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Mar 01

Protect Your Car Against Catalytic Converter Theft

Posted on March 1, 2023 at 8:27 AM by Deputy Aaron Scheller

Header Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

Protect Your Car Against Catalytic Converter Theft

The number of reports filed for stolen catalytic converters has shot through the roof in recent years. In 2019, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reported there had been approximately 3,400 cases of catalytic converter thefts across the country, and that number rose to 14,500 the following year. This is a four-time increase in just one year! Still, both these statistics pale in comparison to the 2021 figure when a staggering 50,000 converters were reported stolen!

Clearly, the theft of catalytic converters is a lucrative business for criminals.  We are still waiting for 2022 statistics, but I believe you’re going to see another sharp increase.

Now, you may be scratching your head on what exactly catalytic converters are, and you’re not alone. Catalytic converters are part of your vehicle’s exhaust system and they are designed to control emissions. Their components include precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium that are usually worth more than gold. To give you an idea, there was a point in 2021 when rhodium was worth close to $30,000 per precious metal ounce(oz t). This on top of the fact it only takes a few seconds for an experienced criminal to detach the part from your vehicle, makes it a very appealing crime. Once they have your converter, they can exchange it for cash at a scrapyard.

The Most Targeted Vehicles

The common consensus seems to be that the Prius, Tacoma, Lexus, Accord, and generally all SUVs are some of the most targeted vehicles for catalytic converter theft. However, all vehicles built in or after 1974 have catalytic converters so any vehicle can be targeted for this crime.

How the Crime Occurs

A catalytic converter theft generally happens like this – A criminal will pick a vehicle, park beside it, pull out a jack and a reciprocating saw, lift one side of the vehicle high enough to underneath. They will take the saw and cut the muffler pipes on each side of the converter, and in less than 60 seconds they are driving off with your converter. 

Detecting a Missing Catalytic Converter

You might be asking yourself, “How will I know my converter has been removed?” Well, if you start your car and your once quiet car now sounds like it belongs on a racetrack because it is extremely loud, chances are your catalytic converter is missing. By cutting the exhaust, the combustion sound comes straight out of the pipe without going through the muffler, which causes the loud motor noises. 

Catalytic Converter Theft Protection Devices

There are aftermarket components like a “cat strap” or “cat plate” that you can attach to your catalytic converter to help prevent a theft.  I would recommend you go to a trusted mechanic and discuss this matter.  They can suggest the best device based on your vehicle make and model.

Free Converter Etching Events

One significant problem with catalytic converters is that they are not serialized.  They are not produced with any identifying marks that link it to your specific vehicle. The Diamond Bar Sheriff’s team has been conducting an “etching” program where deputies will go under our car and etch identifying numbers on the converter.  While this won’t prevent it from being stolen, it will help you get it back in the event it is and help prosecute the responsible criminals.  If you’re interested in having your converter etched, come down to the Calvary Chapel Golden Springs (22324 Golden Springs Dr, Diamond Bar, CA 91765) parking lot on the third Wednesday of the month between 9 and 11 a.m.  Appointments are not necessary.

That’s it for this month’s blog. I encourage you to check out the corresponding leaflet and to share it with family members and friends.

PDF Copy of the LeafletHow to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

As always, if you have any public safety-related questions or concerns you want to share with the City or our local sheriff’s station, or if you have suggestions for topics to cover in this blog, be sure to let me know using the online Ask a Deputy form.