Catalytic Converter thefts have been in the news a lot lately. And since this uptick in thefts is affecting communities nationwide, you may have a friend or neighbor who has fell victim to this crime.
In Los Angeles county alone, thefts have increased a whopping 400 percent in a year. Fortunately, law enforcement efforts have had some success with a recent sting resulting in the arrest of 19 people and recovery of $750,000 worth of converters.
Catalytic Converter theft is so profitable, perpetrators can amass fortunes selling them on the black market. At the same time, unfortunate vehicle owners are out anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to replace their missing part.
If you’re not exactly sure what a Catalytic Converter is, why it’s such a hot commodity, or why thefts are on the increase… read on. We explain why your car needs this environmentally friendly, hard-working component and how you can protect yours.
What is a Catalytic Converter?
A Catalytic Converter, or “Cat,” is a device typically used with internal combustion engines that neutralizes emissions expelled from the vehicle’s exhaust. You can also find Cats on forklift trucks and kerosene heaters and stoves.
The Cat converts the toxic gases and pollutants coming from the engine through the exhaust into cleaner material. Introduced in the mid-70s, Cats were used by the US auto industry to enable the cars rolling off the assembly lines to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s stricter exhaust-emission regulations.
Why Are Cats So Popular With Thieves?
Catalytic Converters are being taken for two key reasons: they’re valuable and they’re easy to steal. In addition to copper, nickel, iron, and manganese, Cats contain platinum, palladium, and rhodium. These precious metals currently cost more than gold. The value of the metals has been driven up, in part, due to higher demand for low-emission vehicles.
Experienced thieves can slip under a car with a saw and be off with their loot in minutes. Then, the Cats can be sold for scrap on the black market and melted down to extract the metals.
Why the Increase in Thefts?
A variety of factors has created the “perfect storm” for Cat theft.
- Stricter emissions regulations around the globe have left certain countries scrambling to get the raw materials needed for converter production. This deficit has driven up the value of the metals to an all-time high.
- More hybrid models on the road results in an abundance of clean, hardly used converters for the taking. (With Toyota Priuses being targeted heavily.)
- The pandemic has resulted in massive unemployment which has left some members of society desperate and in dire straits financially.
- More opportunity — Increased numbers of people working from home nowadays mean more vehicles left parked on the street for days at a time.
How Can I Protect My Catalytic Converter?
If you follow some of these suggestions, you’ll deter thieves and keep your Cat where it’s meant to be — firmly attached to the underbelly of your car.
- If possible, keep your car in a locked garage.
- When you have to park on the street, choose a well-lit spot with plenty of foot traffic, or close to a building entrance.
- Make it difficult for anyone to maneuver under your car by parking close to a wall or another vehicle.
- Get your VIN etched onto the Cat so it’s easier to trace.
- Spray paint your CAT to make it unsellable
- Have your Cat welded on to your car’s frame or install a metal plate to cover it.
- If you have a car alarm, set it to go off when it detects vibration.
Is Catalytic Converter Theft Covered by Insurance?
If you have the bad fortune to have your Catalytic Converter stolen — and you have Comprehensive coverage on your policy — it will take care of the replacement and any necessary repairs, minus your deductible. If you’re not sure what’s included in your Wawanesa policy, or what your deductible is, feel free to give one of our helpful agents a call at 1-800-640-2920. Or you can find the information by logging into your online account.
Don’t have Comprehensive coverage? Unless your car is worth less than the lowest available deductible amount, we strongly suggest carrying Comprehensive on your policy. In addition to protecting you from theft, Comprehensive also covers vehicle damage caused by incidents like vandalism, extreme weather, or falling trees and more.