Catalytic Converter Thefts Skyrocket

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By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter

Catalytic converter theft is dramatically increasing in Michigan and across the country.

A catalytic converter is a component of a vehicle’s exhaust system. Located on the underside of the vehicle, it resembles a standard muffler. The catalytic converter removes harmful emissions from a vehicle’s exhaust. Converters use the precious metals platinum, palladium, and/or rhodium, to reduce nitrogen atoms from the nitrogen oxide molecules in vehicle emissions. This lets the free oxygen atoms be released as oxygen gas.

As of this writing, the price of platinum is $943/oz and rhodium $11,800/oz. Palladium is $2,013/oz. Bloomfield Township Police report that thieves get $400-500 for catalytic converters at area scrap yards.

"Thieves can easily remove these expensive parts from cars and then sell them to recyclers for hundreds of dollars depending on the car's make and model," said Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) Director Anita Fox in a release. "In addition to replacing the expensive converter itself, the damage caused by these thefts can be extensive and may cost as much as $3,000, or more, to repair. This will be covered by a comprehensive auto insurance policy, but those who have not purchased this non-mandatory coverage may end up paying out of pocket for these repairs."

Thieves can use a battery-powered reciprocating saw to remove a catalytic converter in 30 seconds to two minutes. Often, these thefts occur in the middle of the night and can go undetected until the vehicle is started in the morning.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), 14,433 converters were reported stolen nationwide in 2020, up from just 3,389 in 2019 and 1,298 in 2018. And this year is much worse. The insurance website way.com says as of Nov. 5, thefts are up 400% from 2020.

Local law enforcement is also seeing an increase in catalytic converter thefts. The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office has included the following caution in its recent reports: “Throughout the month, Deputies have responded to several complaints of catalytic converters being stolen from vehicles. Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise nationwide due to the rising cost of metals. Whenever possible, park vehicles in an enclosed garage or area secured by a fence.”

To protect your vehicle from this type of theft, the NICB recommends that you take the following steps:

  • Install a catalytic converter anti-theft device. These are available from various manufacturers and can provide a level of security from theft.
  • Park vehicles in a garage if possible.
  • If vehicles must be parked in a driveway, consider installing motion sensor security lights. While lights may not provide complete security, it may make some thieves think twice, making them leave the area and your vehicle untouched.
  • Call local law enforcement and your insurer should you become the victim of a catalytic converter theft.

Contact your insurance agent or company to understand your coverage before experiencing a loss to protect yourself financially.

Image by João Paulo from Pixabay

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