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Mama’s Amazing Catalytic Converter Theft Primer

catalytic converter thefts

It’s ok if you don’t know what a catalytic converter is. It’s ok if you don’t where the catalytic converter is on your car. What’s important here is that you protect yours from being stolen and know what to do if it happens to you. (There’s also a video at the end of this post; watch it here.)

Catalytic Converter Thefts Are Big Business

Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau

By some estimates, the 2022 figures are even more staggering as the costs of precious metals continue to rise.

Why It’s Happening

Unfortunately, they’re easy to steal (takes under two minutes). Because of the high price of precious metals inside them, catalytic converters are worth a lot (they get up to $300 per converter from a junk yard). For more info, watch my video here:

Which Cars Are Targets

According to CarFax, here in California:

#1 is the Prius

#2 is the Ford F-series pickup

#3 is the Honda Accord

Since you need to get under a vehicle to remove the catalytic converter and it’s hard to walk around casually with a jack, pickups and lifted vehicles are natural targets. But the Prius is particularly attractive to thieves because the cleaner the exhaust, the cleaner the converter, and the more valuable the metals. Ug! Driving a Prius is embarrassing enough, driving a dirty one is mortifying! However, things can always get worse:

photo courtesy: Newport Convertible Engineering

How To Prevent Yours From Being Stolen

There are several great ways to protect your vehicle from thieves. Please note: if you install a clamp or a plate yourself, be careful! Don’t go making a problem where there wasn’t one before. Here are the hot tops for catalytic converter protection:

  • Install a plate, clamp, cage, and strap—these shouldn’t be welded or attached directly to the CC
  • Etch your VIN (vehicle identification number or license plate number) onto your CC
  • Adjust your alarm (make it sensitive enough to bust a thief)
  • Park in a secure garage
catalytic converter

What Doesn’t Seem To Work

Your Ring device is excellent for a lot of things. But here in California, police don’t have much luck catching these thieves. Even worse, lawyers are finding that they can’t prosecute.

Think parking under a street light will help? Not really. People are stealing these bad boys in broad daylight!

Consider attending an etching event like this one instead:

How To Know If Yours Has Been Stolen

It will be obvious! Here are the three failproof signs that your catalytic converter has been stolen:

  • Your car will make a loud sound
  • The sound will get louder as you step on the gas
  • Go to the back of the car and look underneath. It’s a round canister that connects two pieces of piping. If you see a big gap, well, you’ve been robbed!

Note: You can still drive your car without a catalytic converter but should get it repaired ASAP.

What To Do If Yours is Stolen

Go ahead and drive to the mechanic, but be prepared to fork over some dough:

  • Costs $1,000-$3,000 to replace
  • If your car has a V8, you may have two catalytic converters!
  • Hybrids are the most costly.

Note: this should all be covered by insurance. Plus, don’t be surprised if you have to wait a while for a new part.

The Good News

There is legislation on the books to discourage these thefts. According to the NCIB,

“Recently, Congressman Jim Baird (IN-04) introduced the “Preventing Auto Recycling Theft Act.” The Act is intended to reduce catalytic converter thefts by marking identifying information on catalytic converters, addressing how the parts are purchased, and strengthening enforceability of catalytic converter theft for local law enforcement.  The National Insurance Crime Bureau worked closely with Congressman Baird in the development of this legislation and supports the Preventing Auto Recycling Theft Act.”

Also, many states, including Arkansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia, have new legislation.

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