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.

1,928 comments

  1. I am thinking of getting a 1.2 pure petrol Auris 16′ – 18′ or the new shape Corolla, but I have 2 questions;

    1) Would the Auris have the same issue as per the Hybrid version?
    2) Is the new shape Corolla have the catalytic converter moved somewhere else like the new Yaris?

    1. Hi Ben,
      Thanks for getting in touch.
      Technically, any vehicle containing a catalytic converter is in theory at risk of theft. However, criminals seem to be targeting our older hybrids due to the higher levels of precious metals contained within their catalytic converters.
      We have taken action over time to reduce the quantity of precious metals by up to 84% in catalytic converter design for our newer hybrids. This makes them less attractive to thieves.
      Thanks.

      1. I have just had my catalytic converter stolen for the second time! This latest theft was of a 2018 converter on my 09 Prius. This didn’t seem to make any difference in terms of deterrent! At £350 excess each time and the possibility of a write off of the car doesn’t make buying another Prius very appetising. Catlocs don’t stop them apparently either. Please can you tell me how long I’m likely to wait for a replacement?

      2. Hi Paul,
        We are sorry to hear that you have been affected by this crime.
        All catalytic converters contain precious metals that can be attractive to thieves, regardless of manufacturer or age.
        Even with a Catloc fitted, there is little that can be done to stop determined and brazen organised criminals using power tools to take what they want.
        Ultimately, this is a criminal issue and we’ve been working with and supporting the Police, both publicly and behind the scenes to help put a stop to this awful crime.
        We would recommend contacting your nearest Toyota Centre to find out when you can get a replacement fitted.
        Thanks.

      3. Thanks for your reply to my post below. I’ve now written to MP to ask the Minister for Crime what they are doing to curb the theft of catalytic converters, given they now account for 30% of thefts from cars. I think my 09 Prius is going to be an insurance write off and I’m not going to get another Prius. Can you tell whether the new Corolla is low risk for converter theft? Also whether the converter is located in the engine compartment, rather than easily accessible under the drivers side of the car? Does the Corella have a tilt alarm as standard?

      4. Hi Paul,
        Our records indicate that both the Corolla 1.8l and Corolla 2.0l are low risk vehicles for catalytic converter theft.
        Due to the Corolla being low risk, it does not come with a tilt alarm as standard.
        Furthermore, Toyota vehicles have a few different engine types but generally, the catalytic converters are fitted to the back side of the engine manifold and the front sections of the exhaust system.
        Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions.
        Thanks.

  2. I had the cat stolen from my 2005 Prius this week, despite having had a Catloc fitted by Motorline Toyota and the unit being marked.

    The car has been written off buy the car insurer.

    I’ve had conversations with Motorline and the driver who recovered the car and neither had ever come across a cat theft where an approved catloc device was fitted.

    A neighbour witnessed the theft and the culprits were in and out in a very short space of time.

    So even the approved catloc devices are no deterrent and do not appear to slow down the thefts at all.

    1. Hi Daniel,

      We’re sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by criminals.

      The Catloc is designed as a deterrent, but brazen/determined organised criminal gangs using power tools to take what they want are very difficult to stop.

      Again, sorry you have been a victim of this crime and we hope you are back on the road again soon.

      Thanks

    2. I’ve now had my catalytic converter stolen from my Prius for the third time. Two within a month of each other. On the advice of Toyota I had the cat lock fitted and it smart marked. But it made absolutely no difference. I’ve just bought a 2030 Rav4 and was just about to sell the Prius because of the these major problems. Can you tell me why you are selling a cat lock that doesn’t work? Also what is the risk of the cat lock being stolen from a Rav 4. Although I’ve just bought it I haven’t collected it, so can I still cancel as have not picked it up from the Toyota dealer – is that correct ?

      1. Hi Paul,
        We are sorry to hear your Prius has been targeted by criminals again.
        A Catloc is a theft deterrent, but it is impossible to completely stop determined, brazen and organised criminal gangs who use power cutting tools to take what they want.
        The current RAV4 is not deemed a risk, so there isn’t a Catloc currently available.
        Please contact your Toyota centre for more information on your order.
        Thanks.

