Why is Catalytic Converter Theft Rising and How to Prevent It

catalytic converter

Catalytic converter theft has been rising at an alarming rate. The valuable car component has been a target for thieves looking to cash in on scrap metal for quite some time now, but recent statistics show a rapid growth in catalytic converter theft in recent months. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), instances of catalytic converter theft increased by 325% nationwide from 2019 to 2020. Major urban centers like New York City saw an even steeper increase with almost 3,500 catalytic converters getting stolen in 2021 versus 2019. Catalytic converter theft continued to rise in 2021, rising 293% from July 2020 to June 2021.

You might be wondering why catalytic converter theft is growing so drastically and if your car is at risk of being targeted. You may also want to know how to prevent your car’s catalytic converter from getting stolen and what to do if it does. Today, we will be covering all of those topics as well as offer you a great resource of catalytic converter maintenance and repair.

What is a Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is a canister made of precious metals located near the engine that plays an important role in your car’s exhaust system. It collects raw exhaust from the engine and facilitates a series of chemical reactions that filter and purify the exhaust fumes. Toxic and harmful molecules like carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and other hydrocarbons are removed from the exhaust and the resulting clean exhaust is routed out of the vehicle through the exhaust tailpipe. Catalytic converters are extremely helpful in reducing your car’s harmful emissions and ensuring that many of the toxic byproducts of fuel combustion do not come in contact with humans or the environment.

Why Do Catalytic Converters Get Stolen?

Catalytic converters contain several precious metals that can be quite lucrative to sell as scrap. These metals include materials like platinum, rhodium, and palladium. Rhodium in particular is a very rare metal that is priced at around $20,000 per ounce – about ten times more expensive than gold. Each catalytic converter contains 1-2 grams of rhodium or about $700-$1,400 worth. They also contain about 3-7 grams of platinum and 2-7 grams of palladium. Platinum is worth around $1,000 per ounce (28 grams) and palladium is worth over $2,000 per ounce.

Supply chain issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other related economic pressures have caused the prices of these precious metals to skyrocket, lifting the value of the catalytic converter and creating more of an incentive for thieves to steal them. Even without melting the catalytic converters down for these precious metals, an intact, used converter can sell for up to $1,200 in certain parts of the country. This makes them lucrative to steal even without going through the trouble of finding a metal scrapper who will take it.

On top of all of these reasons, catalytic converters are also easy to disconnect and steal quickly. They are located right below the vehicle near the ground and are only secured by one or two bolts that can be loosened easily with a screwdriver. Cars that are lifted further up from the ground, such as pickup trucks, are at an especially high risk of catalytic converter theft as accessing the component is made even easier.

How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

Fortunately, there are steps that car owners can take to prevent their catalytic converters from getting stolen. The simplest and most common way to prevent catalytic converter theft is by installing an anti-theft device around the component. A variety of different manufacturers produce these anti-theft devices and they are relatively inexpensive. Some may simply use a steel plate to protect the bottom of your vehicle and other more intricate designs may utilize steel chains that wrap around the converter to make removing it more difficult and time-consuming. Investing in an anti-theft device is the best way to deter thieves from stealing your catalytic converter.

Outside of anti-theft devices, being mindful about where you park your car can be a deterrent for would-be thieves as well. At home, park your car in a locked garage to prevent unwanted access to the bottom of your vehicle. When parking outside of the home, try to park in a well-lit, enclosed parking lot if you can – a well-lit area will be less likely to be targeted for crime since the thief will be more visible. When parking on the street, try to park on busier streets with a lot of traffic to deter thieves from targeting your vehicle.

What Should I Do If My Catalytic Converter Gets Stolen?

If your catalytic converter gets stolen, report the theft to the police as soon as possible. Police may be able to help track down the stolen component and crime statistics can help legislators pass laws to make it harder for thieves to steal and sell catalytic converters. Some catalytic converters will have the vehicle’s VIN branded on the side of it; if the thief tries to sell your catalytic converter, the buyer will run the VIN through a database and it will come up as stolen – allowing the sale to be rejected and the component recovered.

Check your car insurance policy to see if it covers stolen parts and see if your car insurance provider can assist you in paying for a replacement part. It’s also not a bad idea to do this before your converter gets stolen so that you can consider whether getting a more comprehensive policy that covers theft will be useful for you.

Get Car Maintenance Done Through CarAdvise

Like all car components, catalytic converters require routine maintenance to keep them running and in good-working order. Whether it’s a catalytic converter or any other car component, schedule your vehicle maintenance through CarAdvise. CarAdvise makes car care simple and guarantees that you’ll pay less than retail price on all car maintenance services.

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