2002 Toyota Camry 2.4, which had the catalytic converter stolen from a public shopping centre carpark in Newton Abbot (Devon). It seems that they are targeting anything that has them fitted. It cost me just under £2000 to have the repair done, as they damaged the whole exhaust system getting it off.

    1. Hi Gary,

      Sorry to hear your vehicle has been targeted by thieves. It sounds like you’re back on the road though, which are pleased to hear.

      Thanks

  2. Hi folks,
    Just checking, I have a Toyota Hybrid Yaris (2017 model) is this classed as high risk for convertor theft?
    Cheers Nick

    1. Hi,

      Your vehicle is considered low risk, but there is Catloc available. Please contact your nearest Toyota centre if you’d like to have this fitted.

      Thanks

  3. My car is RAV4 hybrid 2020 model, is it the model i need to concern or is Catloc available for this model please?

    1. Hi Ricky,

      This vehicle is not considered high risk, so an official Toyota Catloc is not currently available.

      Thanks

  4. The catalytic converter was stolen from my 2020 Toyota Corolla 1.8L hybrid in March and I’m still waiting for the part to arrive so it can be fixed… Luckily we have a courtesy car in the meantime. What deterrents are available for my car? I thought the cat converter was not accessible by thieves as it was nearer the engine – is that not the case? Which precious metals are in this particular model’s catalytic converter and how much? When researching the car I thought it was low risk due to low amounts of precious metals but seems that is not the case. I’m very worried that the thieves will return. I’m only 7 months into a 3 year lease. I love this car but regret getting it so much.

    1. Hi Zoe,

      We are very sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by thieves. Although our newer models do have reduced levels of rhodium, platinum and palladium compared to our older hybrid models, they are still technically at risk, just like any other vehicle fitted with a catalytic converter. There is a Catloc available for your vehicle. Whilst that can act as a deterrent, it is very difficult to completely stop determined organised criminals, especially when they are using power tools to take what they want. Once again, we are very sorry that your vehicle has been targeted and hope you are back on the road again soon.

      Thanks

      1. Thanks for the response, however you missed two of my questions.

        1. I thought the cat converter was not accessible by thieves as it was nearer the engine – is that not the case?
        2. Which precious metals are in this particular model’s catalytic converter and how much?

      2. Hi Zoe,

        We’re trying to limit the amount of detailed information we share on this page about catalytic converter location and precious metal content, to prevent the organised criminal gangs using it to inform their operations.

        What we can say is that, yes, the Three Way Catalytic Converter, which has significantly reduced levels of precious metals compared to older models, is closer to the engine. Clearly, determined thieves with power tools are still able to get to it. Given the nature of the part, it has to be between the exhaust and the engine.

        Thanks

  5. I’ve just had my Catalytic stolen for the second time in 7 months and I’m really angry. 2 different locations.
    If Toyota are aware of such a problem why aren’t they putting cat locks on cars as standard???
    So not only do we get the privilege of having to pay thousands, wait ages for replacements but also are now expected to pay for a lock which, like I say should be on all cars as standard, doesn’t even guarantee its safety. So the next time they do take it the also damage what’s supposed to protect it and then we have to pay out even more!!
    Bad design flaw on the cars!
    I’m 7 months into my 3 years and I’m definitely looking at getting rid of my Prius+. I cannot go through the stress having one of these cars is doing to me and my family.
    So how about Toyota pay for at risk cars to at least have the lock fitted FOR FREE instead of us having to pay extra. It should be put on all future models as standard or failing that find a better place to locate them like other manufacturers managed to do.

    1. Hi Ricci,
      Thanks for getting in touch. We’re so sorry to hear that you have been affected by this awful crime.
      Criminals are using high-grade power saws to remove the catalyst, so in reality they are as easy to remove from any vehicle. The design is not so relevant.
      The cost of replacement catalytic converters supplied and fitted through our approved service centres is as low as possible, and TGB doesn’t profit from this.
      Our theft deterrent devices such as CatLocs are also supplied at zero profit. Whilst that can act as a deterrent, it is very difficult to completely stop determined organised criminals, especially when they are using power tools to take what they want.
      Once again, we are truly sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by thieves.
      If you wish to raise your specific situation further, our Customer Relations team will be best placed to do so with you. They can be contacted here: https://www.toyota.co.uk/help-centre/email-us.
      Thanks.

    2. Toyota are not doing enough to sort this – they keep saying they are sorry but really this is a design fault that they need to fix to make it near impossible to steal the converter or just not worth it to do so. You’d think by now they would habe come up with a solution but I wonder whether there is a perverse incentive here – Toyota get to sell new converters to replace the ones that are stolen – thats income for garages and them and the poor drivers get to pay through increased insurance costs and inconvenience.

