How to Prevent Toyota 4Runner Catalytic Converter Theft

Avoid being the victim of Toyota 4Runner catalytic converter theft by taking a few precautionary measures. Find out more here.
Written by Mary Cahill
Reviewed by Christelle Agustin
The catalytic converter located underneath your Toyota 4runner is vulnerable to theft. Parking in a well-lit or secure area, etching your vehicle’s VIN directly onto the catalytic converter, and purchasing a protective shield or cage are precautions you can take to avoid having to replace this expensive 4Runner component. 
Catalytic converter theft has been rampant in recent years, so we totally understand if you’re concerned about the safety of your Toyota 4Runner. Sadly, victims of catalytic converter theft may not even notice the part is missing until they start experiencing maintenance issues. That’s why we’re here to offer you some basic tips on how to dissuade thieves from targeting your vehicle and let you in on what kind of
car insurance
can help you replace a catalytic converter if someone ran off with it. 
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Is it easy to steal the catalytic converter from a Toyota 4Runner?

As much as it pains us to say it—yes. Toyota vehicles with high ground clearance like the 4Runner,
, and
are attractive to thieves because there’s plenty of room for them to easily slide underneath the vehicle and snatch the catalytic converter from the exhaust line.
What’s even trickier is that older 4Runners have not one but four catalytic converters! Unfortunately, the ones affixed to the underside of the vehicle are the easiest to take. In fact, a skilled thief can steal a catalytic converter in as little as 30 seconds to two minutes.  

Top Toyota 4Runner years that catalytic converter thieves target

There have been a large number of thefts reported for third-generation Toyota 4Runners. This generation was produced between 1996 and 2002 and remains a popular choice for off-roading. Since many of them are still on the road today, 4Runners are a top target for catalytic converter thieves.
It’s also relatively common for off-road enthusiasts to modify third-gen 4Runners by raising their ground clearance even further. While these changes make the vehicle more suitable for off-roading, it’s also that much easier to sneak underneath and cut the cat out in seconds.  

Why are Toyota 4Runner catalytic converters stolen?

The purpose of a catalytic converter is to prevent harmful toxins emitted by the exhaust system from leaving the tailpipe and entering the environment. To filter these toxins, the catalytic converter contains a combination of precious metals like rhodium, platinum, and palladium
The precious metals within the 4Runner’s catalytic converter are what thieves are after. The value of these metals has skyrocketed within the last few years, causing the number of thefts to increase as well.
As of 2022, the prices these metals command on the black market are as follows:
  • Platinum: $1,128 per ounce 
  • Palladium: $2,938 per ounce 
  • Rhodium: $20,000 per ounce 
True, there’s less than one ounce of each metal in the Toyota 4Runner’s catalytic converter, but seeing as they’re quick and easy to remove from the underbody of a vehicle, a motivated thief could make off with several catalytic converters in a short amount of time. 

Toyota catalytic converter replacement cost

According to RepairPal, replacing a catalytic converter on a Toyota 4Runner will cost around $1,864 and $1,898. This total includes both parts and labor
You could reduce the overall expense by opting for an aftermarket catalytic converter instead of an OEM one, but ultimately replacing a catalytic converter is one of the most expensive maintenance tasks for not just the 4Runner—but any vehicle. 
MORE: Are Toyotas expensive to maintain?

How to prevent catalytic converter theft from a Toyota 4Runner

The number of catalytic converter thefts doesn’t appear to be slowing down, but there are some safeguarding measures you can take to lower the chances of your Toyota 4Runner’s cat being targeted. 

Park in a secure area

A personal garage is the best place to safely park your 4Runner, but if you don’t have one you may want to install a motion-activated light in your driveway to ward off intruders. If you park your vehicle on the street each night, try to get as close to a streetlight as you can, or stick to an area that gets a fair share of pedestrian traffic. Well-lit areas with plenty of people around will be less appealing to catalytic converter thieves. 
MORE: How to tell if a parking garage is liable for a stolen or damaged vehicle

Buy a catalytic converter shield

You can deter catalytic converter thieves by investing in an anti-theft shield. A product like
Cat Shield™
is a great choice because it’s designed especially for 4Runners, so you don’t have to worry about fit issues. 
Some drivers choose to have a mechanic weld a cage over their catalytic converter. This makes it far more difficult for someone to saw into the section of the exhaust pipe where your cat is located. A
could also be an effective way to keep your vehicle safe. 

Put your VIN on the catalytic converter

You may not be able to prevent a catalytic converter theft by etching your Toyota 4Runner’s VIN on the catalytic converter, but this will make it more difficult for a thief to profit off of it on the black market. 
Plus, an etched catalytic converter has a higher likelihood of getting back into your hands than an unmarked one. Only if the individual who stole it actually gets caught. Unfortunately, most drivers who report a stolen catalytic converter to the police will not have their property recovered.
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Invest in comprehensive insurance

Rather than pin your hopes on the police nabbing the person who stole your catalytic converter, consider purchasing
comprehensive insurance
. This coverage is your best bet if you want to avoid having to potentially pay thousands of dollars to have the catalytic converter on your 4Runner replaced. 
Comprehensive insurance will kick in for vehicle damage that isn’t related to a car accident—like vandalism or theft. If you aren’t carrying comprehensive coverage, your insurance company won’t be able to help you cover the costs of having a new catalytic converter installed. 

What to do if your Toyota 4Runner’s catalytic converter is stolen 

Once you realize that you’ve been the victim of a catalytic converter theft, report the incident to the police immediately. The sooner you contact law enforcement, the better chance you have of possibly finding out who tampered with your 4Runner. 
Be sure to get a copy of the police report so you can show it to your insurance company. Drivers with comprehensive insurance will need this document as verification of the theft. That way, you’ll be one step closer to having your insurer pay out for the catalytic converter replacement. 
Keep in mind that you’ll need to pay a deductible before the insurance company covers the rest. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage, you’ll be left to come up with the funds for a replacement on your own. To ease this financial strain, look for a mechanic who knows a thing or two about aftermarket catalytic converters and is willing to put one on your 4Runner. 

Can you drive a Toyota 4Runner without a catalytic converter?

If one of your Toyota 4Runner’s catalytic converters was stolen, there’s a good chance you may not notice right away—that’s because it’s possible to drive without a catalytic converter. However, the absence of one or more catalytic converters on your 4Runner will catch up with you.
When your catalytic converter isn’t there to filter out the harmful particles caused by exhaust fumes, you won’t be able to pass emissions testing. Depending on where you live, this is a mandatory checkpoint for vehicles four years or older to ensure they’re up to EPA’s regulations. 
The lack of a catalytic converter causes degraded engine performance. Your 4Runner’s engine relies on the catalytic converter to function properly—otherwise, you could experience engine trouble on top of everything else. If your
check engine light is on
and you notice rough or sluggish acceleration, it’s likely your catalytic converter has gone missing. 
Although you’ll be able to travel for some time without your catalytic converter in place, you will eventually need to replace it—for the sake of the environment and your Toyota 4Runner’s wellbeing. 
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