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8/20/2010 - How to Protect Against Catalytic Converter Thefts

What's the one thing you would expect car burglars to steal when they break into your car? The car stereo, a cell phone, or that loose change you keep in the ashtray? All these things may be targets, but would you think they would steal your catalytic converter?

Chances are most drivers don't even know where the device is on their automobiles, but crooks do. The City of Chula Vista, as well as the rest of the South Bay, is having an increasing number of catalytic converter thefts.

Catalytic converters have been required by law on every motor vehicle operated in the United States since 1975. It is attached to your exhaust system and is located underneath your car.

Your vehicle's catalytic converter is a device used to reduce the toxicity of emissions from an internal combustion engine. The inner workings of the devices contain filters that use small amounts of the precious metals, platinum, palladium and rhodium. Those precious metals can be recycled. Thieves steal the catalytic converters and take them to recycling centers to sell. One reason crooks can do this is because the converters typically have no identifying marks. That will be addressed in just a moment.

Depending on the make of your vehicle, your catalytic converter can be removed in less than two minutes and in some cases the crook may only have to use a single wrench. A missing catalytic converter isn't something you immediately notice, until you start your car and hear a very loud engine noise because your exhaust system no longer goes through your muffler.

A new catalytic converter may cost between $400 and $1,500 and the cost to repair the vehicle could be between $1,000 and $3,000.

So, what can you do to protect yourself?

  • Try to park in a safe and secure place, where a stranger underneath your vehicle would be instantly suspicious.
  • When possible, keep your car in your garage instead of on your driveway or in the street.
  • If you have a car alarm, a competent installer can install an additional sensor on the converter to set off your alarm when the thieves attempt to steal it.
  • For less than fifty dollars, most automotive repair shops or muffler shops can tack weld the nut and bolt which should prevent most thieves from easily unbolting the assembly.
  • Additionally, you can engrave your Driver's License number or vehicle identification number (but NOT your SSN) on your converter. Having this information engraved on your converter would assist in returning the converter to you if it is recovered, and will also assist in the prosecution of the offender.

If you see someone underneath a parked vehicle, especially late at night, or other times when there are few or no other people around, call 911 and report it immediately.

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