      1. Hi CaptainFog,
        Thanks for your comment.
        Technically any car fitted with a catalytic converter is at risk, and due to the nature of the part, it must be fitted between the engine and exhaust. We have reduced the precious metal content of catalytic converters over time for our newer hybrids and have developed a range of theft protection devices, but ultimately it is very difficult to stop determined organised criminal gangs using power tools to commit these thefts.
        Criminals are using high-grade power saws to remove the catalyst, so in reality they are as easy to remove from any vehicle. The design is not so relevant.
        We have moved to ensure that the cost of replacement catalytic converters supplied and fitted through our approved service centres is as low as possible, and that TGB doesn’t profit from this.
        We have also developed and are supplying theft deterrent devices at zero profit such as CatLocs, tilt alarms, bolt caps and component etching to protect consumers from further attacks, and we are working with Insurers to minimise the impact on consumers.
        Thanks.

  6. The Catalytic converted fitted to my 2015 Toyota Auris was stolen whilst the car was parked on my driveway. The thieves three in number were seen on CCTV at 2121hrs and it only took them one minute and forty five seconds from the time they entered the driveway, jacking the car up, removing the converter, returning to their car and driving away.

    1. Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment. We’re really sorry to hear that you have been targeted by these brazen thieves.
      If you haven’t already, this should be reported to the Police as it is a crime.
      Your nearest Toyota Centre will be able to source replacement parts.
      We have produced CatLocs, bolt caps, component etching and tilt sensors for this model, all of which can be ordered through your nearest Toyota Centre, but determined criminals with high-grade power tools can be very hard to completely protect against.
      Once again, we are so sorry to hear that your vehicle has been affected by this horrible crime, and we hope that you’re back on the road soon.
      Thanks.

      1. Hi Joe,
        Thanks for your comment.
        To which Prius model are you referring? In the UK, we have the Prius, the Prius+ and the Prius Plug-In.
        Thanks.

  7. I found out at 5 pm today that my catalyst had been stolen overnight, from my Auris Hybrid.
    Like other correspondents on this forum I am very angry about it, as I thought these cars were supposed to be less attractive to the thieves. I have heard nothing from the local agent, Toyota , the police or any other source of advice to suggest there are measures available to deter theft.
    The policy of using blue backgrounds to badges, and “hybrid” signage can only increase the ease of identifying them to the thieves and should stop immediately.

    1. Hi Derek,
      Thanks for your comment. We appreciate both the severity of this crime and the distress it has caused, and we’re so sorry that your vehicle has been targeted by theives.
      Any vehicle containing a catalytic converter is in theory at risk of theft. From our range, it is second and third-generation Prius models (2004-2009 and 2009-2016 respectively) and second-generation Auris Hybrids (2012-2018) which have been particular targets for thieves.
      We published police advice on the crime online as soon as it was available, wrote to our dealer network and even directly to our customers where details were available to do so. We also engaged with the Home Office, Local MPs, the Met Police and the Assistant Constable of Cheshire Police, who is also the national lead for vehicle crime, to raise the crime’s profile and identify and issues with existing legislation.
      In terms of theft deterrent devices for the Auris, CatLocs, bolt caps, component etching and tilt sensors are available from your nearest Toyota Centre. However, it is very difficult to completely stop these brazen criminals due to their use of power tools.
      Once again, we are so sorry to hear that you have been affected by this crime, and we hope you’re back on the road soon.
      Thanks.

    1. Hi Nick,
      Thanks for getting in touch with us.
      Our newer hybrids benefit from a lower level of precious metals in the catalytic converter, making them less attractive to thieves.
      However, any vehicle containing a catalytic converter is in theory at risk of theft.
      There is currently no official Toyota CatLoc for this model. An ISR marking kit and bolt caps are available, but these are not the same as a CatLoc.
      Thanks.

  8. I own a Toyota Rav4 2013 2.2 litre diesel. Is there a catloc available and is it considered high risk?

    1. Hi Helen,
      Thanks for getting in touch with us.
      Whilst criminals seem to be targeting Auris and Prius from our range, any vehicle containing a catalytic converter is in theory at risk of theft.
      There is no official CatLoc available for the RAV4. We would recommend contacting your nearest Toyota Centre to discuss the theft deterrent options available to you.
      Thanks.

    1. Hi Hajera,
      Thanks for getting in touch with us, and congratulations on your new car!
      Whilst the C-HR is classed as lower risk as it benefits from a lower level of precious metals, any car containing a catalytic converter is in theory at risk of theft.
      There is a CatLoc available for the C-HR as well as an ISR marking kit and bolt caps, and these can be ordered through your nearest Toyota Centre.
      Thanks.

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