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Catalytic converter theft rampant; costly repair for truck owners

Catalytic converter theft in cars and trucks nationwide is increasing exponentially. The reason: The easily accessible part includes rare metals skyrocketing in value.

Located in front of a vehicle’s tailpipe, catalytic converters are easily removed, particularly in older cars and trucks with high clearances.

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Mandated for all U.S. cars and trucks in 1975, catalytic converters convert harmful pollutants into less harmful emissions before they’ve left the exhaust system. Platinum, palladium, rhodium or gold are used as the catalyst.

Thieves can sell converters to metal recyclers for $20-$200. The recyclers extract the metal and resell it for thousands of dollars per ounce.

Palladium sold for about $500 an ounce in 2016. It’s currently more than $2,300 per ounce. Rhodium sold for $640 an ounce in 2017. It’s currently priced at about $17,000 per ounce.

Replacing a catalytic converter is particularly expensive for truck owners. The Ferrari F430 has the steepest catalytic cover replacement cost at $3,770.

The Ram 2500 replacement cost is $3,460, the second-highest among mainstream automotive brands. The Ford F-250 has the fourth most-expensive cost of replacement, $2,804.

The average replacement catalytic converter cost is between $800–$1,200, depending on the vehicle’s make and model. Additional parts and labor costs are extra.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, Texas and Washington are the most prominent states for catalytic converter theft.

Thieves generally steal a catalytic converter by sliding underneath the car and sawing it out of the exhaust system. It takes about two minutes and the thefts usually occur in driveways, strip malls or in parking garages.

Note from editor: Read how one city in northwestern Washington state is trying to deter catalytic converter thefts by promoting theft prevention techniques here. Also included is a Catalytic Converter Theft Prevention Sheet.

James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: james@jamesraia.com.

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Donald N Wright
8 months ago

Perhaps I should find one of those recyclers and purchase a converter for my pickup, just in case.

Heather
8 months ago

I’m just going to strap a rattlesnake to mine.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
8 months ago
Reply to  Heather

There you go, Heather! Great idea! Have a good evening. 🙂 –Diane

Maurizio Taglianini
8 months ago

EVs are becoming more popular than catalytic converters, let’s hope legacy OEMs of gas and diesel will convert to electric, anyway well done Everett 🙂

Todd L
8 months ago

A friend of mine just had his stolen. He replaced it but before installation he engraved the VIN, the word “stolen”, and his name and phone number on the cat. Also painted it with hi-temp paint. Apparently the cat’s are worthless if painted.

david
8 months ago

They need to simply go after whom is creating the demand. Period. And bus them.

timjet
8 months ago

We have to question how the buyers of these stolen catalytic converters can remain in business. It can’t be that difficult to find out who these thieves are selling them to.
Last month my RV storage facility was hit with these thieves. One victim I talked to said they should have no problem finding the thieves with all the cameras at the facility. With such violent crime lately I wonder if any police force would find the time to investigate these crimes.

Tommy Molnar
8 months ago

I don’t get the “plus”.

Bob p
8 months ago

Batteries cost far more.

Warren G
8 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

But I haven’t heard of battery thefts.

Bob p
8 months ago

Maybe a little 1950’s ingenuity could help, back when I was young before anti theft devices were thought of we deterred thieves with Model A ignition coils and a ground wire in touch with the ground. When thief touched the car they would get a several thousand volt shock, the amps were low so it wasn’t lethal but it would definitely deter the thief. He’d find a less shocking car to steal. Lol

Heather
8 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

Great idea but where do you ground on pavement or shopping area?
Honestly I want to know because I’d love to do this. Genius idea!

Mikebike
8 months ago
Reply to  Heather

Use the olden day ground strap that used to ground a vehicle just insulate it from vehicle body or from the frame and use fence charger from tractor supply, connect one end to ground and other to car, but beware you might be libel, plus they could be wearing gloves

Sue
8 months ago

Why don’t the car mfgs. engrave the VIN on the converter? When catalytic converters first came out there was a rash of thefts, then they mostly stopped, now thefts have started again. Why wasn’t there a problem for years?

Bob
8 months ago
Reply to  Sue

That may help in some circumstances, but there are a lot of unscrupulous scrapyards that will still accept them. The thieves know where they are.

Bob p
8 months ago
Reply to  Sue

Car makers make money off of selling new converters.

Heather
8 months ago
Reply to  Sue

That is a very good question. I’d like to know too!