Catalytic Converter Theft Prevention

Catalytic Converter Theft Prevention Marking

Catalytic Converter theft is on the rise. Thousands are stolen across the country per day. To combat this alarming trend, the Catalytic Converter Theft committee of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI) in cooperation with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) suggests marking your converter.

Thieves are stealing converters from all types of vehicles and will make between US $50 and US $875 per converter depending on the type and the precious metals content. Many lower emission/hybrid vehicles contain higher amounts of precious metals that are currently trading at all time high prices which is the catalyst for the increase in this crime. Some larger vehicles have multiple catalytic converters which make them prey for the theft. The cost to the owner of the vehicle’s owner to repair can be several thousand dollars.

A catalytic converter is an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exhaust emission control device that reduces toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust gas from an internal combustion engine into less toxic pollutants. Converters are typically found beneath the vehicle as part of the exhaust system.

Most catalytic converters do not have serial numbers, making it difficult for law enforcement to prove a catalytic converter is stolen. IAATI and ISRI believes starting a vigorous public education and information campaign to encourage vehicle owners to uniquely identify their catalytic converters, so they can be associated with a vehicle will have a substantial effect on deterring the theft.

We have identified two ways for consumers to protect their valuable property by clearly marking their catalytic converter on their vehicle. While a consumer may do this, there are also many shops that can provide this marking as well.

Step 1

catalyticconverter-1Option One: Engraving Marking

  • Engrave a number, such as the VIN (vehicle identification number) or at least the last 8 digits/letters of the VIN.
  • Engrave the vehicle’s license plate number with the state/province. 

Engravers can be purchased at most local hardware stores for around US $20. Caution must be used not to damage the catalytic converter while etching.

Option Two: Catalytic Converter Safe Label Solution

Vehicle owners and fleets may benefit from purchasing commercially produced marker kits that provide:

  • An ultra-destruct label (that will break into pieces if an attempt is made to remove them) that places an identification number onto each catalytic converter.
  • Includes metal etching fluid that applies the same unique code into the metal.
  • Includes a secure free registration database.

Even if the label is removed, the etched number information will remain clearly readable for catalytic converter ownership to quickly be verified.


Step 2

catalyticconverter-2Make your catalytic converter standout.

Purchase some high-temperature (1,300 to 2,000 0F), automotive exhaust spray paint in a bright color, and spray a generous amount onto the converter.

By adding bright paint, you can create a visible deterrent to alert thieves to move on.

This paint also signals law enforcement and recyclers to look deeper for serial numbers or identification marks.

By clearly marking your catalytic converter you will be deterring the theft from happening in the first place. Other ways to protect your car from this vehicle crime are as follows:

  • Park in a garage or secured parking area.
  • Install a bright motion sensor light to discourage potential thieves.
  • Install an anti-theft device.
  • Always lock vehicle and set the alarm.
  • Fleet vehicles and minimally used vehicles should be parked in a secured, alarmed, well-lit yard.


The International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI) is an organization of over 3,000 members representing 58 countries who work in coordination to combat auto theft and vehicle crimes. IAATI is dedicated to developing the highest professional standards among auto theft investigation, prevention and education. IAATI has active participation from the private sector, the insurance industry, automobile manufacturers and the National Insurance Crime Bureau of the US and its sister agencies in Canada and Europe.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) is the "Voice of the Recycling Industry™." ISRI represents 1,300 companies in 20 chapters in the U.S. and more than 40 countries that process, broker, and consume scrap commodities, including metals, paper, plastics, glass, rubber, electronics, and textiles. With headquarters in Washington, DC, the Institute provides education, advocacy, safety and compliance training, and promotes public awareness of the vital role recycling plays in the U.S. economy, global trade, the environment and sustainable development. Generating nearly $110 billion annually in U.S. economic activity, the scrap recycling industry provides more than 500,000 Americans with good jobs.