Signs Your Catalytic Converter Is Gone – How To Tell?

Signs Your Catalytic Converter Is Gone – How To Tell?

January 8, 2023 0 By CarGuy

Do you think that your catalytic converter was stolen and you want to learn more about the signs your catalytic converter is gone? Well, if that is the case, then you are at the right place because there will be quite a lot to cover on these signs. Where we are going to learn all about what you need to know when it comes to how to tell if your catalytic converter is stolen.

Nowadays catalytic converters are hot items, there are very malicious people who just cut off your catalytic converter and then sell it. This is the case because in these components there are precious metals that can cost a whole fortune in some cases.

So, what some people do is steal these components from your car while you sleep. Especially if you park in a suspicious area where crime is very serious. And these catalytic converter thieves target mainly the expensive ones, like the catalytic converter on some newer trucks, or for the Prius. But what are the signs your catalytic converter is gone?

Well, more on that in a bit, first we are going to learn what is a catalytic converter and why the catalytic converter is so important. Then, we shall discuss the signs your catalytic converter is gone. And once we clear that out of our way, we will learn how to prevent these thefts.

What Is A Catalytic Converter In Car?

Now before we dive into the signs your catalytic converter is gone, let’s take a look at what is a catalytic converter in general.

If you didn’t know, a catalytic converter is a special device that is installed on every car out there. The catalytic converter is an emissions device that is designed for the purpose to destroy some of the most harmful particles in the exhaust gases. More specifically, NOx particles, are highly dangerous for our health.

But where is this catalytic converter located and how many are there in a car? Well, this catalytic converter is often located at the rear end of the engine if you run a RWD car, if you run a FWD car, it is located somewhere at the front end of the vehicle, it really depends on where the manufacturer will install this component.

When it comes to how many of these are found on a car, let’s say that you own a smaller engine with one bank. In this case, you have only one catalytic converter. But if you have a V6 or a V8, you have two of these components installed on your vehicle.

When it comes to the design of these components, they are often spherical or cylindrical in design, and inside they have a honeycomb structure that does all the magic. And in the following chapter, before we dive into the signs your catalytic converter is gone, we will explain how this component works.

How The Catalytic Converter Works?

So, we covered what is a catalytic converter and we learned that this is a cylindrical component that is mounted on your exhaust for the purpose to reduce emissions. Now before we dive into the signs your catalytic converter is gone, let’s learn more about how this component works in reality.

When it comes to the catalytic converter, it is worth noting that inside the catalytic converter, there is a honeycomb structure.

The gases basically flow through this structure and while they flow, there is something known as a catalyst reaction that occurs.

And in order for this catalyst action to occur, the catalytic converter has to be up to a certain temperature. And we can honestly say that the catalytic converter gets really hot. More specifically between 500 and 800 degrees Fahrenheit.

Then this component basically activates and burns off the harmful particles. So, the car needs a few minutes in order to reach this operating temperature.

And we can say that this reaction is needed in order for the cars to pollute less. If you don’t agree with us, you can look for pictures from New York and any bigger city from the 60s and you will see how the city is full of smog.

The catalytic converters do their job to prevent this smog and even though there are thousands of cars around us, the pollution is decreased. It cannot be completely eliminated unless we move fully to electric cars.

And this catalyst is not a new invention, these converters were first conceived in the early 70s but now they became hot items for thieves, unfortunately. But what are the signs your catalytic converter is gone? More on that, we will cover in a bit.

Why Catalytic Converter Stolen

Now let’s take a look at why the catalytic converter is stolen before we dive into the signs your catalytic converter is gone. Why these devices are so craved by thieves?

Well, the short answer is that they are expensive. If you didn’t know, a catalytic converter has a certain amount of precious metals inside.

And the more metals there are inside, the more expensive the catalytic converter is. As in the case of the Prius where this catalytic converter can cost more than $2,000 to be purchased brand new.

On average, catalytic converters are somewhere about $1,200 new. But what type of metals there are in this device?

The metals used in the catalytic converter are platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Without these elements, there will be no chemical catalytic reaction, this is why these are crucial when it comes to building a catalytic converter. And the more and more the emissions standards become tighter, the price of these metals and components climbs to the extremes.

But what are the signs your catalytic converter is gone? Let’s elaborate more about that in the following chapter in detail and see more about the symptoms that you will get.

Signs Your Catalytic Converter Is Gone

Now let’s take a look more at the signs your catalytic converter is gone. What are the signs that you will notice if your catalytic converter gets stolen?

In the following few chapters, we are going to list the most common symptoms of this situation and see what you can expect if your car is left without the catalytic converters. And then we will learn how much it will cost you to replace the catalytic converter.

1. Check Engine Light

The first in our list of the signs your catalytic converter is gone is the check engine light. So, why is this the case? Why will the check engine light turn on if your catalytic converter is gone?

