How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft on a Toyota Tacoma

It’s notoriously common for catalytic converters to be stolen off of trucks. If you want to protect your pickup, you need to learn how to prevent catalytic converter theft on a Toyota Tacoma. 

This guide discusses why someone might want to steal your catalytic converter. We also look at the best ways to keep your truck intact without spending a fortune.

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Are Tacomas a Common Target?

According to Car and Driver, the Tacoma is one of the top ten vehicles targeted for catalytic converter theft. Here are the top ten listed, which include another popular Toyota model.

  1. Ford F-Series
  2. Honda Accord
  3. Toyota Prius
  4. Honda CR-V
  5. Ford Explorer
  6. Ford Econoline/E-Series
  7. Chevrolet Equinox
  8. Chevrolet Silverado
  9. Toyota Tacoma
  10. Chevrolet Cruze 

What makes the Tacoma a top choice? Here are a few possible reasons:

  • Higher ground clearance makes it easy to get underneath without drawing any attention
  • Some model years (2016-2022) have two catalytic converters
  • V6 models have three catalytic converters

Why This Part Is Targeted

Of all the things that thieves can steal, what makes the catalytic converter such a top target? It all comes down to money.

Catalytic converters can fetch a good resale value because of the precious metals located inside. Not only that, but because of how easy it is to steal, thieves don’t have to spend a lot of time to get the payday. They make even more for their time if they can hit a truck with two or three catalytic converters. 

Is It Easy to Steal?

You already know that the Toyota Tacoma is one of the most targeted vehicles for catalytic converter theft. You also know that thieves want a quick job that pays well. So, just how easy is it to steal a converter off of a Tacoma? 

Because of the high ground clearance (9.4 inches), it’s easy to get underneath the Tacoma. Because a thief can slide under and out quickly, no one is likely to notice what’s going on. 

Plus, with multiple converters on some models, they can get under one vehicle but come away with more than one converter. After all, you only need some basic tools to get most converters off. 

It seems that the third-generation Tacoma may be a little harder to steal from. In these models, the converter is mounted in the engine bay. Because they are more difficult to access, you may be safer if you drive a third-generation model. 

(Farms Wise)

How Many Cats Are There?

The Toyota Tacoma has been manufactured with anywhere from one to three converters, depending on the model. If your truck has more than one, it’s even more susceptible to theft because it’s easier on the criminal. 

Tacoma trucks have up to 4 catalytic converters, depending on engine size and model year.

To determine how many catalytic converters your Tacoma has, take a minute to look underneath the truck and in the engine bay.

Scrap Value

After the catalytic converter is stolen, the thieves will sell it for scrap. Inside the catalytic converter are these three precious metals:

  • Platinum (Pt)
  • Palladium (Pd)
  • Rhodium (Rh)

While there aren’t a lot of the metals inside, it’s enough to fetch a good price at a scrap yard. On average, a Tacoma catalytic converter is worth $90 to $280, depending on its condition and model year.


Catalytic Converter Location

The location of the catalytic converter in the Tacoma depends on what model year you drive. You can find the location in a service manual or check your model year in this list.

  • Pre-2016: Catalytic converters are located under the truck
  • 2016-2023: Located in the engine bay and under the truck

The primary and secondary catalytic converters are found in the mid-pipe assembly on four-cylinder Tacoma models. V6 models have two secondary converters in the mid-pipe, with the primary converter(s) built into the exhaust manifold. 


Cost to Replace

If your catalytic converter gets stolen, you need to think about how you will replace it. Sadly, it’s not cheap to put a new catalytic converter on. Here are a few estimates to consider, but pricing depends on your location and the truck model.

  • Parts: $1,001 to $1,012
  • Labor: $104 to $131
  • Total: $1,104 to $1,143

The price increases substantially if you have to replace more than one catalytic converter. 

(Repair Pal)

Prevention Methods

After looking at these prices and realizing how much of a hassle it will be to replace the catalytic converter, you may be looking for prevention methods. There are several options, and some are incredibly cost-effective. 

Built-In Anti-Theft Measures From Toyota

Toyota has figured out what’s happening with the catalytic converters and is working to help drivers. Beginning in 2016, Toyota engineers moved the catalytic converter inside the engine bay. The engineers were able to integrate the catalytic converter into the exhaust manifold.

This new location has made it more difficult for the thief to remove. 

Toyota also recently introduced new cat converter shields through a partnership with MillerCAT. These shields are only available on select models, and we aren’t sure when the Tacoma models will be released. Check with your local dealership to get more information. 

(Motor Trend, carscoops)

Theft Shields by Model Year

Aside from what Toyota offers, there are some theft shields for sale. Let’s look at the options broken down by Tacoma generation. 

4th Generation (2024+)

The 4th generation is brand-new for the 2024 model year. For that reason, manufacturers haven’t yet created a lineup of catalytic converter shields.

Regardless, there are reports that the 2024 Tacoma has its catalytic converters located inside the engine bay, rather than below the vehicle. This means that you may not need a protection shield at all.

3rd Generation (2016-2023)

The 3rd generation Tacoma doesn’t suffer from as many catalytic converter thefts because of where the part is located in the engine bay. It’s not easy to get to, so smart thieves tend to pass it by. 

