It’s a topic that is unavoidable these past few years – catalytic converter theft is rapidly rising in communities all across America. You’ve seen posts on your community Facebook pages, heard talk in line at the post office. Despite awareness, these thefts are insanely common and are occurring in broad daylight. Something must be done about this extreme issue.

What is a Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is kind of like a little oven that processes the emissions from your engine. The process starts in the engine. When the engine exhausts fumes, they travel through the catalytic converter and are reprocessed to be cleaner than ordinary vehicle emissions. The catalytic converter contains precious metals that react with exhaust fumes to clean them. The most common precious metals used in catalytic converters are platinum, palladium and rhodium. Catalytic converters have been being used in vehicles to clean emissions since the 1970’s. Many vehicles have several catalytic converters and some are much more valuable than others.

catalytic converter

How are The Thieves Stealing the Catalytic Converter?

Stealing these parts is usually a very quick process. The thieves cut the part off with a Sawzall. The process takes sometimes just two to three minutes. The thieves are targeting places where there is either too much going on to be noticed or no one around to see. Essentially, this is happening just about everywhere. Places that receive the most reported catalytic converter theft are parking lots, driveways and parking garages.

Why is this happening?

In a nutshell, the rise in catalytic converter theft is due to a worldwide supply and demand issue. During the initial stages of the COVID crisis of 2020, output of precious metals declined significantly and demand for the products skyrocketed. The price of rhodium rose to over $28k per ounce while it will typically sit around $11k on average.

How Will I Know if Someone Stole My Catalytic Converter?

If you don’t notice your exhaust system hanging beneath your vehicle, you will definitely notice something is wrong when you go to drive your vehicle. It may sound normal if you pull out of your driveway in reverse, but once you hit the gas, your exhaust will sound like a rumbling freight train. There will be no denying what has happened when you hear the sound of an open exhaust. After you discover the issue, it’s best to call an experienced mechanic. Prices for repair are unique to every individual situation.

What Can I do to Deter Someone from Stealing My Catalytic Converter?

There are many opportunities vehicle owners can take advantage of to hopefully deter the theft of their catalytic converter. Some states are implementing ways of combating thieves and there are laws being made that limit how many units people can sell at a time, recoding ID information and only paying via direct deposit. These methods are being implemented in the hope that it will deter criminals who wish to avoid being tracked with such systems. Check your local municipality to see what laws your community is enacting.

Theft is a crime of opportunity and there is plenty we can do to limit opportunity. Here are some quick tips for avoiding catalytic converter theft:

  • If you have to park on the street, try to find somewhere that makes it difficult for people to get under your vehicle. If you have a lifted vehicle, this can be tricky.
  • Use high temperature, high visibility spray paint to mark the catalytic converter.
  • Etch the part with your vehicle VIN – this makes it harder to sell and the thief can potentially be prosecuted if they are found with an identifiable stolen part.
  • You can have small bars, cages or plates welded around the catalytic converter.
  • Use clamps and wrap steel cables around the catalytic converter – they are very hard to cut through with Sawzall’s.
  • There are premade protectors available online. Choose from generic or model specific.
  • Install an alarm dash-cam security camera – this system alerts you when someone is active around your vehicle.
  • Set up home security cameras, like these from Amazon, where your vehicle sits parked. The more layers of security the better.

If you have more questions about this wide-spread issue, feel free to give the experts at Courtesy Auto Service and Tire of Tacoma a call to chat with an expert at 253-473-5556.