YouTubers try to protect their catalytic converters

That sucks. I was actually planning on getting one for my Toyota Tacoma–a known favorite to cat thieves, along with the Prius. The former for ease of access, the latter for much higher platinum content.

Out of curiosity; is there a reason why, this many years on, catalytic converters remain located as though they were a surprise retrofit late in the design phase; rather than gradually migrating deeper into the body of the vehicle where anyone who wants access would either need to saw through a lot more structural steel that’s there anyway or use whatever access procedure is left for mechanics who need to service one?

I assume that the early ones where surprise retrofits late in the design phase; and I don’t know how quickly stealing them caught on; but it’s been on the order of 30 years that vehicle manufacturers have known that they are mandatory, theft reports go back at least a decade or two; so if it were viable I’d assume that some of them would be pretty deeply buried(especially since they usually don’t need swapping out all that often).

Is there some sort of difficulty with needing a certain amount of distance to take engine exhaust to the optimal temperature? Are the too good at sinking heat from the exhaust and so a cooling problem if not left largely exposed? Just not a common enough crime to motivate anyone to substantially revamp an unsexy and invisible part of the car?

I know next to nothing about the real-world complications of implementing a heat engine, so I apologize if the answer is really obvious and the question is stupid; but in my absence of information it seems odd.

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I suspect that angle grinders are harder to foul than some other devices(like the industrial shredders based on two rotating shafts with cutting teeth on them; or tank treads); but in general any rotating part with even the slightest propensity to snag things and suck them in is right to fear cables as a general thing:

Compared to the torque of the motor (and potentially gear arrangement) driving the rotating parts the tensile strength of cable ranges from ‘significantly challenging’ to ‘call it arbitrarily strong for simplicity’s sake’; so there’s a real risk of, best case, having to stop and get out the wire cutters to snip everything free, worst case having some of your moving parts exceed their design loads and incur damage.

Well, a lot of reasons:

  1. There isn’t really a “deeper”. The undercarriage of a car is a single layer of stuff that all has to be squished in there somehow. Driveshaft, differential, exhaust parts, suspension, transmission etc. There’s only so many ways to make it all fit down there and there are a lot of constraints in how close some things can be to other things, etc.

  2. Cats do make a lot of heat, so it makes sense to have them as exposed as possible, to avoiding heating up the passenger compartment, and they need to be kept away from rubber bushings in suspension, etc.

  3. Cat theft is a relatively new phenomenon and car designs evolve very very slowly. It takes a decade to design a new platform from scratch and that’s what would be required to put the cat in a totally novel place. All the “new” cars we get year after year are minor tweaks to a “platform” (in automaker terms) that goes back to the ‘90s or so. Some platforms, like most light trucks, have remained minimally changed at the platform level since the 1970s. Still a ladder frame with the same set of body panels, just in different shapes. Drivetrain layout is the same. Engines change somewhat year to year, but little else does (besides electronic gadgets).


According to the owners’ forums, my model car has the cat pretty much in the engine compartment, hard-to-impossible to access from the underside of the car. Supposedly as close as possible to the exhaust manifold to allow it to come up to operating temperature faster. Maybe that makes the engine compartment warmer- I don’t know, maybe that’s why there’s an air intake pipe at the forward edge of the hood.

There is a resonator/muffler or two under the car, so I only have to worry about clueless thieves stealing the wrong, cheaper to replace, part.

Unless you somehow live in a non existent theft training area no one will waste time or risk on your car. Thieves are smarter about stealing your stuff than you are, they are actually at risk and not notionally thinking about it for fun on an Internet forum.

That’s what I’m counting on. Well, that and my suburb isn’t a hotbed of theft either- at least not that I’m aware of.

The shift to electric cars should solve this then, eventually. Another 30 years the problem will largely go away or at least be significantly lower volume.

On RV TikTok (it’s a thing), now and then there are videos of chassis being delivered prior to RV build. That ladder frame, drive train, and a basic driver’s seat with steering wheel, and nothing else. Always fun to see.

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