How to Prevent Ford Explorer Catalytic Converter Theft

You can park your car somewhere safe, install anti-theft devices, and use motion-triggered alarms to keep thieves away from your catalytic converter.
Written by Alita Dark
Reviewed by Brittni Brinn
The Ford Explorer may not be the biggest target for catalytic converter theft, but you should still take measures to prevent theft from happening. Parking in a secure area, purchasing aftermarket anti-theft shields, and using motion-activated lights and sensors are all good ways to deter would-be thieves. 
Catalytic converter theft is on the rise, although you’ll be relieved to know the Ford Explorer does not top the list of cars most likely to have their cats stolen. Here’s the bad part:
are bigger targets in general, and the Explorer has not one, not two, but up to four converters in total, meaning a full replacement is going to be pretty expensive. 
We’ve created this guide to help you learn what you can do to try to keep your catalytic converters in your vehicle where they belong. 

Is it easy to steal the catalytic converter from a Ford Explorer?

Part of what makes the Ford Explorer susceptible to theft is the catalytic converter’s location. As previously mentioned, there can be as many as four of them depending on the model year and engine type, and all are located underneath the car. Several manufacturers have started placing cats in the engine block as a way to stymie thieves, but Ford hasn’t yet made this move. 
Another factor that places the Explorer at a disadvantage is the fact that it’s an SUV. This means it has a higher
ground clearance
than, say, a
Toyota Camry
or a
Honda Civic
. Having more space under the vehicle is great when you want to go off-roading, but it also makes it easier for someone to slide underneath the car without even needing a jack. Such easy accessibility is something converter thieves look for, as most of them are looking to get in and out as soon as possible. 

Top Ford Explorer years that catalytic converter thieves target

There isn’t one specific year of the Ford Explorer that stands out as a target—but there is one specific trim. The 2020–2023 Ford Explorer Hybrid is better for the environment, but it’s also better for ne’er-do-wells looking to make a quick buck. 
Unfortunately, hybrid models are always popular with thieves. Hybrid catalytic converters contain a higher concentration of the precious metals that motivate the thefts, so they fetch higher prices on the resell market. If you have a hybrid of any make, you should be especially careful with your vehicle. 
Also worth noting is your Ford Explorer’s engine type. The number of catalytic converters your vehicle has will change depending on the size and power of your engine. If you have a V6, you’re more likely to have two or three converters. The more powerful V8 engine can bump that number up to four. Thieves are more likely to target vehicles with a greater number of cats to give themselves the best chance of a lucrative payout. 
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Why are Ford Explorer catalytic converters stolen? 

If catalytic converter theft is such a problem, there must be something motivating it, right? There sure is. Converters use small amounts of extremely precious metals to filter the air—and if you can get ahold of a converter, you can expect a pretty good payout. 
Because emissions standards have only gotten stricter over the years, this isn’t a component that’s going to go away anytime soon. Mining the materials is a difficult business, and car manufacturers are the biggest market by far, so there’s no hope of competition driving the cost down, either. In other words, you might as well get comfy taking precautions now because you’re going to have to keep doing it for years. 
The prices of some of these metals have risen exponentially over the past few years, prompting more and more people to get into the dirty business of stealing and selling converters. Here’s a quick example of the astronomical price hikes palladium and rhodium—two of the metals inside your cat—have had. 
  • December 2018: Palladium = $1,200 per ounce; Rhodium = $2,500 per ounce
  • December 2020: Palladium = $2,300 per ounce; Rhodium = $16,000 per ounce
  • December 2022: Palladium = $1,876 per ounce; Rhodium = $13,000 per ounce
While both metals have decreased somewhat since 2020, as of December 2022, they are still far more expensive than they were in 2018. 

Ford Explorer catalytic converter replacement cost

RepairPal estimates the cost of replacing your Ford Explorer catalytic converter to be around $1,162 to $1,209. Of course, this will vary somewhat depending on your exact make and model, but even so, those numbers might not seem too scary. 
That is until you remember there can be four of them. If the thief makes off with two, three, or, worse, all four, those estimates will double, triple, or quadruple. That puts the grand total for a full replacement at $4,648 to $4,836. Ouch! 

