Subaru Forester Catalytic Converter Theft (Everything You Need to Know)

The Subaru Forester is a compact sport utility vehicle manufactured by Subaru in Japan since 1997. An All-Wheel drive, the Subaru Forester is known for its reliability, durability, fuel efficiency, and safety in the long term. Its spacious interior appeals to small families and students. The 2022 model is ranked 5th in the compact SUVs category and is also recognized as the Best Compact SUV for the money and the Best new car for Teens in 2022, with an overall rating of 8.3 out of 10 (report).

The SUV scores major points in the quality, clearly underpinning the fact that it is manufactured with quality parts. One of these parts, the catalytic converter, is the focus of our article today. Several reports show the Subaru Forester’s catalytic converter has a target on its back. Follow me as I dig deeper to unravel why this is happening and how you can protect your Subaru Forester from having its catalytic converter stolen.

What Is a Catalytic Converter?

The invention of the Internal combustion engine revolutionized transportation. But in exchange for our increased mobility, our environment was becoming intoxicating at a faster pace from the emissions (by-products of the ICE). There was an urgent need to control emissions and reduce their negative impact on the environment. To achieve this, emission regulatory Acts such as the Clean Air Act of 1963 and the National Emissions Standard Act of 1965 were passed. In a bid to meet the standard set by these regulations, car manufacturers had to find a way of reducing the toxicity of the emissions produced. This led to the invention of the catalytic converter in 1973.

Subaru Forester Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter is a part of the exhaust system that serves a specific purpose. It helps to convert the harmful gasses produced by the engine into less harmful and environmentally friendly gasses using a redox reaction. The most important component of the catalytic converter is the catalyst which is either platinum, palladium, or rhodium arrayed in a honeycomb structure. Platinum is a rare earth metal, the same goes for palladium and rhodium, which are referred to as the platinum group metals. For better insight, you should know that these metals are put in the same category as gold.

The metals are worth a fortune when sold in an aftermarket. Depending on the type of car, one could get between 3 to 7 grams of platinum, 2 to 7 grams of palladium, and 1 to 2 grams of rhodium from the catalytic converter. The prices also differ depending on the type of car. Converters from hybrid cars are said to go as high as 1,500 dollars. Now considering how rare these metals are, it is easy to see why the catalytic converter is being targeted by criminals. The availability of these metals has plummeted over the years, making them worth even more than they used to be.

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Does the Subaru Forester Have a Catalytic Converter?

Yes. Not just the Subaru Forester but every car manufactured since 1975. The Subaru Forester was first manufactured in 1977, two years after car manufacturers were mandated to use the converters following the implementation of emission regulations around the world.

Like most modern cars, the Subaru Forester uses a three-way catalytic converter which means it can handle both oxidation and reduction reactions making it more efficient than the two-way catalytic converter that was only able to handle oxidation reactions.

The advantage of the three-way catalytic converter over the two-way converter is that it can convert nitrogen oxide into nitrogen and oxygen gasses. Nitrogen oxide is a greenhouse house that is about 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. On the other hand, nitrogen and oxygen gasses are harmless to the environment.

Are Subaru Foresters Being Targeted For Catalytic Converter Theft?  

Yes. Now that is out of the way, the question is, how bad is it? The short answer, it is an “epidemic,” according to auto experts who have expressed concerns about how frequently their customers come in to get a new catalytic converter. Some of the cars being targeted are Toyota Prius, Honda element, and Subaru Foresters. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) revealed that the thefts of the catalytic converter went from 3,389 in 2019 all the way up to 14,433 in 2020, a surge of over 325%.

How Much Is a Subaru Forester’s Catalytic Converter?

The price of the Subaru Forester’s catalytic converter will depend on the year and model of the car. But you can always find a good aftermarket converter. Replacement is, however, very expensive and can cost you upwards of $2000 (when adding the cost of labor). The high cost of replacement shows that the Japanese SUV is equipped with one of the best converters in the market, which also explains why it is a target of “Cat Burglars.” These reasons are easily backed up by the fact that the Subaru Forester is known for having good fuel economy. Although it is still a hotly debated topic, one of the prerequisites for good fuel economy is a good catalytic converter.

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What Happens If Your Catalytic Converter Is Stolen?

The catalytic converter is an important part of the exhaust system. One of the downsides of losing the catalytic converter is that your car begins to consume more fuel than it should. This is because apart from converting harmful exhaust gasses into less harmful forms like Nitrogen and Oxygen, the catalytic converter also works with the oxygen sensor to regulate the fuel-air mixture in the ICE. The oxygen sensor is a device that measures the amount of oxygen that is in the exhaust gas. The high volume of oxygen means that the air intake is more than the fuel intake. This is known as a lean mix, and to balance this, the sensor will inform the system to increase the volume of fuel with each intake.

But if the level of oxygen is too low, then that means the fuel intake is much more than the volume of air sucked into the engine with each stroke. This is known as a rich mixture, and in that case, the sensor will inform the engine to bring in more air. An acceptable fuel-air ratio is about 14.7:1. However, this also depends on the type of fuel used. Now, when the catalytic converter is stolen, the oxygen sensor can be thrown off, causing it to give false readings to the engine. To be on the safe side, the engine will have to burn a rich mix (more fuel) since less fuel could damage your engine. When this happens, the car consumes more fuel than it normally does.

What Happens If I Don’t Replace My Catalytic Converter?

The absence of a catalytic converter is very harmful to the environment. Exhaust fumes typically contain nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide, which would give off a pungent smell of a rotten egg. But the foul smell isn’t the only problem; these gasses also heat up the earth’s surface, a phenomenon which is referred to as the greenhouse effect. The harsh impact of this exhaust fume is the reason why the catalytic converter was invented and mandated for all cars in the first place.

As if our dying environment isn’t enough, driving around without the catalytic converter would add to the long list of health problems already plaguing humanity. For the most part, the focus has been on gaseous pollutants, but there’s another very insidious component of exhaust fumes called particulate matter. These are tiny particles (like soot) that are produced by the ICE. Without the catalytic converter, these particles are not filtered out but released into the atmosphere. Particulate matter from exhaust fumes has been linked to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, infant mortality, and immune disorders. 

Can I Drive Without a Catalytic Converter?

Yes. Technically speaking, you can drive without the catalytic converter. But this should only be temporary. Many states now have laws that prohibit acts like idling which are said to increase environmental pollution. In that case, driving without a catalytic converter would also be considered illegal.

How Do I Protect My Subaru Forester’s Catalytic Converter

There are steps you can take to protect the catalytic converter from being stolen. Some of these steps may sound quite obvious, but they are still very helpful. They are:

  1. Install a catalytic converter anti-theft device. In some cases, this is a metal frame that is placed around the catalytic converter and welded to the bottom of the car. 
  2. Park your car in a well-lit area 
  3. Install a car alarm with a vibration sensor.
  4. If you don’t need a metal frame, then you can simply weld the catalytic converter to the car.

In Summary

The Subaru Forester has many appealing features, and its catalytic converter sure wouldn’t be the first to come to mind. However, it is an important component of the car, considering its impact on the environment, your car’s engine as well as your finances. Losing the catalytic converter would set you back a few thousand dollars. Now you know all about the catalytic converter, why it is being targeted by burglars, and measures you can take to protect it.