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.

2,066 comments

  1. I have a 2006 Prius. Following the theft of its cat I have had the replacement security marked and have had a Toyota catloc fitted. However there is now a very annoying rattle which the garage agrees is coming from the catloc. Has anybody, including Toyota themselves, got a solution?

    1. Hi Andrew,

      We’re sorry to hear that. This is something your Toyota centre should raise internally, to find a solution. We assume they have done this, and we hope they can get it sorted for you.

      Thanks

  2. I have a 2002/2003 prius (1.5 car). Is this a high risk vehicle for catalytic convertor theft? If so what action to you advise please?

    1. Hi Syd,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Your Prius is considered to be a high risk vehicle. However, any vehicle containing a catalytic converter is in theory at risk of theft.
      In order to protect your vehicle, we would recommend discussing theft deterrent options with your nearest Toyota Centre.
      Smartwater marking is also available for your car, which involves tagging the catalytic converter with an invisible yet traceable marking and meaning that a stolen catalytic converter can be traced back to a specific crime. Please contact your Toyota Centre for further information.
      Thanks.

  3. Hi Toyota. I have a 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (Design model). In a previous reply regarding a 2020 RAV4 Hybrid you say the following:

    “Organised criminal gangs tend to be targeting older hybrid vehicles. It is considered low risk at the moment, therefore a Catloc is not currently available”

    This is not quite as reassuring as it could be. Does this mean that the CAT is more difficult to get at for the thief (and thus more difficult to quickly steal), or have the criminal gangs just not caught onto this model yet ?

    1. Hi Richard,
      Thanks for getting in touch with us.
      Whilst any vehicle containing a catalytic converter is in theory at risk of theft, we have reduced the quantity of precious metals by up to 84% in catalytic converter design for our newer hybrids. This makes them less attractive to thieves.
      The RAV4 hybrid is considered to be low risk, which is why there is no CatLoc available.
      However, Smartwater marking is available free of charge for all Toyota vehicles. This involves marking the catalytic converter with an invisible yet traceable ink that allows the part to be traced to a specific crime. This helps the police to fight the gangs responsible for the crime and raises the risk to those handling the parts along the criminal chain. You can contact your nearest Toyota Centre for further information and to book your vehicle in.
      Thanks.

      1. Hello Toyota
        See my post 7 April .I am at present changing insurance companies .It has come to my attention that UK Insurance Companies.Do not class the loss of vehicles Catalytic Converters as theft.!!
        But as Malicious Damage. Due to way these criminals remove the parts they want. And the Damage to other parts of the vehicle they cause.

  4. Hi……Looking at Buying a 2018 Petrol Yaris…..Are these prone to Cat. thefts? If so what can be done to make them more secure? Thanks Tony

    1. Hi Tony,
      Thanks for your comment.
      In theory, any vehicle containing a catalytic converter is at risk of theft. However, in Toyota’s case, generally second and third-generation Prius models and second-generation Auris Hybrids have been particular targets for thieves. Criminals tend to target older hybrids due to the higher content of precious metals within the catalytic converter. Therefore, a petrol Yaris is lower risk.
      Smartwater marking is available for all Toyota vehicles fitted with a catalytic converter, and this is an invisible yet traceable marking on the catalytic converter, that means the stolen part can be traced to a specific crime. This helps police in their attempts to fight the organised gangs responsible, therefore deterring thieves from stealing catalytic converters. 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.
      Thanks

  5. hi i am a owner of a new 2021 Corolla HB/TS Hybrid 1.8 Petrol
    is there a Catloc for it and is it high risk vehicle to steal the catalytic converter
    thank you

    1. Hi,

      Congratulations on your new car and thanks for choosing Toyota. Technically any vehicle with a catalytic converter is at risk of theft. We have developed a Catloc specifically for your vehicles, which can be ordered and fitted by your nearest Toyota centre.

      Thanks

      1. hi if i get a Catloc fitted to my car do i need to let my insurance company know and it class as a modification

        thank you

      2. Hi Alig,
        Thanks for your comment.
        We would recommend discussing this with your insurance company. They will best placed to assist you with this enquiry.
        Thanks.

    1. Hi Ed,

      We are very sorry to hear that criminals have targeted your vehicle, and hope you’re back on the road again soon.

      Thanks

  6. Not a good weekend. Catalytic converter stolen Sunday morning. England beaten in the afternoon.
    The car is a mobility vehicle so now grounded for a few days.

    1. Hi Brian,
      Thanks for your comment. We are really sorry to hear about this.
      Your nearest Toyota Centre will be able to assess the damage and order replacement parts.
      Once again, we are so sorry that your vehicle has been targeted by these brazen thieves, and we hope that you’re back on the road soon.
      Thanks.

    1. Hi R Harris,
      Thanks for your question.
      All cars sold in Europe since 1993 have had to be fitted with catalytic converter by law.
      Thanks.

      1. I am sorry but Smart Water is only useful after the Converter has been stolen. Even more important the police have to find it in the thieves possession and I have not heard of them recovering any converters. So generally speaking it’s a complete waste of time as a deterrent

      2. Hi R Harris,
        Thanks for your reply.
        Whilst Smartwater Marking may not seem like a deterrent in the way that a CATLOC is, it raises the risk to all those handling the devices along the criminal chain, from theft to eventual disposal and recycling. Police forces around the country have recovered thousands of catalytic converters to date, and operations to search out a arrest perpetrators is ongoing.
        Thanks.

  7. I have Camry 2019. How I can protect my converter from theft. Why Toyota moves this converter inside engine bay to avoid this issue.

    1. Hi Muhammad,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Whilst any car containing a catalytic converter is technically at risk of theft, thieves tend to target older hybrid vehicles due to the higher precious metal content. The Camry is considered to be lower risk, which is why there is no CATLOC available for your vehicle.
      However, Smartwater Marking is available for your vehicle. This is an invisible yet traceable marking which helps trace stolen catalytic converters. This is available free of charge from your nearest Toyota centre.
      Thanks.

  8. Hi, I had my 2003 Celica Cat stolen last night. As this was cut off, how much of my exhaust system will need replacing?
    Also is there a CATLOC for this car?

    1. Hi Neil,
      Thanks for your comment, and we are really sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by these brazen thieves.
      As we cannot assess your vehicle, we cannot advise as to the extent of repairs that will be needed. We would advise taking your Celica to a local Toyota centre.
      Unfortunately, there is no CATLOC available for this vehicle.
      However, Smartwater Marking is available for your vehicle. This is an invisible yet traceable marking which helps trace stolen catalytic converters. This is available free of charge from your nearest Toyota centre.
      Thanks.

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