Thieves often target valuable components on cars. Sometimes entire cars are stolen and parted out, while in other cases, only certain parts are stolen and the rest of the vehicle is left intact.
One car part that’s especially popular with thieves is the catalytic converter. But why do people steal catalytic converters specifically? To get to the heart of the issue, we’ll need to understand the role that this part plays in vehicles and the value it provides.
The catalytic converter is part of a car’s exhaust system. If it has a gas or a diesel engine, your car emits gasses while the engine is burning fuel. These emissions can be harmful to people and the environment, but the catalytic converter contains elements like rhodium, platinum and palladium that react with and neutralize the harmful gases found in your car’s exhaust.
Where Is This Car Part Located?
Typically, the catalytic converter is located on the underside of your vehicle along the pipe that channels exhaust gasses from the engine to the muffler and out the tailpipe. The catalytic converter itself looks something like a muffler.
Why Is a Catalytic Converter Important?
The catalytic converter protects the air quality of our environment by cleaning vehicles’ emissions. In many states, cars have to pass regular emissions tests to drive legally on the road. Your vehicle will need a functioning catalytic converter to pass these tests.
Importantly, if there’s a blockage in this component or some other problem, the catalytic converter can prevent hot, dirty gasses from escaping and causing the engine to overheat, which could create a fire hazard and damage the engine.
Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters?
There are a couple of reasons why people steal catalytic converters. For one, it contains valuable metals. As we’ve mentioned, a catalytic converter uses metals such as rhodium, platinum and palladium to neutralize toxic gases, and those metals are rare and valuable. Rhodium, for example, sells for thousands of dollars per ounce. For this reason, thieves often steal catalytic converters to extract and sell the precious metals they contain.
A thief might also target this part for its as-is resale value. Catalytic converters can be expensive to replace when they’re broken, with some selling for more than a thousand dollars. Consumers or garages might be tempted to buy stolen second-hand parts — unknowingly or not — to save some money.
How Can You Prevent Your Catalytic Converter from Being Stolen?
For theft to occur, a thief would need to slide underneath your car and remove the converter by either disassembling the exhaust piping or cutting the unit free with a saw or grinder.
Here are some steps you can take to prevent your catalytic converter from being stolen:
- Always park in a safe place. A thief would need to get under your car to steal the catalytic converter, so park in a place that would make it difficult for them to do so. Avoid parking in locations that are deserted or poorly lit, and opt for well-traveled streets with lots of security cameras instead.
- You could have the converter welded to your car, which would make it harder for a thief to remove it. There are also special clamps and cages you can buy that serve the same purpose.
- Install a car alarm as a deterrent. Choose one that’s sensitive enough to detect the vibrations that are created when a converter is sawed off.
The catalytic converter is one of your car’s most valuable components, so be sure to keep the above guidance in mind and take action now to keep it safe from thieves.
Check out all the catalytic converter parts available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on catalytic converters, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photos courtesy of Flickr.
I'm a writer and editor who's a regular contributor with the New York Daily News and Carfax, and my content has appeared in over 20 publications. I've written content that covers industries such as automotive, medical, insurance, healthcare, real estate, plumbing, pest control, dental and hospitality.