How To Prevent Your Catalytic Converter From Being Stolen At The Airport

Airports, not surprisingly, are a common place targeted by car thieves, who have their pick of vehicles or get underneath the hood of cars and saw off valuable catalytic converters. Should the latter happen, you’ll know when you go to drive off and you hear a loud roaring sound.

When a car is parked at the airport, it’s left for a long time, and there’s a low chance that the owner will return and catch the thief in the act, explains Rick Musson is a 21-year law enforcement officer and safety and security consultant with Even more: “Thieves appreciate the lower risk of immediate theft discovery,” Musson says. “The longer a thief has to move a stolen car, the less chance they’ll be caught.”

Nationally, catalytic converter thefts have been on the rise, increasing by 1,215% between 2019 and 2022, according to National Insurance Crime Bureau Statistics.

Airport parking lots are hot spots for this category of theft because they give thieves access to several cars all at once, so they can remove multiple catalytic converters in a spree, Musson says.

Read on to learn how to prevent your car, and its catalytic converter, from being stolen from parking lots while you’re out of town.

How Are Airports Preventing Catalytic Converter and Car Theft?

Airports across the country are stepping up security to prevent car and catalytic converter thefts from their lots.

In Colorado, a leading state for car thefts, 378 vehicles were reported stolen from parking lots at Denver International Airport in the six-month period between Jan. 1 and July 31. To put things in perspective, more than 7 million vehicles parked in the airport’s 51,000 spaces during that time period—so chances are quite slim your car will be stolen. Still, the Common Sense Institute says that in 2022, the thieves stole more motor vehicles from Denver International Airport than any other single location in Colorado.

Airport officials at DIA in July announced several measures to prevent theft, including beefing up its patrol in the airports by contracting with security personnel and the city’s police department and adding 15 High Activity Location Observation (or HALO) security cameras to collect video footage of potential crimes. The airport also says it has technology to alert security should a stolen vehicle enter one of its parking lots.

How to Prevent Your Car from Being Stolen at an Airport Parking Lot?

To avoid having your car stolen, park in the premium lot that guarantees security monitoring, Musson suggests.

Park in a lighted area, don’t keep any valuables in your car, and, if you have GPS monitoring in your vehicle, make sure you set an alert so you know if your vehicle moves, he says. Steering wheel locks and car alarms can also be deterrents.

Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters?

Stolen catalytic converters can fetch between $20 to $350 on the black market, but the replacement costs, should you have one stolen, a catalytic converter price averages more than $2,500, according to the National Automotive Dealers Association.

But the reason people steal catalytic converters isn’t to re-sell them, necessarily. About the size of a bread loaf, catalytic converters are a critical emissions control device.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals like palladium and platinum, which can fetch a high price on the black market, explains Patryk Doornebos, who runs, an automotive blog. Unfortunately, stealing a catalytic converter can be done in mere minutes, making it a lucrative and relatively low-risk activity for thieves, he says.

“As for catalytic converter theft, vehicles with higher ground clearance, including trucks like the Ford F-150 or Chevrolet Silverado, are often targeted because of the easier access underneath,” Doornebos says. “Hybrids like the Toyota Prius are also susceptible since their converters tend to have higher amounts of precious metals.”

A catalytic converter replacement can be a hassle because it can be tough to track down the part, especially in the event of a local crime spree targeting the part.

How to Prevent Your Car’s Catalytic Converter from Being Stolen?

There’s a few tricks to make your car’s catalytic converter less attractive to thieves, according to experts.

Applying bright, heat-resistant paint can be a turn-off for thieves, says Robert Walden, a mechanic and founder of Vehicle Freak.

“Think about investing in vibration-sensitive alarms or specific anti-theft devices tailored for this issue,” he says. “A sound preventive tactic could be to get a mechanic to weld certain protective measures around the converter.”

It’s also a good idea to invest in a catalytic converter etching and prevention kit. Many cities, like Denver, offer these kits to car owners as an added layer of protection to discourage theft and vandalism.

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