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Catalytic Converter Theft Prevention

Why are Catalytic Converters popular with thieves?

With the price of precious metals skyrocketing, thieves are helping themselves to catalytic converters that contain enough platinum, palladium or rhodium to make it worth the risk to cut it from the underbelly of your vehicle. Catalytic Converter theft has become popular because of their value, relative ease to steal (unbolt or cut out), and their lack of identifying markings. The lack of identification makes it difficult to identify victims and successfully apprehend and prosecute criminals.

Thieves take the stolen Catalytic Converters to metal recyclers. The recyclers pay up to $120 for some converters for the precious metals inside them. Victims pay an average of $1,500 (or an average $250/$500 insurance deductible) to get the converter(s) replaced. But the cost can be as much as $5,000.

If your Catalytic Converter has been stolen, you will know right away when you start your vehicle. It will sound like you don't have a muffler at all (like loud motorcycle mufflers). It is OK to drive your vehicle directly to a muffler/dealer shop to get the Catalytic Converter replaced. You do not need your vehicle towed to the shop. If your vehicle qualifies (which is based on the make, model and year of your vehicle), replace your stolen Catalytic Converter with an aftermarket Catalytic Converter. They don't have nearly the same recyclable value, as a result, it is unlikely the aftermarket Catalytic Converter would be stolen.

Example of what the underside of a vehicle will look like when the Catalytic Converter has been stolen
An example of what the underside of a vehicle will look like if the Catalytic Converter is stolen.

How are Catalytic Converters removed from vehicles?

The converters are fairly simple to remove with any metal cutting tool. Battery powered cutting tools seem to be the tools of choice for this type of crime.

A battery powered reciprocating saw & a hand pipe cutter.
A battery powered reciprocating saw & a hand pipe cutter, both are tools that can be used to easily cut out a Catalytic Converter from the underside of a vehicle.

What are the most targeted vehicles?

Since every vehicle has some type of converter on it, EVERY vehicle manufactured after 1974 could be targeted. At this time the most common vehicles attracting converter thieves are pick-up trucks and SUVs. These vehicles seem to be the easiest to get under and remove the converter due to the configuration of the underside of the vehicle. With just a few cuts of a battery-powered saw, the catalytic converter can be stolen in less than a minute.

Where are these thefts taking place?

Thieves seem to be targeting highly populated parking locations, such as:

  • Your home driveway or street. Most of the Catalytic Converter thefts occur while your car is parked in your driveway or on the street in front of your house.
  • Apartment & Condo complexes.
  • Large parking lots. Such as school, mall, park and ride lots, hardware & convenience store parking lots.
  • Secluded areas. Thieves target remote areas such as regional parks, boat launch ramps and airports.

A look-out will often watch out as a thief takes the Catalytic Converter.

How can citizens combat this problem?

Theft of catalytic converters is hard to stop, but the following tips help to deter & prevent catalytic converter theft:

  • Park in your garage. If you must park your vehicle in the driveway, motion detector lights or continuous lights illuminating your driveway will be a deterrent.
  • Always park in well-lighted areas.
  • At shopping centers and other similar parking lots, park close to the entrance of the building or near the access road where there's a lot of traffic.
  • If you own or work at a business or factory, park within a fenced area that's busy during the day and secured at night.
  • Purchase a vehicle security system and make sure it’s set to trigger with just the slightest motion.
  • Visit a local muffler shop and have the converter secured to the vehicle’s frame with a couple of pieces of hardened steel welded to the frame.
  • Check out the different types of catalytic converter theft deterrent systems at your local auto parts store or online.
  • Educate your friends and neighbors about Catalytic Converter theft so they can be a look-out too.
  • When you see suspicious activity, call the police right away.
  • Engrave your license plate number on the converter to make it traceable. If you have the opportunity to get the welding done or purchase a cage for your catalytic converter, that is great, but be sure to get the etching and spray painting done first. Any of those other after market add-ons can be defeated with a wrench or the proper cutting tool, such as a pipe cutting tool or a battery powered reciprocating saw, and the only thing that will help in locating victims and arresting/prosecuting the criminal in the long run is the identifying information etched (your vehicle's license plate number) onto your catalytic converter.
A Catalytic Converter with extra pieces of metal welded to it.
A Catalytic Converter with extra pieces of metal welded to it, making it a little harder to cut out.
A Catalytic Converter being etched with the vehicle's license plate number.
Having your vehicle's license plate number etched onto your Catalytic Converter is the only way to help police to identify & prosecute criminals in the event of a theft.

To combat Catalytic Converter thefts, a number of states have passed laws tightening the restrictions on metal scrap dealers. In many cases, dealers are required to verify the seller's identity with a photo ID and maintain complete records of sellers for 5 years. At Phoenix Automotive Cores, we adhere to all laws pertaining to the buying of Catalytic Converters so as to help deter theft in the metropolitan areas where our branches are located.

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