Catalytic Converter Theft: Help Protect Your Vehicle
Catalytic converters are a mandatory component of all vehicles in the United States and are designed to reduce harmful emissions from exhaust systems, according to Edmunds. Thieves target catalytic converters because they contain precious metals, like platinum, palladium or rhodium, Edmunds says, and they can sell them to scrap yards for about $100-150, according to the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau. But how are catalytic converters removed?
Edmunds explains that thieves use a wrench or reciprocating saw to remove the catalytic converter in just minutes. Since it is relatively easy to do with the right tool, sometimes catalytic converter theft happens in broad daylight, says Edmunds. The Sacramento Police Department also notes catalytic converters are appealing to robbers because they generally cannot be traced back to a particular vehicle.
So, what can you do to help prevent catalytic converter theft? First, find out if you are a likely target.
What Cars Are Thieves Looking For?
All vehicles manufactured after 1974 have a catalytic converter, says Edmunds. But, the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau says the most common thefts happen in big lots or garages, company parking lots and mass transit commuter lots, where vehicles are parked for a period of time. Additionally, vehicles that sit higher off the ground, including trucks and SUVs, are a target, the bureau says, because thieves can easily fit under the vehicle and remove the catalytic converter while no one is around.
How Do I Know if My Catalytic Converter Was Stolen?
You may not be able to tell your catalytic converter was stolen by looking at your car, but you will know as soon as you start it. Edmunds says when the catalytic converter has been removed, your vehicle makes a loud, roaring sound, much like that of a motorcycle or hot rod.
A victim of theft may end up paying more than $1,000 to get his vehicle fixed, says Edmunds. Several states are trying to help reduce catalytic converter theft by instituting laws that regulate metal scrap dealers, according to the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau. These laws may require dealers to check the seller’s ID before accepting the metal, says USA Today, and often the dealers will get vehicle descriptions and pictures of the pieces brought in by the scrap seller.
What Can I Do to Protect My Catalytic Converter?
To give yourself a little extra protection against theft, there are also things you can do:
- If your converter is attached with bolts, Edmunds says mechanics often suggest welding the bolts in place or cutting the bolt heads off, making it impossible for the bolts to be loosened.
- The Sacramento Police Department suggests getting your converter etched or engraved with your license number so metal shops can identify the vehicle from which the converter was taken. Etching or engraving can be done without removing the catalytic converter either by a mechanic or a DIY catalytic converter etching kit. Your local police department or auto repair facility may even host an “Etch and catch” event, where drivers can bring in their vehicle to have their catalytic converters etched with their license number, often free of charge.
- When you are at home, always park your vehicle in the garage if you have one. If not, Edmunds suggest to park your vehicle in a well-lit area.
- Edmunds notes that you can purchase catalytic converter theft prevention kits, designed to create a cage around your converter, making it more difficult for thieves to steal it.
Knowing if you are a target for catalytic converter theft is the first key to preventing it. If your situation or vehicle could put you at risk, take these preventative measures – it could save you some money and hassle.