Catalytic Converter Theft; How to Prevent it.

If you have been following the news lately you may have noticed a new trend, Catalytic Converter Theft. This new trend is popular with thieves across North America, and I am sure the world as well. This alarming new trend is the theft of Catalytic Convertors from vehicle owners everywhere.

I have noticed during my research into this topic that no vehicle is safe. People are stealing Catalytic Converters from vehicles of all shapes and sizes. From single family vehicles sitting in your driveway to entire fleets of hundreds of vehicles, thieves are targeting everyone.

So why is Catalytic Converter Theft such an issue? To answer this question correctly we need to jump into the numbers. A typical catalytic converter that is recycled at a scrap metal recycling center can earn a thief between $50-$1000.

I know, this number varies significantly but there is a reason. A catalytic converter is a special automotive component as it contains metals. These metals are used to complete the conversion process. The conversion takes the harmful gases from the exhaust and convert them into less harmful gases when they exit the tailpipe.

The three metals that are most common in this component that we will take a closer look at are, Palladium, Rhodium and Platinum. These are the most expensive metals in the catalytic converter.

At the time I am writing this article the prices for these metals are at very high levels.

  • Platinum  $968 per ounce
  • Palladium $1856 per ounce
  • Rhodium $11900 per ounce

While all these metals are volatile, Rhodium reached a peak price of nearly $30000 an ounce in March of 2021.

I was amazed at much these metals were worth the first time I took a look into the growing trend of catalytic converter theft. It was eye opening. Gold for example, which tends to be regarding as the most expensive precious metal, was worth $1797 per ounce.

When a catalytic converter is recycled at a scrap metal recycling center. The amount of these metals that are in the catalytic converter are what causes the significant price fluctuations.

The catalytic converter is cut open and the insides of the converter are dumped out, separated and recycled. The facilities will know how much materials are in these converters when they are recycled and change the payout accordingly.

I believe the main reason that catalytic converter theft has become so common is the ease of theft as well as selling the stolen component.

Stealing a catalytic converter is simple. Equipped with nothing more than a jack and battery operated Sawzall. A single person could cut out many of these converters in a single evening. There have been reports of fleets of vehicles that have had all of their vehicle’s converters stolen in a single evening.

Most people would assume that there would be a way of tracking catalytic converter theft when they are sold at scrap metal recyclers. This is another issue, there is no way of tracking these components. There are also many vehicle owners, backyard mechanics, among others that are turning in catalytic converters legally.

It is hard for scrap metal companies to distinguish between properly acquired catalytic converters and illegally obtained catalytic converters.

There are a few ways that you can protect yourself from this type of theft. Many different products that are coming on the market, and I believe you will see many more in the near future. There are devices that mechanically attach a bracket to your catalytic converter and a set of cables that attach to the frame of the vehicle.

This method is a deterrent, as you can imagine with a little more time the thieves can also cut the cables to remove it from the vehicle. But like the Club anti-theft device, maybe just the sight of this device will deter criminals from your vehicle,  they will hopefully than move onto the next.

Another company,  Mastergard  is bringing out an unique solution. The company has a sticker that you can place onto your catalytic converter. Once this sticker is applied an etching solution is applied to the catalytic converter.

This etching solution will cause a permanent marking that is not easily removed. This number can be tracked in a database that is accessible from anywhere. This is a unique solution, if your catalytic converter is recovered it can be returned to you.

As time progresses, I can assume that more solutions will be brought to market that can help reduce the high rates of catalytic converter theft. If you live in a high-risk area or own a fleet of vehicles that are at risk, ensure you take a look at the solutions that may be available currently.

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