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Catalytic Converter Thefts Rise As Metal Inside ‘More Valuable Than Gold’

Police ask victims to report converter thefts as cases on the rise nationally.

These are some of the stolen catalytic converters recovered by police

Theft of catalytic converters from the exhaust system of vehicles has become a growing problem just about everywhere. It’s not a new issue, but as the price of certain metals has risen, so have thefts.
Add to the equation the Covid Pandemic that has created financial hardship for many people, to quote a well known saying “desperate people will do desperate things”.

The difference lately is the price of precious metals, and obviously it’s the precious metals inside those catalytic converters that they’re looking to steal and then sell on the black market.
New cars, used cars, nearly any vehicle with a catalytic converter can be a target. The exception is electric vehicles, which don’t have them, because they don’t produce any emissions.

Precious Metals

The thefts have been happening across the U.S. and Canada for the last year and thieves appear to be after three precious metals inside the converter: platinum, rhodium and palladium. That’s really what the rise is about, those metals are “more valuable than gold right now.

Palladium is currently selling for just over $2,800 an ounce, and could rise to $3,000 by the end of the year.
Platinum was selling for $1,500 an ounce recently, while rhodium was going for about $30,000 US an ounce at the end of February of this year, an ounce of gold is currently selling for about $2,200.

One reason for the rising value of platinum, rhodium and palladium is that as automakers make vehicles to meet tightening emission standards, manufacturers need by comparison, more of these precious metals to allow the catalytic converter to control these stricter emission standards.

Stolen From Mechanic Shops, Dealerships

There have been thefts reported from vehicles parked overnight at mechanic shops, sometimes at private residences and also at vehicle dealerships.
After the catalytic converter has been stolen, repair shop owners arrive in the morning and start the vehicles up and it makes a terrible noise because there’s essentially no exhaust system on the vehicle.”

Some repair shop owners have resorted to letting the air out of the tires on vehicles that are going to be left outside overnight to make it more difficult to get under the car.
Other shop owners are warning their customers of the liability in the event the vehicle has to be parked outside. In some cases the cost of a catalytic converter can match or even exceed an insurance deductible.

It seems even with fencing with barbed wire across the top is not much of a deterrent since the thieves have been cutting a hole in the fence. Other shop owners have invested in elaborate camera systems, but as police say these thieves are in and out so quickly, it hard to identify or much less apprehend them. Some shop owners have brought dogs to the shop to patrol the outside premises overnight.

Tips To Avoid Theft

Thefts from vehicles that are higher off the ground appear to happen more frequently, but even so, it doesn’t take much for a thief to jack up a car and remove the converter “in just minutes.”
There are third-party companies that can etch an ID number onto a vehicle’s catalytic converter and enter that information into a database. The database is available for concerned salvage operators to check.

While black-market scrap metal dealers would likely still take an engraved converter, it really helps with minimizing the ability for [thieves] to get rid of their product.
Some people are going to their local garage to have the converter welded to the vehicle frame (don’t know about that one, that’s got to create quite a vibration through the vehicle frame) or have mechanics put a screen over it. That may be a bit extreme, but anything that makes it more difficult to cut out the converter can help deter a would-be thief.


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