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PestSure Blog

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Catalytic Converter Theft on the Rise

What is a catalytic converter?

An integral part of all modern gasoline powered automotive engines, the catalytic converter's job is to reduce tailpipe emissions by catalyzing exhaust gasses into compounds that are safer for the environment. Hopefully everyone remembers Chem 101.

Why is it valuable? 

Catalytic converters for gasoline-powered auto engines contain precious metals: platinum, rhodium, and palladium. A catalytic converter contains just a few grams of each, but that is all it takes to drive up the value from $300 to $1500+ depending on age and what vehicle the catalytic converter was taken from. An experienced thief only needs minutes to perform the necessary work to steal the converter and the return can be quite lucrative. However, the value can plummet to less than $100 if the thief can't sell the catalytic converter to a legitimate recycling company and instead has to sell as scrap metal. This typically happens when legitimate recyclers detect the catalytic converter was stolen and refuse to buy for fear of knowingly buying stolen goods.

Although modern diesel engines also use a catalytic converter, they do not use the same precious metals that are required by gasoline engines. These vehicles are much less susceptible to catalytic converter theft.

What can you do about it?

The best way to deter any thief is to make your possessions less valuable or less desirable to steal. This can be accomplished in a few ways:

  • Park in well-lit areas to make it harder for thieves to hide in the shadows. They're working under the vehicle so the additional light won't help them anyway, but will make them more visible before and after the act.
  • Don't park all of your vehicles in close proximity. Doing so allows the thief to hit multiple vehicles in one night before you have time to do anything about it. Not all thefts occur at night, so don’t think your vehicle is safe during the day.
  • A recent solution is also one of the cheapest. High-visibility, high-temperature spray paint can "mark" the catalytic converter and discourage its theft. The value proposition only works if the thief has a good chance of selling the product for high dollars. If they think they'll get caught in the act or at the point of sale, they'd rather look elsewhere. Once your fleet is known to be theft-deterred, we'd expect the thieves would move on to more lucrative targets down the road. 
  • Etching a portion of the VIN number of the vehicle, at least the last 8 digits, onto the cat will also help track what happens next if it is stolen. Combined with high visibility spray paint, thieves should be tempted to move on to easier targets. 
  • Chemical etching stickers are also becoming available to not only deter the thieves, but also help law enforcement track down the thieves when sold. 

Law enforcement and regulators are working to tighten up this process by requiring paper trails and proof of ownership. However, we can all do our part to slow down the thefts and keep our vehicles on the road.

References:

Allstate - 5 ways to prevent catalytic converter theft

Catalytic Converter Scrap Price List 2022

CatEtch - Chemical Etching Stickers

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