You might not realize it, but the catalytic converter on the bottom of your car contains minerals that have become more valuable than gold.
While you may not be aware of this fact, thieves definitely are. Because of corrupt rules of supply and criminal demand, theft of these devices is on the rise.
The catalytic converter in your car is a shiny, oval-shaped body between the engine and the muffler. Its purpose, as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since 1975, is to provide cleaner air by removing the worst toxic pollutants from your vehicle’s exhaust.
However, thieves don’t seem to care much about the clean air or the economic pain they can cause you.
The price of precious metals
So, if catalytic converters have been in demand on vehicles for nearly half the past century, why are we now hearing about rampant theft? Answer: Because the precious metals that encapsulate the honeycomb interior of the transformer have skyrocketed in value.
Why has its value increased? according to The New York TimesThis is due to the “global trend towards stricter emissions regulations, as well as more stringent implementation yet.” Volkswagen emissions scandal“, As the carmaker illegally modified pollution controls in its vehicles to look cleaner than they really were.”
This, The Times reported, “has increased the demand for high-performance catalytic converters and the valuable metals that make them work.”
While the price of gold was around $ 1,800 an ounce in mid-February, the price of palladium – one of the precious metals in catalytic converters – rose to more than acceptable, $ 2,000 an ounce, a five-fold increase from five years ago. Rhodium, another precious metal in catalytic converters, is $ 21,900 per ounce, a 3,000% increase from five years ago.
Because of these prices, thieves slip under the vehicles at night and remove the transformers with a saw or pipe cutter in just a few minutes. Their next step is to find buyers on the black market, which is apparently not a difficult task. In this case, this means that scrap yards and recyclers will pay thieves $ 200 to $ 300 for the transformers before then sell them to the recyclers who extract the valuable metals.
Eight times the increase in St. Louis
While no national statistics have been collected, a wide range of domestic counts by police departments emerge The extent of theft. In St. Louis, thefts increased eight-fold from 2019 to 2020. In Wichita, Kansas, they nearly tripled.
For victims, the cost can be significant. Typically, the cost to replace a stolen catalytic converter is at least $ 1,000, but it can be as high as $ 2,000 or $ 3,000 if the thief causes more damage. If you have comprehensive auto insurance, theft of this type must be covered, and it is only non-deductible. But it is important to keep in mind that automatic policy discounts are usually not the same as medical discounts, which are good for one year. With most auto insurance, every accident is.
It appears outrageous that scrap dealers are deliberately buying potentially hot catalytic converters, and some states have begun to respond by asking them to verify photo IDs. California has even started asking them to take pictures of sellers.
Several legislative bodies are considering bills to further suppress this practice. at Indiana, A recently introduced bill that makes the theft of a catalytic converter a felony punishable by imprisonment. Minnesota bill Under study, anyone except licensed scrap metal dealers is prohibited from purchasing used catalytic converters. It would also limit scrap metal dealers to purchase from repair shops, auto recyclers, or vehicle owners who provide proof of ownership.
What you can do
The problem, however, is that a strict law in one state cannot prevent thieves from selling their wares in another country with weak or non-existent laws.
Therefore, vehicle owners have a responsibility to take matters into their own hands to guard against catalytic converter theft.
- First, there are physical barriers and sirens for sale on the Internet or auto supply stores that can offer protection for $ 100 and up.
- If you cannot park your car in a garage, you should strive to park it in a location that may deter thieves. This means parking the car in well-lit areas or near places where many eyes can look through the windows. In many cities, areas near alleys should be avoided for this reason – there are not enough eyes.
- If the catalytic converter is bolted, you can close the welds and add additional welded metal to the exhaust system.
- Etch your license plate number on your adapter to make it traceable.
- Educate your friends and neighbors about the problem, so they keep a close eye on any suspicious activity.
- If you see suspicious activity, contact the police.
Perhaps the laws should be strengthened to make things more dangerous for people buying stolen goods. And maybe we need to start thinking more about electric cars.