Texas Catalytic Converter Laws

Any new catalytic converter in Texas must be an OEM or aftermarket part approved by the EPA.
Written by David Ghanizadeh-Khoob
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Texas catalytic converter laws stipulate that any new catalytic converter must be OEM or an EPA-approved aftermarket part. Any vehicle with a system in place must have that system maintained to at least the standard that it was originally equipped.
Catalytic converters have been a hot topic recently, largely thanks to the near 80-fold increase in their theft from 2019 to 2021 in Texas. In addition to being valuable parts and easy targets for thieves, catalytic converters are essential for regulating your car’s emissions. As a result, most states have implemented regulations governing their replacement.
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. In this
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guide, we’ll go over catalytic converter regulations under Texas and federal law, and discuss some measures you can take to protect your car from thieves.
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Do I need a catalytic converter in Texas?

Yes. According to
Texas Administrative Code Title 30 §114.20
all motor vehicles must meet federal emission control standards. Any vehicle with a system in place to control emissions must be maintained in good condition and cannot be tampered with. 
Tampering here is defined as “removing or making inoperable” any part of a system that controls emissions unless its removal is done for the purpose of installing a new, equally effective part. 
Here are the regulations specific to catalytic converters: 
  • When replacing a catalytic converter, you must install an OEM or EPA-approved aftermarket catalyst.
  • Selling or offering to sell any part that would circumvent an emission control system is prohibited.
  • Approved aftermarket catalysts must be obviously marked with an EPA number.
  • With any modification or repair, the resultant vehicle must be identical, or improved, in terms of its emission controlling parts and systems originally equipped.
In addition to the above state-level requirements, the EPA has outlined a handful of federal laws that regulate catalytic converter replacements. Under these laws, any replacement catalytic converter must be:
  • Installed in the same location as the original
  • The same type of catalyst as the original (i.e., oxidation, three-way, or three-way plug oxidation)
  • The correct model for the vehicle
  • Installed correctly and properly connected to any air injection components on the vehicle
  • Accompanied by a warranty information card
It is important to note that if your catalytic converter fails or gets stolen, your car will still run just fine. Your emissions and fuel economy will be affected, but you can still drive it to the mechanic to handle the situation. 
You will want to make sure you deal with a stolen or faulty catalytic converter ASAP. This won’t just improve your fuel efficiency, but you’ll also avoid the steep penalties for driving a non-compliant vehicle.

Penalties for driving without a catalytic converter

Violations of Title 30 §114.20 can result in a maximum fine of $25,000 per violation. This includes diving with a non-compliant vehicle (like one without a catalytic converter), selling a vehicle that does not have the original or comparable emissions control system, and selling parts that circumvent any emission controlling part.
On top of the fine risk, not having a functioning catalytic converter will cause you to fail emissions tests, which can have penalties of its own.

Why are catalytic converters being stolen?

Catalytic converters are being stolen at an alarming rate. They contain valuable metals like platinum, rhodium, and palladium, and intact converters can sell for anywhere from $300 to $1,500.
The real reason they are such common targets for theft is because accessing and removing the catalytic converter is quick and easy. Thieves can go under your vehicle and remove the part in as little as 60 seconds.
As an attempt to try and fight the rampant converter theft, Texas
House Bill 4110
was passed in 2021. This bill makes the theft, sale, and purchase of stolen catalytic converted a jail felony and a third-degree felony for any repeat offenders. 

How to keep your catalytic converter safe

You aren’t completely defenseless against thieves—as crafty as they may be. The harder you can make it for a thief to steal and sell your converter, the better your odds are of deterring them. Here are a few strategies that you can employ:
  • Install an anti-theft device. You can purchase metal cages that go around your catalytic converter to make it difficult to access. These devices cost $300, but a new catalytic converter typically costs between $1,000 and $3,000 to replace.
  • Be mindful of where and how you park. Try to park in well-lit areas or tight spots that make it difficult to access the underside of your car.
  • Engrave your catalytic converter so it will be obvious when stolen. If a would-be thief sees your license plate number or VIN engraved in your converter, it will be more difficult to sell and will hopefully convince them to leave you alone.

Is catalytic converter theft covered by insurance?

Catalytic converter theft is covered under
comprehensive insurance
.
If you don’t already have comprehensive insurance on your vehicle, it is highly recommended to add it to your policy now—before you would have to deal with a $2,000 repair. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage because you don’t want your premiums to go up, we have a solution for you!

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FAQs

Yes. Most states, including Texas, have laws regulating motor vehicle emissions. These include having a catalytic converter that is OEM or that meets EPA standards. The EPA has the power to fine anyone who drives without a catalytic converter.
Yes, at an alarming rate. In Texas the number of catalytic converter thefts per year has gone up from 102 in 2019 to 7,895 in 2021. Cases are still on the rise, but the Texas government hopes that making the theft, sale, and purchase of stolen converters a felony offense will start to bring these numbers down.
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