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2004 EX 4WD MT | Sunset Orange
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I had my catalytic converter stolen recently, as apparently many others have. Since the dealership was going to charge me $4800 to fix everything, I decided to try doing it myself. (Similar story here: Catalytic converter replacement and cat-clamp install.... I wanted to make a 2021 post and I also have slightly different info.) I'm hoping to share my experience but also get some advice along the way as I'm currently in the middle of this project. I plan to update this post as I progress.

Replacement Parts (about $1500 total):
I live in Colorado and therefore needed a CARB-compliant cat. I got the MagnaFlow one: MagnaFlow Honda Element California Grade CARB Compliant Direct-Fit Cat
Both oxygen sensors were damaged in the theft so I ordered new ones from BK Honda Parts: Exhaust Pipe - Muffler for 2004 Honda Element | BKHonda
2 exhaust bolt and spring sets from O'Reilly: https://www.oreillyauto.com/detail/...004/honda/element?q=exhaust+spring+bolt&pos=0

Protection methods: I went all-out on protection—probably a bit overkill—since I wanted to be sure I wouldn't have to deal with this again.
Catstrap and CatEye: Catalytic Converter lock | Whitehouse OH | Catstrap
Cat Security shield: https://getcatsecurity.com/purchase-online/ols/products/element


~Initial progress (2/20/2021)~

New cat, O2 sensors, and Catstrap install:
I installed the new cat, the oxygen sensors, and the Catstrap last night. Below are some photos. I did some test driving and as far as I can tell everything sounds good. My check engine light has already turned off as well. I did break one bolt attaching the cat to the engine, so I'm planning on having someone at a muffler shop remove the bolt so I can put a new one in.
207632
207633

Cat gasket/fitting questions:
The new cat came with two gaskets and this metal ring that I wasn't sure what to do with. I couldn't find anything resembling the ring in the catalog/diagram at BK Honda Parts. One gasket obviously replaced the old one at the engine-end of the cat, but I couldn't get it to fit over the pipe, so I just used the old gasket. Should I expect any problems with this, or am I fine as long as everything sounds good? For the muffler-end of the cat, I felt pretty safe assuming that this was where the other gasket went, but I was able to tighten the bolts all the way and that seemed too loose. I found that the metal ring was the perfect size to be used as a spacer here (highlighted in the second photo above), and with it everything was much more snug. Once again, is this fine as long as everything sounds good? Is this possibly what that metal ring was intended for?

Catstrap questions:
I discovered the strap has fiberglass in it when I installed it, as I got a bunch all over my gloves and clothes, and my skin is still a little itchy today. Thankfully I was wearing gloves as well as safety glasses. I really don't like the idea of having fiberglass down there, even if I won't be getting under the car and touching it often, so I'd like to find a way to seal it in. It suspect it's coming from the "frayed" edges of the strap. I'd like to find some kind of heat-resistant fiberglass sealant to paint along the strap edges. Another possible option is spraying the whole strap and cat with heat-resistant paint like people use for rust prevention. Does anyone have any experience dealing with fiberglass on their exhaust system, and if either of these methods would seal in the fiberglass completely while also being safe to use on the exhaust system? I want to be completely sure I won't spread any fiberglass anywhere—it's just such nasty stuff. If I can't, I may try to remove the strap and just go with the other protection methods, as much as I like the security it provides and what a big pain it would be to remove at this point.

I hope I provided some useful info for anyone dealing with this catalytic converter theft issue. Thanks in advance to anyone with advice and help with my questions. I'll add updates as I deal with current questions and also install the other security devices.


~Update 2/23/2021~

Mysterious metal ring question resolved:
I'm a little embarrassed I didn't see this before, but the product photo of this cat on the MagnaFlow website pretty clearly shows where that metal ring goes. Conveniently for me, it goes right where I put it!
207700


Catstrap removal:
I ended up removing the Catstrap. The heat-activated adhesive smelled terrible and was quite pungent (strong enough that after driving behind me in his own car for less than 10 minutes, my friend said "hey, your car smells really bad"). The smell seemed to be fading, and I expect it would have completely gone away once the glue had finished activating, but after maybe an hour of driving (not consecutively) and still smelling it when I stopped, I decided I would rather take it off than deal with this and also figure out what to do about the fiberglass. I will mention that apparently the adhesive strip can be removed from the strap before installation if desired.

For removal, I cut the steel ties with a dremel bit and peeled the strap off. As expected from the smell, the glue hadn't completely finished activating and in many places I could pull the strap off with a good tug. Where the glue was strongest, however, the strap simply ripped open. The bottom part was still glued to the cat and the top peeled away, exposing the steel cables inside. I simply ripped it all the way open and salvaged the cables. I was able to remove the glue stuck to the cat with an exacto knife, vinegar, and steel wool. It was tedious but not extremely difficult. On the plus side my cat does NOT look brand new anymore 😂, and hopefully appears less desirable.

