Subaru Outback Catalytic Converter Location

In new Subaru Outbacks, you’ll find the catalytic converter under the car’s front end—and so will the thieves. Here’s how to protect your catalytic converter.
Written by Matt Nightingale
Reviewed by Amy Bobinger
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The location of the catalytic converter on your Subaru Outback will depend on what year and model of Outback you drive, but on the 2023 Outback, it’s located under your car’s front end on the driver’s side.
Catalytic converter theft has skyrocketed since 2021, with no signs of letting up. But how do you
know if your catalytic converter was stolen
if you’re not even sure where it is? And maybe more importantly than that—how can you protect it from being stolen in the first place? 
Luckily, we’re here with this helpful guide on how to find the catalytic converter on your Subaru Outback, why it’s so important, and how to protect it from thieves. Let’s get started!
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Where is the catalytic converter on a Subaru Outback? 

The 2023 Subaru Outback’s catalytic converter is located underneath the car’s front end on the driver’s side. While the Outback’s cat has always been located in the vehicle’s undercarriage, it has jumped around from year to year. In 2010, for example, the catalytic converter was found under the front end on the passenger’s side for non-turbo models, and under the front end on the driver’s side for turbo models.
Other vehicles, like the
Honda CR-V
, have relocated the catalytic converter to the engine bay where it is safely stowed away from would-be thieves. But, being exposed under the car’s front end has made the Outback’s catalytic converter susceptible to theft. According to
CARFAX
, 2007–2020 Subaru Outback models are a prime target for catalytic converter thieves in western states like
California
, as well as in northeastern areas like New England.

What are the benefits of a catalytic converter on a Subaru Outback?

Your car’s catalytic converter is a device that reduces harmful emissions from your engine exhaust. The cat converting environmentally unfriendly compounds, like carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, into less harmful compounds like steam. The catalytic converter is essential in helping your Subaru Outback meet EPA emissions standards—and it also benefits the Outback’s engine performance, which Subaru fanatics crave.
So why are catalytic converters so valuable? They actually use precious metals like palladium, rhodium, and platinum to transform these toxic fumes into harmless gasses. Currently, gold is being explored as a potential replacement for some of the previously mentioned metals because it’s actually cheaper—that’s how valuable rhodium and palladium are, and that’s why a catalytic converter replacement for a Subaru outback can cost upwards of $2,700.

How to protect the catalytic converter on your Subaru Outback

While the Subaru Outback has seen an uptick in catalytic converter theft, it’s concentrated in areas where the Outback is a more popular car choice, so it’s not necessarily that Subaru models are
popular vehicles for catalytic converter thieves
Still, theft is a real possibility. If you have an Outback or a
Subaru Forester
, here are some measures you can take to protect your catalytic converter from thieves.
  • Use an anti-theft device. There are a number of devices on the market that you can use to deter thieves. The
    CatStrap™
    and the
    CatClamp®
    are two cost-effective devices,  you can go as far as installing an alarm, shield, or cage to protect your cat. 
  • Park in a well-lit area or—better yet—a garage. Keeping your Outback securely in a garage will keep your catalytic converter out of reach of thieves. But, if you don’t have a garage, park in an area with good lighting, so thieves don’t have the cover of darkness to pull off their heist.
  • Stamp your VIN onto your catalytic converter. Etching your vehicle information number onto your cat won’t necessarily stop thieves, but it will make your converter traceable and may make it more difficult to sell the component to a parts dealer.
Another way to protect your catalytic converter is by purchasing
comprehensive coverage
. This type of auto insurance pays for damage caused by vandalism and theft. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage and your cat gets stolen, you may have to pay for the replacement out-of-pocket.

What to do if your catalytic converter is stolen

Unfortunately, we live in a world where bad things happen to good people. If your Outback’s catalytic converter gets stolen, here’s what to do: 
  • Document the incident by snapping photos of your tailpipe and the missing part.
  • Contact the police and file an incident report.
  • If you have comprehensive coverage, contact your insurance company and file a claim.
  • Consider replacing your missing converter with an aftermarket catalytic converter to reduce your costs and lower the chances of another theft.
  • Research anti-theft devices to prevent future incidents.

When to replace the catalytic converter on a Subaru Outback

Generally speaking, a catalytic converter has a lifespan of about 10 years. Here are some telltale signs that it’s time to replace your catalytic converter.
  • Slow acceleration and labored performance 
  • Dark exhaust smoke or bad-smelling exhaust (rotten-egg smell)
  • Your Outback’s underside overheats
  • Check engine light is on
Any of these symptoms may be a sign of catalytic converter failure. You can use an onboard diagnostics (OBD) scanner to look for problems in your car’s exhaust setup, or you can take your Outback to a Subaru dealership and have an experienced technician scan for issues.
Catalytic converter problems can range from not-too-serious to severe. In some cases, you may just need to replace part of the catalytic converter, like the heat shield, for example. In other cases, you may need to replace the entire converter and related components like oxygen sensors. The average cost for a Subaru Outback catalytic converter repairs falls in the range of $250–$2,700.
Subaru backs their new vehicles—including the Outback—with a three-year emissions performance warranty. If your catalytic converter fails, the cost may be covered by Subaru if it falls under the parameters of your Outback’s factory warranty. However, if the warranty period has lapsed, you’ll have to cover the cost of the replacement yourself, unless it can be covered by your car insurance.

How to replace a catalytic converter

Replacing a catalytic converter isn’t a great example of a relaxing afternoon home project. Very often this procedure requires a torch or pipe cutter, pipe expanders, and other special tools and know-how. But, if you’re determined to do it yourself, look up the part number for your Subaru Outback catalytic converter, and try to secure an
OEM-grade
replacement cat to ensure that your new converter fits well.
You can use an aftermarket catalytic converter, and that can reduce your costs and the likelihood of another theft, but the quality is important to the proper functioning of your cat. 
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