How to prevent catalytic converter theft from a Ford Explorer

Now that you’ve been clued into just how valuable your catalytic converter is, you’re probably itching for a way to keep it protected. Unlike other valuables, you can’t stash your cat in a safe when it’s not in use and call it a day—but fear not. You still have options. 

Park somewhere secure 

If possible, it’s best to keep your car in a locked garage. Should one not be available, look for somewhere well-lit, well-populated, or well-surveilled. If you can spot a CCTV unit, so can a thief, and they’ll be less likely to go after anything sitting in its view. 

Install a catalytic converter shield

Theft of catalytic converters is a known problem, and some companies have started to manufacture products to help you keep yours safe. Consider buying one of these aftermarket solutions, like the
™ or
®, to add extra protection to your vehicle no matter where you end up parking it. Many of them have a universal design so they can work with any model, but be sure to double-check the one you’ve chosen will fit your vehicle before you buy it.
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Use motion-sensor alarms

Certain anti-theft converter shields will come with alarms installed that will sound if somebody tries to cut through or remove them. But you don’t have to depend on the manufacturers to add these. You can install motion-sensor lights and alarms wherever you typically park your vehicle. Sudden spotlights or sounds should be enough to make a thief think twice—just remember to deactivate them before you try to get into your car. 

Add comprehensive coverage to your policy

Confession: buying
comprehensive insurance
won’t really convince anyone not to steal your catalytic converter. Even so, it’s a smart policy upgrade if you’re worried you might become a victim. 
Not only will this coverage protect you from natural disasters or vandalism, but it can keep you from having to pay out-of-pocket if you need to replace a stolen cat. You’ll need to file a claim, but that will be worth it to potentially save hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. 

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

You probably don’t get under your car before you start it to make sure it still has all its parts, but your car will let you know the catalytic converter is gone. If it sounds like you’ve lost your muffler, it’s time to get in touch with the police
With any luck, there will be surveillance footage that the police can use to track down your converter and get it back. Even if not, they’ll file a report that you can use to make a
car insurance claim
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to let them know what’s happened. You want to get your vehicle repaired and back on the road, which can’t happen until they schedule and pay for the repairs. You’ll probably still have to meet a deductible, but it should be significantly cheaper than covering the whole cost yourself, even if you’re only missing one converter. 
If you’ve not opted for comprehensive insurance, you’ll need to schedule and pay for repairs yourself. Ordering the parts yourself through
Ford’s online store
may help you save some money in the long run.

Can you drive a Ford Explorer without a catalytic converter? 

Strictly speaking, a catalytic converter is not an essential component of your Ford Explorer. Its main job is to change toxic gasses generated by your combustion engine into harmless ones that then get released into the air. In fact, if you have a
classic car
produced before the mid-1970s, there’s a high likelihood you don’t have a catalytic converter. 
Before you start thinking you’re off the hook for replacing it, consider that many states require vehicles to pass emissions testing before they can become registered or renew their registration. Without a catalytic converter, it will be pretty much impossible to keep your car up to snuff. 
If you don’t live in a state with strict emissions standards, you should still replace your cat. Long-term use without a converter can lead to
engine failure
if the exhaust flow isn’t properly vented. 
Consider, too, the possibility that the thief wasn’t exactly careful when hastily removing your cat. They may have damaged other parts of your vehicle that could keep it from functioning properly. 

The bottom line

Hopefully, you’ll never have to worry about what to do if your converter is stolen because you’ll have prevented that from ever happening. Park your car somewhere secure, and maybe install motion sensors or other alarms around it. Have a shield installed to cut off access to your converter—and don’t forget to add comprehensive coverage to your policy to mitigate costs after the fact. 
We hope you can use this guide as preparation instead of desperation!
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