Catalytic converters still a popular car theft item

March 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Catalytic converters in a car engine are still a popular target for thieves, and it has been a problem for years. The trend shows no signs of abating, though there's a new law to deal with it.

"On average, we're seeing about three catalytic converter thefts a week," said Andy Wernette of Alioto's Garage in San Francisco. "It's been pretty steady that way for a couple years now."

Catalytic converters are a part of the car's exhaust system, and they're coveted by thieves who can get a couple hundred dollars per from scrap metal recyclers. Inside the humble converters are precious metals like rhodium, priced at $9,500 an ounce, and platinum, priced at $2,000 an ounce, according to Nationwide Insurance.

Thieves like cars that sit high off the ground. With a hacksaw they can be in and out in minutes. The repair isn't cheap.

"Typically most folks are forced to call their insurance company as a result of the cost of a new catalytic converter; can sometimes be as high as $1,200, $1,500," said Wernette.

A law that took effect in January of last year requires recyclers to create a paper trail for all converter transactions that includes the place and date, the converter owner's name, ID, vehicle license number, a signed statement of ownership, and a clear picture or video of the seller.

The Internet also offers ways to secure converters, like a CatClamp lock. Or, there's this car owner's plan...

"We've been joking around that there's been that video going around about how you have to hide your kids and hide your wife, and I guess now you got to hide your catalytic converter," said Chrix Finne whose 1998 Toyota Forerunner had its converter stolen in San Francisco.

You can make your car a tougher target for thieves by parking in well-lighted areas and close to the entrance of buildings, engraving your license plate number on the converter so it can be traced, and purchasing a vehicle security system.

For more tips on how to prevent catalytic converter thefts, visit

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