I may put the cables back on, but just without the housing that had the glue and fiberglass. Despite how smoothly my removal went, it still took significantly longer than cutting a cat out with a sawzall would have taken. I hadn't even put exhaust clamps on yet, which is how the Catstrap is intended to be installed.
207701


Right now next steps are to get the broken bolts (yeah, two now) fixed at a muffler shop and then install the shield and/or alarm and figure out what I think of those security measures.


~Update 3/6/21~

Shield and Alarm install:
I've installed the Cat Security shield and the CatEye alarm now. The shield looks great, and installation wasn't too bad (came with decent instructions). There was one missing piece (I just picked up a small nut at Home Depot to replace it), and I had to remove an extra support bar for my side step in order for the shield to fit. I assume the shield was designed on an E without side steps. It was a little tough to do the installation with a short jack and stands, but only because it was awkward to work in the small space under the car. The alarm install was quite simple. Just attached the main control box behind the engine with zip ties (speaker is pointed down towards the cat) and the sensor using 3M Command "Picture Hanging Strips" (on the oil pain—more details below).
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[photo of sensor placement incoming]
Thoughts on the shield:
This seems pretty secure to me. It would significantly increase the amount of cutting time needed to remove the cat, and it is extremely unlikely someone looking to steal the cat would be equipped to unbolt it. I'm trying to decide if it would be theoretically possible to cut the pipes on either side of the shield then slide the cat out through the big hole in the bottom. Probably not if (when) I put a heat shield on the cat, but it still looks like it would be a tight fit as is. I'm pretty sure most would-be thieves would move on instead of try to deal with the shield, but I'm confident no one would be willing to try while the alarm was going off...

Alarm issues:
Unfortunately, I'm having some issues with the alarm. It is extremely loud (a good thing), but goes off for 5 seconds whenever you arm it and takes a few minutes to "orient itself," going off a few times seemingly randomly for a while after arming it (this is mentioned in a video on the Catrap/CatEye website). With how loud it is, this doesn't work for me parking my E outside my apartment complex. I drove out to an empty parking lot to test it one night, and it went off about half a dozen times within one minute of me arming it, with nothing around to set it off. The only thing I can think of is that headlights from the nearby road (maybe 100 ft. away) were setting it off, but it seems more likely to me that the false alarms were responses to random noise.

I placed the sensor on the oil pan because that allowed it to "look" at the ground underneath the cat. Ironically, the shield somewhat blocks the view of the sensor if you place it close to the cat and try to aim it at the ground where a thief would be coming from. I'm wondering if it's looking out the back of the E too much and would get less false alarms if it was pointed more down towards the ground, but again, I'm not sure the false alarms are really due to the sensor. I have considered putting it inside the shield, where it would definitely go off if anyone tried to mess with the cat but definitely not be set off by anything else around the car. The change in heat from the cat itself could potentially be an issue for the sensor though.

Since I don't want my neighbors to hate me, the alarm isn't really usable for me right now. It's hard to understand how loud it is without hearing it, but I find it uncomfortable even while standing about 50 ft. away from my car, and I can hear it from inside my apartment while it's outside and across the parking lot. I'm considering taking a look at the inside and trying to mess with the electronics (remove the 5-second "on" alarm and the orientation period, or make it quieter during these times), but I'm hesitant as that kind of thing always seems more difficult than I expect.

What does everyone think of the shield and alarm? I'm curious if anyone has suggestions on the alarm issues.
 

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Thank you for posting this! It's something I'd be worried about, and want to prevent as well. Idealy, I'd like something that comes with a taser lol.
 

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2004 EX 4WD MT | Sunset Orange
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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you for posting this! It's something I'd be worried about, and want to prevent as well. Idealy, I'd like something that comes with a taser lol.
You're welcome 😊! Depending on how much a new cat costs where you are, these security methods seem well worth the investment.

how much did insurance give you?
I don't have comprehensive, so nothing. I was kicking myself for that decision when I first discovered that my cat had been stolen, but after discussing the details with my insurance, I felt somewhat reassured this was the right choice: Adding comprehensive coverage with a $250 deductible would cost me something like $50 per month more than my current plan. When it comes to determining if a car is totaled, they told me they use NADA to estimate car values, which apparently puts my E at $2,600 for "Clean Trade-In" and $4,450 for "Clean Retail." I don't know exactly what that means in terms of how much my insurance would have covered, but—no surprise—I feel my E is worth more than those, and neither would have covered the repair from the dealership :unsure:. If repair is near these amounts or less, I figure I can find a way to do it myself using the money I haven't been spending on insurance each month (like I'm doing here), and if it's more, then the insurance wouldn't have helped me anyway. I'd be interested to hear others' thoughts on this though—I am a relatively new car owner and would like to know if I've missed something! I suppose I'm just out if my E is every truly wrecked, but I'm going to do my very best to avoid that.

