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Catalytic Converters: Why Thieves Steal Them

Learn why catalytic converters are stolen and how to protect your car from catalytic converter thieves.

By Newark Police

Catalytic Converters, along with copper and other metals, have become a hot commodity for thieves. Catalytic Converter theft has become popular because of their value, relative ease to steal (unbolt or cut out), and their lack of identifying markings.

A Catalytic Converter is a part of the vehicles exhaust system. It helps reduce vehicle pollution.

Catalytic Converters are located under a vehicle on the exhaust pipe before the muffler(s).

Thieves take the stolen Catalytic Converters to metal recyclers. The recyclers pay an average of $50 per converter for the precious metals inside them. But certain converters they will pay up to $250.

Victims pay an average of $1,000 (or an average $250/$500 insurance deductible) to get the converter(s) replaced. It can cost as much as $4,000 however.

What Vehicles are targeted by Catalytic Converter Thieves?

  • Any vehicle manufactured after 1974 can be a target. However, Trucks and SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles) are the vehicles they target the most.
  • They prefer Trucks and SUV’s, because they are higher off the ground and easier to crawl under.
  •  Toyota Trucks and SUVs in the '90s to the late 2000s are especially vulnerable because the Catalytic Converters are more exposed than the average converter. The thieves can quickly unbolt/cut out the converter in minutes. Some of the larger Toyota Trucks and SUV’s have two Catalytic Converters as well.

If your Catalytic Converter has been replaced with an aftermarket Catalytic Converter within the past few years, there is a good chance it won’t be stolen. The new aftermarket Catalytic Converters don’t have as much of the precious metals, so thieves typically don’t take them.

Common Places where Catalytic Converter theft Occurs?

Your Home Driveway or Street

• Most of the Catalytic Converter thefts occur while your car is parked in your driveway or on the street in front of your house.
Parking Lots
• Vehicles parked in large open parking lots are targeted. A look-out will often watch out as a thief takes the Catalytic Converter.
Auto Dealer Lots
• Brand new vehicles on a Dealer Lot are targeted. The thieves have all night to steal popular Catalytic Converters while the new vehicles sit in their parking lot.

Semi-Truck Auto Transport Trailer

• Vehicles are targeted while they are on a Semi-Truck Auto Transport Trailer. Thieves can easily get underneath the vehicles to remove the Catalytic Converters.

Preventive tips on how to help prevent your Catalytic Converter from getting stolen:

  1. The No. 1 way to protect your vehicles Catalytic Converter is to park your vehicle(s) inside a garage or in a secure side yard.
  2. If you must park your vehicle in the driveway, motion detector lights or continuous lights illuminating your driveway may be a deterrent.
  3. Also, getting a vehicle motion detector alarm might help.
  4. Educate your friends and neighbors about Catalytic Converter theft so they can be a look-out too.
  5. Have extra metal welded to your exhaust system. Muffler shops are offering creative ways to protect your Catalytic Converter. They weld on metal to make it difficult for the Catalytic Converter to be removed. The cost is often less than your insurance deductible and definitely less than the full replacement cost (if you don’t have comprehensive insurance).
  6. Install a Catalytic Converter Protection Device. There are devices on the market that will clamp/go around your Catalytic Converter. Devices are often more expensive than welding extra metal, but for some this is the option they prefer.

What if your Catalytic Converter is stolen?

If your Catalytic Converter is stolen, you will know right away when you start your vehicle. It will sound like you don't have a muffler at all (like loud motorcycle mufflers). It is ok to drive your vehicle directly to a muffler/dealer shop to get the Catalytic Converter replaced. You do not need your vehicle towed to the shop.

Follow the Newark Police Department at nixle.com.

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