Well, there are a number of reasons. The first reason is that your O2 sensors will be no longer connected to the wiring harness.

So, the PCM will easily pick this up and alert you that you have a problem with your O2 sensors. And if the O2 sensor is stolen with the catalytic converter, will make your engine unable to adjust the air-to-fuel ratio.

Signs Your Catalytic Converter Is Gone

So, you will get multiple codes like P0420 for example, whether they are concerned with your catalytic converter or with your sensors.

Still, you cannot know if the catalytic converter is missing unless you check it out. But more on that we are going to cover in a bit. Now let’s continue with the signs your catalytic converter is gone.

2. Car Engine Is Really Loud

Now let’s move on to the signs your catalytic converter is gone. And the second on our list of signs that your catalytic converter is gone is the noise.

When you first crank up your engine and the engine starts, the check engine light will be present as we noted previously, along with a really loud noise.

You have probably seen some videos where people straight-pipe their cars, they simply delete the catalytic converters. And the noise that the car creates is obnoxiously loud.

So, if the car creates a very strong sound, then definitely that your catalytic converter has been stolen. Now let’s move on to the next signs your catalytic converter is gone.

3. Black Smoke Coming From Underneath The Car

The next in our list of signs your catalytic converter is gone is the black smoke that will come out from underneath the car and inside of the cabin. So, why is this the case?

Well, this will be the case because the catalytic converter will be removed and these catalytic converters usually sit somewhere close to the firewall of the vehicle.

And when you do a cold start without the catalytic converter and the sensors, you can expect a lot of black smoke to come from the front of the car or underneath the car.

And this not only is not good for the car but also not good for your health since you are inhaling these harmful toxins in your lungs. So, once this occurs, it is important to turn off the engine and call a tow because you don’t want to breathe these harmful gases in your lungs.

4. Rotten Egg Smell

The next in our list of signs your catalytic converter is gone is the rotten egg smell. So, why this smell specifically? Let’s explain.

As you probably know, there will be a lot of carbon monoxide smell inside the cabin if your catalytic converter is gone. But there will also be a scent of rotten eggs.

And this will be the case because inside the fuel, there is sulfur, and what eggs and gas share is the sulfur.

So, whether it is in gas or eggs, this is a really pungent and rather disgusting smell. A smell that you don’t really want to experience.

So, if you notice a smell, like this, there could be two things. A bad catalytic converter, or a stolen catalytic converter. Since in these cases, this smell appears. Now let’s move on to the last of the signs your catalytic converter is gone.

5. Catalytic Converter Is Missing

The next on our list of signs your catalytic converter is gone is the situation where you visibly see that the converter is missing from your car.

If you open up the hood of the car and see where your exhaust manifold goes, you will notice that there is a big piece of the puzzle missing. Which in this case is the catalytic converter.

A lot of people would not even notice this, but if you know more about mechanics and where this component should be, you will definitely going to notice that it is missing.

You can also browse online for pictures of the engine bay with and without a catalytic converter for your car model and compare. But if the car has the check engine light, there is a pungent odor of exhaust fumes, and the car is really loud, then your catalytic converter is definitely missing and you have to replace it.

So, we discussed the signs your catalytic converter is gone. Now let’s take a look at other topics.

How To Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

So, we’ve gone through the signs your catalytic converter is gone, now let’s take a look at how to protect your catalytic converter.

During our mechanic’s career, we have seen everything, people install bars, barb wire, weld plates, and whatnot under the catalytic converter. And this is not the best option if you were asking me.

Since the catalytic converter creates a lot of heat, so if you enclose this component, it is highly likely to create so much heat, that will simply fail on the inside.

Your best protection against theft is to park your car in a safe environment. Avoid neighborhoods where there is a high rate of crime. These thefts are often occurring in areas where there is no proper security.

So, park your car in the garage if you live in an area like this, or park your car in a safe garage with guards if you live in an apartment block. This way you will be somewhat sure that your catalytic converter will not get stolen and make you look online for the signs your catalytic converter is gone.

Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost

Now that we covered the signs your catalytic converter is gone, let’s move on to the catalytic converter replacement cost. How much does it cost to replace this component?

Well, for a new catalytic converter, you can expect to pay anywhere between $1,200 and $2,500. Catalytic converters can get expensive, especially for expensive cars.

But the catalytic converter for the Prius is also somewhere in this category costing more than $2,000. This is why if you have a Prius be rather careful where you park your car.

Conclusion To Sings Your Catalytic Converter Is Gone

In this article, we learned what is the catalytic converter and what it does. Then we covered why catalytic converters are so valuable and a very frequent target of theft.

After that, we learned the signs your catalytic converter is gone. We covered how the car would behave when this converter is removed from the car. Lastly, we shared some tips on how you can avoid these thefts and the cost to purchase a new catalytic converter.