Still, you want to consider a theft shield if you park in an area where the catalytic converter could be stolen. For the price of prevention, it’s worth taking the extra step. 

The Cat Shield by MillerCAT is an excellent option that is available both on Amazon and through MillerCAT’s website. You can choose an aluminum or stainless steel cover. Make sure you select the appropriate drivetrain and engine options.

Anti-Theft Cat Shield, Fits 2016-2023, 3.5L Toyota Tacoma 4WD - Miller CAT Aluminum Catalytic Converter Protection

MillerCAT Theft Shield for 2016-2023 Tacoma

All of these shields are built in the United States. Plus, they are compatible with TRD/Off-Road skid plates. However, they won’t work with all lift kits if the chassis cross-member has been modified.

2nd Generation (2005-2015)

There’s a higher probability of having the catalytic converter stolen from a 2nd generation Tacoma. These models have the cat underneath the truck, which is easy to access. For that reason, a shield would be a good investment.

You can purchase a Cat Shield. This model fits the 4.0L, with the option for either the 2WD or 4WD truck. With some basic tools, you can get this shield installed quickly.  This is also available on Amazon in all configurations.

There’s also the Cat Security™ brand protection shield available on Amazon. This model fits the six-cylinder 4WD Tacoma. Because it fits in the system seamlessly, you shouldn’t have trouble installing it either.

1st Generation (1995-2004)

Of all Tacoma models, these are the most likely to suffer from catalytic converter theft. Considering the high price of catalytic converter replacement, many of these trucks may not even be worth fixing because of the lower resale value. 

For that reason alone, it’s crucial to secure the converter with a low-cost shield. Sadly, these shields aren’t easy to find. 

Skid Row Off Road has a 1st generation model available. This model prevents access to the exhaust pipes leading to the converters and restricts the inlet pipe to make things harder on thieves.

You may also be able to find some on eBay. It’s best to purchase a new shield from a familiar manufacturer. You can research the company online to ensure you get what you pay for. 

Other Ways to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

If you aren’t ready to install a shield over the catalytic converter, there are other ways to prevent theft. Here are a few suggestions to help you avoid loss.

  1. Park in a public area where there are lots of people.
  2. Avoid parking in a lot without guards or on dark streets with no cameras. 
  3. Stamp or etch the VIN on the converter, making it less desirable to thieves because it’s easier to track down at the scrap yard.
  4. Spray the converter with high-temperature paint. Thieves avoid these catalytic converters because they have to clean off the paint before selling, which takes more time. 
  5. Install rocker alarms on the truck. When the truck is being messed with, such as when the catalytic converter is being removed, the alarm will go off.
  6. Weld the converter in place, making it more difficult to remove. You could also install extra cables or bolts to slow a thief down. 

(JD Power)

What to Do if Yours Is Stolen

Following these steps as soon as possible is important if you become the victim of catalytic converter theft.

  1. Document the details of the theft. Take photos and pull up any videos from a surveillance system (if available). 
  2. With your documentation, call the police to file a report.
  3. If you have insurance coverage for the catalytic converter, call your provider and file a claim.
  4. Examine the possibility of replacing the converter. Call several local shops to see who can offer the best price.

After you put the new converter on, consider putting an anti-theft device on for protection. You don’t want to go through this process again. 


Catalytic Converter Theft Laws

There are laws regarding catalytic converter theft to prevent these instances from happening. There are some different laws by state, so you want to research what’s applicable to you. Here are a few laws worth noting. 

  • BillTrack50 has a map of the United States showing local legislation. 
  • This year the Senate introduced a new bill requiring automakers to etch the VIN on every converter. This bill would also make it a federal crime to steal a catalytic converter.
  • Minnesota law says that a scrap dealer can’t purchase a catalytic converter without the ownership documentation. 
  • Missouri has laws requiring a license to sell scrap metals, and the dealers must maintain a record of all sales. 
  • A new Texas law includes stiffer penalties for catalytic converter theft after an officer was killed trying to stop thieves. 

We encourage you to check your local laws to see what penalties there are.

What Does a Catalytic Converter Do?

All this talk about catalytic converters may make you wonder why it is even installed on vehicles. The catalytic converter is a major component of the exhaust system. It’s designed to reduce the amount of toxic pollutants emitted into the air. The converter changes hazardous gases into less harmful products, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. 

That’s why the high-priced elements are needed – they are essential to the chemical reaction that takes place in the converter.

If your vehicle doesn’t have a converter because it was stolen, you are allowing more pollutants into the air every time you drive. Not only will your truck fail a local emissions test if they are required, but you could also be breaking local laws. Many states can fine you for driving without a converter.

(Universal Technical Institute)

Related Content

Guard the Tacoma Catalytic Converter as a Precious Treasure

Considering the cost of the catalytic converter, you should be placing extra importance on protecting it. After all, would you leave $1,000 sitting in the bed of your truck for anyone to take? Probably not.

With some simple steps, you can make it harder for thieves to steal your catalytic converter. After you hear about a rash of thefts in your area, you’ll be grateful you spent the extra money and took the short amount of time to follow through.

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