What else is in the strap? Seems there are sufficient gaps that one could cut the pipes without contacting the strap.
Hey there, fleetw00d :). Check out my update just now which shows a photo of the steel cables from the inside. I think the idea is that even though someone could cut the pipes if they really wanted to, they still wouldn't be able to cut through the strap and remove the cat from the car (ideally a would-be thief would realize this and decide not to try, leaving the cat undamaged). It's hard to see in the photo, but the strap went almost right up to engine, definitely further than where it would be simple to reach with a sawzall. I probably should have attached it further down on the muffler though, wrapping it around the cat less times. I'm excited to put the shield on because it's same idea (can't remove the cat even if you cut it loose) but I suspect even more intimidating and likely to deter attempted theft.
 

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So wait a second... what about just running barbed wire back and forth across the bottom of the frame??
 

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Interesting. When I had AAA Insurance a while ago, the Agent told me that the most valuable part and most often stolen off Honda Elements is the Catalytic Converter. Honda put some platinum and palladium in it. Lifted and higher sitting Honda Elements can have their Catalytic Converters stolen within 2 minutes or less.
 

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I had my catalytic converter stolen recently, as apparently many others have. Since the dealership was going to charge me $4800 to fix everything, I decided to try doing it myself. (Similar story here: Catalytic converter replacement and cat-clamp install.... I wanted to make a 2021 post and I also have slightly different info.) I'm hoping to share my experience but also get some advice along the way as I'm currently in the middle of this project. I plan to update this post as I progress.

Replacement Parts (about $1500 total):
I live in Colorado and therefore needed a CARB compliant cat. I got the MagnaFlow one: MagnaFlow Honda Element California Grade CARB Compliant Direct-Fit Cat
Both oxygen sensors were damaged in the theft so I ordered new ones from BK Honda Parts: Exhaust Pipe - Muffler for 2004 Honda Element | BKHonda
2 exhaust bolt and spring sets from O'Reilly: https://www.oreillyauto.com/detail/...004/honda/element?q=exhaust+spring+bolt&pos=0

Protection methods: I went all-out on protection—probably a bit overkill—since I wanted to be sure I wouldn't have to deal with this again.
Catstrap and CatEye: Catalytic Converter lock | Whitehouse OH | Catstrap
Cat Security shield: https://getcatsecurity.com/purchase-online/ols/products/element


~Initial progress (2/20/2021)~

New cat, O2 sensors, and Catstrap install:
I installed the new cat, the oxygen sensors, and the Catstrap last night. Below are some photos. I did some test driving and as far as I can tell everything sounds good. My check engine light has already turned off as well. I did break one bolt attaching the cat to the engine, so I'm planning on having someone at a muffler shop remove the bolt so I can put a new one in.
View attachment 207632 View attachment 207633
Cat gasket/fitting questions:
The new cat came with two gaskets and this metal ring that I wasn't sure what to do with. I couldn't find anything resembling the ring in the catalog/diagram at BK Honda Parts. One gasket obviously replaced the old one at the engine-end of the cat, but I couldn't get it to fit over the pipe, so I just used the old gasket. Should I expect any problems with this, or am I fine as long as everything sounds good? For the muffler-end of the cat, I felt pretty safe assuming that this was where the other gasket went, but I was able to tighten the bolts all the way and that seemed too loose. I found that the metal ring was the perfect size to be used as a spacer here (highlighted in the second photo above), and with it everything was much more snug. Once again, is this fine as long as everything sounds good? Is this possibly what that metal ring was intended for?

Catstrap questions:
I discovered the strap has fiberglass in it when I installed it, as I got a bunch all over my gloves and clothes, and my skin is still a little itchy today. Thankfully I was wearing gloves as well as safety glasses. I really don't like the idea of having fiberglass down there, even if I won't be getting under the car and touching it often, so I'd like to find a way to seal it in. It suspect it's coming from the "frayed" edges of the strap. I'd like to find some kind of heat-resistant fiberglass sealant to paint along the strap edges. Another possible option is spraying the whole strap and cat with heat-resistant paint like people use for rust prevention. Does anyone have any experience dealing with fiberglass on their exhaust system, and if either of these methods would seal in the fiberglass completely while also being safe to use on the exhaust system? I want to be completely sure I won't spread any fiberglass anywhere—it's just such nasty stuff. If I can't, I may try to remove the strap and just go with the other protection methods, as much as I like the security it provides and what a big pain it would be to remove at this point.

I hope I provided some useful info for anyone dealing with this catalytic converter theft issue. Thanks in advance to anyone with advice and help with my questions. I'll add updates as I deal with current questions and also install the other security devices.


