CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Repairing attempted theft of cat converter

1999 Toyota Rav-4 with 44,000 miles and 4-cylinder engine. Thief cut the exhaust pipe upstream and downstream of the cat converter, and cut the O2 sensor wire. Insurance compnay wants to repair with aftermarket cat converter; trusted Toyota certified mechanic says this is wrong, that I need a “califiornia quality” converter so that the engine is not damaged in the future.



Who’s correct?

Is the catalytic converter still intact as far as you can tell? I would think having the original converter would be preferable to a cheapo aftermarket unit. If the insurance wants to pay for an aftermarket unit, can you just take the money and use it to repair the damage to the stock converter?

Are you actually in California? There’s not really any risk of engine damage, but sometimes the aftermarket converters will have troubles passing the California smog test. If the insurance insists on installing an aftermarket cat, I’d get them to guarantee in writing that the converter will pass an emissions test and then get a check done immediately after the work is done.

The regulations are rather strict about those converters. I would likely choose a new after market than a OEM with 44,000 miles on it.

It is still intact … the thief used a saws-all to cut the exhaust pipe about 5 inches before and after the converter. And they cut the o2 sensor wire. The exhause pipe has some degree of rust, but I would have thought it would be easy to just solder a sleeve over the damaged areas.

I’m in Maryland

I’ve NEVER had a problem or ever heard of a problem with Aftermarket converters. The Toyota mechanic is an idiot saying it’ll damage the engine.

I would not worry too much on aftermarket if it meets OEM specs (key). Aftermarket means anything from a part meant to keep your clunker running another 6-12 months to a part that meets or exceeds the original design. The hard part is knowing which is what. Sounds like your mechanic has had bad experience with aftermarket ones.

Here is some info on them, but remember the source behind it:

http://www.catalyticconverter.org/index.htm

There are some aftermarket converters that are not legal in California only, so if you live in that state you should make sure that if an aftermarket cat is used that it will be a legal one and will not give you any “surprises” at the next emissions inspection.

The converter will not damage your engine so is there any possibility there is a misinterpretation of what the Toyota guy said?
The only way I could see a converter damaging an engine would be if there was a problem with the construction or it somehow caused an engine performance problem which in turn over time could cause the cat to clog up. In this case, it would be possible to suffer engine damage.

Personally, my opinion is that since you apparently have a very nice Rav-4 with a measly 44k miles on it, I agree with the Toyota mechanic and think it should be replaced with an OEM Toyota converter; especially if you live in CA.

I don’t get it. If you still have the cat and it’s cut 5 inches fore and aft, any decent muffler shop should be able to rig it back in place. I’d weld adaptors on the remaining stubs, crimp or expand (depending on the gender of the stubs) the fore and aft pipes, slip it together and clamp/weld it back into place. Then just splice the O2 wire(s) and you’re back in business.

Here is my experience with an aftermarket catalytic converter:
I just had one installed on a mercury sable. The engine light had come on, the mechanic said it’s a bad converter. After installation of the aftermarket brand, the engine light came on twice, each after an intervall of a couple hundred miles, and the code cleared. Each time when they checked the code it indicated a bad catalytic converter. The mechanis says it’s not the cat. converter but the computer system of the car…
I wished I had installed an approved catalytice converter from the Ford manufacturer and spare me all this trouble. Still drive with an engine light on.

The Toyota mechanic is pulling your leg. He wants your business. Let the insurance company put in the aftermarket catalytic converter. It will be fine.