How to Prevent Ford Escape Catalytic Converter Theft

Some models of the Ford Escape are more vulnerable to catalytic converter theft than others. Learn how to protect yours here!
Written by Drew Waterstreet
Reviewed by Brenna Swanston
The Ford Escape isn’t a top target for catalytic converter theft, but a few specifications related to ground clearance and powertrain make some models more vulnerable than others.
However, even though the
Ford
Escape isn’t a top target, that doesn’t mean thieves won’t take an easy opportunity when they see one. So follow along as we cover anti-theft strategies, including parking in safe locations, making your catalytic converter trackable with a VIN, or purchasing a protective device.
And if worst comes to worst, we’ll explain how
comprehensive coverage
can help you seek compensation if your Ford Escape is a victim of catalytic converter theft.
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Is it easy to steal the catalytic converter from a Ford Escape? 

Yes, it is easy to steal a catalytic converter (CAT) from a Ford Escape due to its exposed location on the vehicle's underside.
Your catalytic converter is a part of your exhaust system between your engine and tailpipe. As long as a criminal can get under your vehicle, they can cut it out in a matter of minutes with the right tools.
Some automakers have taken the initiative to move the catalytic converter into the engine bay, making it almost impossible to access from outside the vehicle. However, this design has yet to be applied to the Ford Escape.

Top Ford Escape years that catalytic converter thieves target

Like many vehicles, the location of the Ford Escape catalytic converter leaves it visible to thieves. However, ground clearance for the Escape has steadily decreased over its four generations. This makes newer models less vulnerable to theft due to the catalytic converter being more challenging to access—let’s take a look:
  • 1st generation (2001–2008): 8.2 inches–8.4 inches
  • 2nd generation (2009–2012): 8.1 inches–8.4 inches
  • 3rd generation (2013–2019): 7.8 inches
  • 4th generation (2020–present): 6.8 inches–7.3 inches
Thieves don’t like to work any harder than they have to—they want to get in and get out. So given a choice between a Ford Escape and a vehicle with higher ground clearance, such as the
Ford F-150
or
Jeep Patriot
, you probably have a good idea which one the crook is going to pick. Learn more about the most targeted vehicles in the link below.

Why are Ford Escape catalytic converters stolen?

To answer this question, we have to give you a little context on what role the catalytic converter plays in your Ford Escape’s exhaust system.
Catalytic converters filter harmful emissions produced by your engine through a fine honeycomb of precious metals, including rhodium, platinum, and palladium. When the harmful emissions interact with the precious metals inside the CAT, their chemical composition changes into less toxic emissions before being released into the air through the tailpipe.
The use of the word “precious” to describe the metals inside the CAT is very intentional. As of December 2022, these metals were trading at historically high levels—see prices below (
check live
):
  • Rhodium: $13,300 per ounce (0.035 – 0.071 ounces in a CAT)
  • Palladium: $1,900 per ounce (0.071 – 0.247 ounces in a CAT)
  • Platinum: $1,020 per ounce (0.106 – 0.247 ounces in a CAT)
So once the thief steals your catalytic converter, they sell it to a scrap metal dealer or recycling center to extract the precious metals for a profit. 
Ford Escapes with hybrid engines (2005 to present) may be targeted more by thieves because their catalytic converters contain higher concentrations of these precious metals to help meet stricter emissions standards.
When you look at the big picture, catalytic converters feel like a big step forward for the environment but an equal step backward for humanity.

Ford catalytic converter replacement cost

According to RepairPal, the average cost to replace a Ford Escape catalytic converter is between $1,298 and $1,425. But this price can vary significantly based on local labor rates, availability of replacement parts, and related taxes/fees. 

How to prevent catalytic converter theft from a Ford Escape

If you prefer not to take your chances, here several defense strategies you can implement to prevent catalytic converter theft. We recommend these to all Ford Escape owners, but especially to those who have a model with a hybrid engine or an older model with higher ground clearance.
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Park in a secure area

This may go without saying, but parking in a secure garage or a well-lit public area should deter thieves from targetting your Ford Escape. 
Many states have updated their legislation to include harsher penalties for catalytic converter theft. As a result, it’s really in the thief's best interest not to get caught. So being conscious of where you park is an easy way to make your Ford Escape less of a target.

Buy a catalytic converter shield

As we’ve covered, the catalytic converter is exposed on the underside of your Ford Escape. Installing an aftermarket catalytic converter shield makes the component inaccessible to thieves.
Other anti-theft devices include the
CatStrap™
and the
CatClamp®
, both of which are innovative gadgets that make cutting your catalytic converter out nearly impossible.
These additional layers of protection are effective in themselves at preventing theft. But just the fact of having them may be enough reason for the thief to just move on to the next car—sorry, neighbor!

Put your VIN on the catalytic converter

Etching your VIN into your catalytic converter creates a trail of evidence, making it impossible for the thief to sell it to a recycling center or scrap metal dealer.
Keep an eye out for free etching events that are hosted by the
National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)
or your
local muffler shop
. There are also plenty of
Youtube how-to videos
for doing it yourself.

Invest in comprehensive insurance

Comprehensive
insurance
doesn’t overtly prevent catalytic converter theft, but you can use it to file a claim for replacement repairs
This optional coverage protects your Ford Escape from
non-collision-related damage
, which includes theft. Considering it only costs between $200 and $300 per year to tack onto your policy, the rewards significantly outweigh the costs—not to mention the added peace of mind!

What to do if your Ford Escape’s catalytic converter is stolen

If all of your defense systems fail and your Ford Escape’s catalytic converter is stolen, here are the following steps your should take:
  • Contact the authorities: The police may be able to catch the thief by reviewing any potential surveillance footage at the scene of the crime.
  • Contact your insurance company: Begin the process of filing a claim under your comprehensive coverage.
  • Schedule a visit to the mechanic: Your insurance provider should cover all repair expenses after you’ve met your comprehensive coverage deductible.
However, without comprehensive coverage, you’ll be on the hook for covering to total repair bill out of pocket. Which, as we’ve covered, will cost you between $1,298 and $1,425. You could find a mechanic willing to use aftermarket parts, but that will only slightly ease the pain on your wallet.

Can you drive a Ford Escape without a catalytic converter?

Technically, you’ll still be able to drive your Ford Escape without a catalytic converter. But it’s not something you’ll be able to do for long.
First off, your Ford escape won’t be able to pass an emissions test without a catalytic converter. Emissions testing is required in some states as part of their yearly registration renewal process, so you’ll need to get your CAT replaced before doing so.
Secondly, your driving experience will be dramatically impacted. Since the path to the tailpipe has been interrupted (by the missing catalytic converter), the exhaust from the engine is forced out prematurely and uncontrollably. As a result, this can create uneven acceleration and very obnoxious noises.
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