~Update 2/23/2021~

Mysterious metal ring question resolved:
I'm a little embarrassed I didn't see this before, but the product photo of this cat on the MagnaFlow website pretty clearly shows where that metal ring goes. Conveniently for me, it goes right where I put it!
View attachment 207700

Catstrap removal:
I ended up removing the Catstrap. The heat-activated adhesive smelled terrible and was quite pungent (strong enough that after driving behind me in his own car for less than 10 minutes, my friend said "hey, your car smells really bad"). The smell seemed to be fading, and I expect it would have completely gone away once the glue had finished activating, but after maybe an hour of driving (not consecutively) and still smelling it when I stopped, I decided I would rather take it off than deal with this and also figure out what to do about the fiberglass. I will mention that apparently the adhesive strip can be removed from the strap before installation if desired.

For removal, I cut the steel ties with a dremel bit and peeled the strap off. As expected from the smell, the glue hadn't completely finished activating and in many places I could pull the strap off with a good tug. Where the glue was strongest, however, the strap simply ripped open. The bottom part was still glued to the cat and the top peeled away, exposing the steel cables inside. I simply ripped it all the way open and salvaged the cables. I was able to remove the glue stuck to the cat with an exacto knife, vinegar, and steel wool. It was tedious but not extremely difficult. On the plus side my cat does NOT look brand new anymore 😂, and hopefully appears less desirable.

I may put the cables back on, but just without the housing that had the glue and fiberglass. Despite how smoothly my removal went, it still took significantly longer than cutting a cat out with a sawzall would have taken. I hadn't even put exhaust clamps on yet, which is how the Catstrap is intended to be installed.
View attachment 207701

Right now next steps are to get the broken bolts (yeah, two now) fixed at a muffler shop and then install the shield and/or alarm and figure out what I think of those security measures.
Great thread, thank you for sharing this and all the details and great pictures and links.

do you know if the cat eye sensor will work after it gets some dirt on it from the road or slush and snow in the winter? thanks
 

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If you live somewhere without emissions testing is it possible to just do a test pipe/no catalytic, can the car be made to run okay without the cat?
 

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If you live somewhere without emissions testing is it possible to just do a test pipe/no catalytic, can the car be made to run okay without the cat?
There's two options for areas without emissions testing:
1) Straight piping so you get rid of the catalytic converter entirely (I've heard a couple of people doing this but here's why I don't advise it. It'll be loud as hell in the cabin of your car AND outside, it's expensive to equip, and you'll be producing a LOT of emissions.)
2) Cut out the OEM catalytic converter (sell it) and replace it with an aftermarket CAT. This doesn't guarantee that you'll get someone stealing your cat because thieves will just cut it anyway and realize afterwards that it's just an aftermarket. BUT you'll save a lot more money because aftermarket CATs run in the 150s compared to OEM CATS running in the 1000s.
 

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The other thing I was thinking and not sure if there is enough room but what about cutting out your OEM cat ( if someone hasnt already stolen it ) weld in a straight pipe there and getting a short length aftermarket cat and welding it in where the down pipe is (#2) right below the exhaust manifold. Would that be a tighter space that a thief would not be able to fit a sawzall or disc grinder in? That down pipe would still need its flange at the top to bolt to the exhaust manifold but if we could find a short enough aftermarket cat maybe that could work?

207857
 

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2004 EX 4WD MT | Sunset Orange
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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
So wait a second... what about just running barbed wire back and forth across the bottom of the frame??
I saw someone mention that idea somewhere else on this forum, and I think there was some concern about snagging debris (or something more solid) on the road. Would also make it hard to do maintenance underneath the car.

Great thread, thank you for sharing this and all the details and great pictures and links.

do you know if the cat eye sensor will work after it gets some dirt on it from the road or slush and snow in the winter? thanks
Happy to contribute to the community :). I haven't tested this at all rigorously, but I have already dropped the sensor in the snow and brushed it off a few times. In my latest update I discuss my issues with false alarms, so it doesn't seem to be hindering it from going off, although that may be a different story with slush collected on the sensor.

Thanks for the very detailed post. Super helpful.

You think the Cat Strap / Cat Eye would work with the stainless steel Cat Shield by Millercat? This cat shield is probably one of the best anti-theft designs I've seen so far.
I'm glad you are finding it helpful! I agree; that is a really nice shield design. I expect the CatEye would work with that shield similarly to how it's working with mine (might be difficult to find a good place for the sensor—check out my last update). From what I can tell from those photos, it seems like the strap may fit if wound carefully. I'm thinking it would have to go between the heat shield and the cat (assuming there's enough room there) and I can't tell if there's enough clearance where the pipes exit either end of the shield.
 
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