Do BMWs Have Catalytic Converters?

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A catalytic converter (or ‘cat’) is a device that reduces harmful emissions from a vehicle’s exhaust. These days, it’s an essential part of the emission control system on most cars.

In recent years, a rise in catalytic converter theft has lead some BMW owners to question whether their cars are fitted with these devices.

So, do BMWs have catalytic converters?

All gasoline and diesel powered BMWs have catalytic converters, and laws have been in place since the 1970s that require them to be fitted to reduce toxic exhaust gasses. Electric BMWs do not have catalytic converters.

So unless you drive an electric BMW or your car is very old, it will have a catalytic converter fitted. But what are they made of, and what are they worth?

What are BMW catalytic converters made of?

BMW catalytic converters are made of several rare and valuable metals, including platinum, palladium, and rhodium, that are housed in a stainless steel shell. The precious metals coat a tough ceramic or metal honeycomb structure at the core of the catalytic converter.

The rhodium is used as a reduction catalyst, the palladium as an oxidation catalyst, and the platinum works as both a reduction and an oxidation catalyst.

Catalytic converter cross-section
A cross-section of a catalytic converter with a metal honeycomb structure

The metals work together to reduce harmful pollutants that are created as by-products of engine combustion, and they’re chosen thanks to their reactive and heat-resistant properties.

Where is the catalytic converter on a BMW?

BMW’s catalytic converters are located on the underside of the car where the exhaust system meets the engine, integrated with the exhaust manifold at the front of the vehicle.

Some BMWs also have a secondary set of catalytic converters, located further down the exhaust system.

Thanks to their location, it can be harder to spot a catalytic converter in a BMW than in other vehicles as it’s fairly well hidden from view, even once the car is jacked up.

In fact, some people even confuse the resonator with the cat as they can look very similar from the outside.

Are BMW catalytic converters easy to steal?

BMW catalytic converters are harder to steal than in most other cars thanks to their location, hidden out of sight up against the engine.

However, they’re certainly not impossible to steal, and catalytic converter theft is a growing problem in many countries around the world.

Experts advise that you can park your BMW facing a wall or other solid structure to reduce the risk of theft, as this makes access for the thieves even more difficult.

Although accessing the cat is difficult, there have been cases reported whereby bumbling thieves have stolen the resonator instead, causing a significant amount of damage in the process.

Can a BMW run without a catalytic converter?

A BMW can run without a catalytic converter, but it’s against the law to remove the device from a car and drive on public roads. Any BMW without a catalytic converter is unlikely to pass an annual government inspection.

In most countries and states, if your car was fitted with a catalytic converter from the factory then it needs to remain in place.

Many people think that removing the catalytic converter from their BMW will result in higher performance, but the truth is that decent quality catalysts do not detract from performance very much at all.

A BMW catalytic converter
A BMW catalytic converter

By removing the catalytic converter from your BMW, you are risking:

  • Committing a crime by tampering with equipment installed to meet emissions regulations
  • Your car throwing an engine warning light
  • Increasing the amount of toxic gasses being emitted from your vehicle
  • Your car being deemed unroadworthy

All in all, the extremely minor performance gain you may get from removing the cat on your BMW is not worth the risk it poses, both to your car’s roadworthiness and the environment.

If you find that your catalytic converter has been damaged or stolen, you’ll need to get it replaced as soon as possible, and certainly before the car’s next inspection.

BMW catalytic converter scrap value

BMW catalytic converters have a scrap value of between $150 and $700. They are valuable to scrap dealers thanks to the precious metals that they contain.

Of course, how much you receive for your catalytic converter is totally dependent on the model of BMW it’s been removed from, and which type of cat that vehicle had fitted. OEM cats are also far more valuable than aftermarket systems.

We did find a handful of BMW catalytic converters that were worth even more than $700, and a few that were worth less than $150. It all depends on the amount of precious metal that is salvagable from your cat.

We found that the most common values for BMW catalytic converters to be around the $250 (£185) mark. Below is the average catalytic converter scrap value for each type of BMW:

BMW ModelAverage US Value ($)Average UK Value (£)
1 Series$227£168
2 Series$262£194
3 Series$234£173
4 Series$247£183
5 Series$227£168
6 Series$326£242
7 Series$281£208
8 Series$261£194
X Series$273£202
Z Series$238£176
Data courtesy of EcoTradeGroup

These values are certain to fluctuate over the years, and the price you get will depend on the values of the precious metals at the time you’re selling.

If you’re parting out your old BMW, it’s certainly worth researching how much your catalytic converter is worth before selling it to a scrap dealer to ensure you get the fairest price.

Final thoughts

All modern BMWs are fitted with catalytic converters, including diesel models. These devices ensure that your car is compliant with emissions regulations and is not pumping out too many harmful pollutants into the atmosphere.

BMW catalytic converters are expensive and can be targetted by thieves, but less-so than the majority of other types of car on the road thanks to how difficult it is to access them.

It is possible to drive a BMW without a catalytic converter, but you shouldn’t for a number of reasons that we’ve explained above.

Overall, unless your BMW’s catalytic converter has been damaged or stolen, there shouldn’t be much reason for you to worry about it.

1 thought on “Do BMWs Have Catalytic Converters?”

  1. I don’t want to replace the CC
    But it’s throwing codes
    It’s 11 years old
    With 200,000kms
    Do CCs wear out ?
    Can you add something to the fuel to Clean it out etc


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Adam Chinn writes about the intersecting worlds of classic cars, driving pleasure, and smart investment strategies. Starting his journey at 26, he’s proven that one doesn’t need to be wealthy to begin investing in classic cars.

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