Here’s What You Need to Know About Catalytic Converter Thefts

Catalytic converter thefts have been on the rise in Pennsylvania since 2018. Due to a recent increase of the value of the materials and precious metals inside a catalytic converter, this quick, low-risk crime comes with a high reward. Catalytic converters are sold to metal recyclers for more than $100 and sometimes as much as a few hundred dollars.

Source: Philadelphia Police Major Crimes Auto Squad

What does a catalytic converter do, and why are they stolen?

A catalytic converter does two things for your vehicle: first, it converts harmful emissions into less dangerous gasses. Secondly, it helps to muffle the sound of your engine.

Stolen cars are often stripped and sold for parts. Catalytic converters are valuable due to the previous metals inside the equipment, including platinum, palladium, and rhodium. These metals coat the ceramic interior of the converter. It can take an experienced thief 15-30 seconds to remove the equipment from underneath your vehicle. 

Why are catalytic converter thefts increasing? 

While this is a vastly underreported crime, data from insurance claims shows a correlation between reported thefts and the increasing value of the metals used in catalytic converters. This crime will likely continue to increase as the value of the precious metals continue to rise.

Which vehicles are at risk? 

Any vehicle produced after 1974 has a catalytic converter. Vehicles that are high off of the ground make it easy for thieves to crawl under and steal the equipment. Motorhomes are often targeted as well. Read more from CARFAX and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) on top cars that are targeted in the Northeast and nationwide.

Do thieves steal catalytic converters from hybrid vehicles?
Yes. In fact, catalytic converters from hybrid vehicles are worth more at chop shops as more precious metals are needed for a hybrid vehicle.

How will I know if someone stole my catalytic converter? 

You’ll know immediately if your catalytic converter has been stolen. There will be a significant amount of noise that you typically wouldn’t be able to hear from your car.

What should I do if my catalytic converter is stolen?
You will want to drive your vehicle to a repair shop right away to get the catalytic converter replaced. You should also see if the part is covered by your car insurance policy.

How much will replacing a catalytic converter cost?

Not considering varying insurance deductibles, replacing a catalytic converter can cost a few thousand dollars.

How can I prevent my catalytic converter from being stolen? 

  • Always park your car in a well-lit area, and park in a private garage if you’re able. 
  • Some vehicle owners choose to etch their vehicle identification number (VIN) or license plate number into their catalytic converter to make it identifiable. Some also make the catalytic converter identifiable with a high-temperature automotive exhaust paint.
  • There are commercially produced marking kits with emerging technology that adds an identification number onto the catalytic converter. 
  • To lessen the chance of your vehicle being stolen and stripped for parts, lock your car, take your keys, every time. 

What is being done to prevent catalytic converter thefts? 

The Scrap Metal Theft Prevention Act of 2008 requires scrap processors and metal recycling facilities to only purchase catalytic converters from commercial businesses and to keep a record of who they are buying the parts from, but the responsibility is on these businesses to comply with the legislation. The legislation also states that those records must be made available to police upon request.

Why are catalytic converter thefts difficult to resolve?

It’s difficult to identify a stolen catalytic converter and challenging to prosecute the alleged perpetrator as there’s  typically no serial number or identifier on catalytic converters. 

What is the Auto Theft Prevention Authority?
Created in 1994 by the state General Assembly, the Pennsylvania Auto Theft Prevention Authority (ATPA) provides grants statewide to law enforcement agencies with the goal of reducing auto theft. Since inception, vehicle theft rates in Pennsylvania have decreased 73 percent, compared to a national decrease of only 47 percent. 

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