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Loss Control Insights

Tips For Preventing Catalytic Converter Theft

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Since 1975, most gas- and diesel-powered vehicles in the United States have a catalytic converter installed in them. Although the passage of the Clean Air Act and its amendments made it illegal to remove a catalytic converter without replacement, theft rates have been rising. In 2020, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reported that the average monthly number of thefts climbed from 652 thefts in January to 2,347 thefts in December.

What Is a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters clean vehicle exhaust emissions to help reduce dangerous pollution. They are located on the underside of vehicles between the engine and the muffler. Through chemical reactions, they are able to transform more harmful pollutants into less harmful ones.

The catalytic converter consists of a metal casing which holds a ceramic honeycomb, coated with rhodium, platinum and/or palladium. These metals serve as catalysts, which trigger the chemical reactions that reduce harmful pollutants.

Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters?

Catalytic converters are valuable because of the precious metals inside them (rhodium, platinum and palladium). The price of these metals has risen dramatically amid a slump in mining during the COVID-19 pandemic, making them a target for thieves. Catalytic converters can be sold for $50 to $1,500, depending on the type of metal and condition of the converter.

It is also relatively easy to steal a catalytic converter–a few minutes and a couple power tools are all a thief needs. But the cost to repair the vehicle after a theft can cost upwards of $2,000, so it's important to take steps to prevent theft.

Which Vehicles Are Most Likely to Have Their Catalytic Converters Stolen?

Hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius, tend to be targets for catalytic converter theft. The catalytic converter and its precious metals stay in good condition for longer because the gas engine is not used as often, making them worth more.

Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and large trucks are also frequent targets of catalytic converter theft because it's easy to reach or crawl under these vehicles. Since thieves don't need to use a jack or other tools, they can quickly remove catalytic converter.

How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

While theft rates of catalytic converters are rising, there are actions you can take to help protect your vehicle.

  • Install an anti-theft device, such as a steel cable, shield or cage that is difficult to cut through, for additional security
  • Park vehicles in well-lit, enclosed areas or in personal garages when possible
  • Lock vehicles and enable alarms after parking
  • Set up motion sensor lights and security cameras in parking areas to scare off thieves
  • Engrave your license plate number or VIN number into the catalytic converter so it can be traced back to you if stolen
  • If driving an SUV or truck, park in busy areas and next to smaller cars so it is harder to crawl under your vehicle

What to Do if Your Catalytic Converter is Stolen

If your catalytic converter is stolen from your vehicle, you will know almost immediately due to loud exhaust noises. Here's what you should do next:

  • Take pictures of the damaged area by your exhaust pipe and contact your insurance agent
  • Call law enforcement and file a report (this helps police track these crimes and may assist in arrests)
  • Find a reputable auto shop to make repairs immediately
  • Ask the auto shop about adding an anti-theft device to prevent future thefts

Learn more about preventing catalytic converter theft at the National Insurance Crime Bureau website.

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