What is Inside a Catalytic Converter?

The catalytic converter is a critical component of your car’s exhaust system that helps minimize the amount of toxic gas released into the atmosphere. If it is not there, these gases released from the engine can cause environmental and health hazards.

The cat, however, reduces this gas into harmless emissions. This component is one of the most stolen vehicle parts and has raised many eyebrows. It all boils down to what is inside. So the question is, what is inside a catalytic converter that attracts thieves to it? Grab a seat and relax while I uncover the parts inside a cat con.

what is inside a catalytic converter that makes it valuable

What metal is inside a catalytic converter?

The catalytic converter is one of the most expensive car components and is often a target for thieves. And this is because of the quality of metals used in producing it. Invariably berking the question, what metal is inside a catalytic converter?

The three most common metals inside a catalytic converter are palladium, rhodium, and platinum. However, that was not how it was originally. Generally, the metals found in cats include; nickel, iron, copper, magnesium, cerium, rhodium, platinum, and palladium.

These metals, which act as catalysts, are found in the passageway of the cat. And are responsible for reducing the exhaust fumes, hydrocarbons, and other chemicals emitted from the exhaust, invariably reducing air pollution.

However, aside from rhodium, platinum, and palladium, all the others easily get corroded or are too soft, hence not regularly used. Rhodium, palladium, and platinum are all high-quality metals with high heat resistance and are strong and very durable.

However, because rhodium is too expensive, it discourages manufacturers from using it, invariably bringing them down to two—palladium and platinum. Since palladium and platinum are less costly yet very effective, they are the most used metals today for catalytic converters.

So chances are most cats you see today will likely have palladium or platinum. While platinum is used for cats in hybrid and diesel engines, palladium is used in petrol vehicles. Because of the task these metals perform, they do get coated, reducing their effectiveness.

So I seldomly open up my cat to clean, giving me the opportunity to access these metals myself. But please, don’t do this unless you’re a mechanic. Instead, drive to a garage while you watch the mechanic do it. From there, you can learn how to separate the metals in a catalytic converter for proper cleaning and handling.

what is inside a car catalytic converter

Frequently Asked Questions—FAQs

What is inside a catalytic converter that makes it valuable?

A catalytic converter houses some expensive precious metals. The metals include palladium, platinum, and rhodium, though rhodium is not as common as the first two because of its cost. An ounce of rhodium sells for $18,000-$20,000, palladium for $2,200, and platinum for $800-$900.

This should answer those asking why people steal catalytic converters. These metals used in producing them are expensive. So catalytic converter thieves will make some cash from selling them.

How much is a stolen catalytic converter worth?

A stolen catalytic converter can be sold between $300-$1500 at local scrap yards. The exact scrap value, however, depends on the quality and amount of precious metal used in the catalytic converter.

Rhodium, for example, is costlier than palladium, plus some cats use higher amounts of these precious metals.

How much precious metal is in a catalytic converter?

How much precious metals are found in cats depends on the size and quality of the catalytic converter and the specific vehicle. Since many catalytic converters today either uses palladium, platinum, and rarely rhodium, we will talk about these three. So how much platinum is inside a catalytic converter? An average cat houses about 3-5 grams of platinum.

What of palladium? An average cat has about 2-7 grams of palladium. And how much rhodium is in a catalytic converter? There are about 1-2 grams of rhodium in a catalytic converter. However, these amounts may vary depending on the model and size.

For example, some hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius use higher amounts of platinum. Likewise, some high-end cars can have up to 10-12 grams of palladium. In contrast, smaller vehicles may have as small as 1-2 grams of palladium in their cats. The amount of precious metals in a cat is not a one-size-fits-all thing.

Does insurance cover a stolen catalytic converter?

Whether insurance covers a stolen cat depends on your type of insurance. Car owners with comprehensive coverage on auto insurance have their cats covered against theft. Here, the insurance company will pay to replace the stolen cat and cover any damage incurred during the removal of the cat.

While covered, I strongly advise you to report to authorities the moment you notice your cat is missing. They will help check cameras around to see if they can nab the thieves. Moreover, filing a report immediately is vital to your insurance coverage. Additionally, you can be instrumental in catalytic converter theft prevention by doing the following:

Try installing anti-theft devices in your car, park in a safe place, and always report suspicious moves to the police. Even the authorities are trying their best to curb cat theft by ensuring scrap dealers don’t buy just any cat without thorough paperwork. If they don’t see who to buy these stolen cats, cat thefts will be reduced to the barest minimum.

What cars are the hardest to steal a catalytic converter

While all cars with cats are targets, most cat thieves tend to stay away from cars like Chrysler, Chev, Ford, Jeep, and Dodge. As these cars house cats using less precious metals. The less metal a cat uses, the lower its price at the scrap yard. Other cars whose cats do not use much precious metals include Nissan, Subaru, Hyundai, and Mazda.

Stealing cats from cars with lower ground clearance is challenging because you need to do a lot of work, such as jacking up the car to access the cats. Aside from having low ground clearance, these cars have a very tedious manufacturing process that one would have to go through to get the cats out.

Do thieves have the patience to do that without the fear of getting caught? I guess not. Lastly, if you drive an electric car or a vehicle built before 1974, stealing cats from you is difficult. Why? These cars do not come with catalytic converters. I guess I have also answered those asking, do all cars have a catalytic converter?

What cars are the easiest to steal a catalytic converter from?

The most targeted cars by cat thieves are regular cars like Accord, Prius, Tacoma, Accord, and Lexus SUV. Almost 26,000 cats were stolen in these models between January and May of 2021.

Again, cars with high ground clearance make it easy for their cats to be stolen. This is because thieves can easily access the cat without raising the car or doing much work. I recommend putting an anti-theft device on these sets of cars even if the car is parked in your garage. It will quickly alert you if such is going on.

While cats in cars like the Toyota Prius with lower ground clearance are not easily stolen, the high amount of precious metal in their cats tends to attract thieves to it. And to them, it may be worth the risk. But generally, it’s difficult to steal cats from cars with lower ground clearance.

Final words

This article has answered the question, what is inside a catalytic converter? A catalytic converter contains some precious metals that are quite valuable with the most common being Rhodium, Palladium, and platinum. These metals act as a catalyst to minimize the amount of harmful gases inside your vehicle, drastically reducing toxic emissions.

Because these metals found in cats are expensive, catalytic converters are highly targeted by thieves. The higher the amount of these metals in your cat, the more costly the cat, invariably increasing the chance of being stolen. Hence, you must do anything to protect it, except you have $1000-$2500 to buy a replacement catalytic converter.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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