  3. I have a Toyota Prius 2010. A few days ago my catalytic converter was stolen. I would like to install the tilt sensor after repair. Do you offer it for Prius 2010? If yes, how much does it cost to install?

    1. Hi David,
      The Catloc and Smartwater Marking are designed as deterrents, but organised criminal gangs using power tools are very difficult to stop.
      We have taken action over time to reduce the precious metal content of the catalytic converters of our newer hybrids by up to 84%. This means that they are less attractive to criminals due to their reduced value.
      Thanks.

  4. I am thinking of buying a newer Toyota , you say the newer cars have 84% less precious metal so from what date and which models

    1. Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment.
      The process of reducing the amount of precious metals in our catalytic converters is something that has taken place over time, rather than in one go.
      The new Yaris, C-HR, Corolla, Camry and RAV4 are currently our lowest risk vehicles.
      However, any vehicle fitted with a catalytic converter is technically at risk, regardless of the model.
      Thanks.

  5. Hi there,

    So I just brought a Toyota Yaris 2017 model. What would you advise me to get for the catalytic converter.

    1. Hi Huda,

      Congratulations on your new car. Please contact your Toyota centre as a catalytic converter is available for your vehicle, if it’s a hybrid.

      Thanks

  6. To add to other comments, I’ve just had my catalytic converter stolen in Penzance in Cornwall. It was parked in a public carpark just under a set of lights for three weeks and was stolen during that period. I won’t use the same arrangement again! There has been apparently a spate of similar thefts in the Penzance and St Ives areas. As local garages were not immediately able to replace the stolen item, I’ve had to stay for this weekend in Cornwall (difficult to find a hotel at short notice and expensive!).

    Toyota Assistance arranged for the AA to tow my car to a garage. The North Country Garage has been extremely helpful, supportive and sympathetic and have given me the use of a courtesy car. The thieves not only removed the cat but also some crucial oxygen wires. The garage have had to order these additional wires (are they called lampter or lambed wires?) and these were more difficult to get hold of.

    The risk with putting a protective shield round the catalytic converter is that thieves will cause more damage while seeking to remove it.

    I’m not sure if other makes of car have similar problems with their catalytic converters. But for me, this episode will cost over £1,000 (including hotel charges).

    1. Hi John,

      We are very sorry to hear that your vehicle was targeted by thieves, and we hope you’re back on the road again soon.

      Thanks

  7. Hi
    My catalytic converter has been recently stolen from my 2017 Auris.
    Is it free to install the tracking device or do I have to pay for it?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi,

      We are sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by thieves. Smartwater tracking is free.

      Thanks

  8. Hi my CATALITIC CONVERTER was stolen off my 2018 Toyota Auris in broad daylight on a liddle car park the AA came to recover the car and told my wife Julie to drive it following his van to our Toyota dealership 3 mile away there was no advice for hazard lights could you advice whether this is both legal and acceptable thanks Thomas and Julie

    1. Hi Thomas,
      Thanks for getting in touch.
      We’re really sorry to hear that you’ve been affected by this crime.
      Unfortunately, we can’t comment on the decisions made by the AA, so we’d recommend taking up your complaint about the recovery with them.
      Please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions.
      Thanks.

    2. That doesn’t sound right to me at all I would definitely complain I called the AA out to our 63 Auris tourer hybrid after the incredible noise it made when I turned it on ,they confirmed on coming out that the catalyst had been stolen whilst parked on a busy retail retail park in broad daylight in the middle of the day ,the incredibly helpful AA man Jake loading it up and towed it back home for me as he said it was not safe to drive without the catalyst ,

  9. Just purchased a new Toyota Yaris 2021, do I need to take out any security to protect the Cat , thanks

    1. Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment and congratulations on your new Yaris!
      The Yaris Hybrid is a low risk vehicle. However, a CATLOC is still available.
      Please contact your nearest Toyota Centre if you wish to have this fitted.
      They can be found here – https://fal.cn/3hdh6
      Thanks.

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