Catalytic Converter Theft in Houston is on the rise. First noticed by local law enforcement agencies, this trend appears to be nationwide. It might even be global. Two factors are working together to drive the increase in thefts.
First, stricter emissions standards worldwide have skyrocketed demand for the metals used inside of CCs. Second, rising demand has meant an enormous increase in these metals’ prices. The two main metals are rhodium and palladium. According to The New York Times, palladium cost has more than quadrupled in the last five years. Palladium went from $500 an ounce to somewhere around $2,500 an ounce. The increase in rhodium price has been even more dramatic. Its price increased from $640 an ounce five years ago to approximately $21,900 an ounce.
Second, CCs are easy to steal. A thief with a hacksaw and a few minutes can easily cut a CC off a vehicle. They can then sell that CC to a junkyard, which sells the metal for scrap. It is a relatively low-risk, high-reward venture for thieves. The result? A dramatic increase in CC thefts nationwide. Some areas have reported an increase of three to eight times as many CC thefts in the last year alone.
What Is a Catalytic Converter?
A CC is part of your vehicle’s emissions/exhaust system. They help reduce the amount of air pollution your automobile emits. It is located under your car or truck, on the exhaust pipe, before the muffler. The CC has openings on both ends. It is shaped a little like a hot water bottle.
Signs of a Stolen Catalytic Converter
If you are a car person, you might immediately recognize the sound of a missing CC. If you are not a car person, you will still know something is wrong. That is because if the CC is missing, your car is going to be loud. Think of the sound of revving up a motorcycle.
Driving Without a Catalytic Converter
What do you do if your CC has been stolen? Is it safe to drive without a catalytic converter? You can drive your vehicle to the shop for a replacement or repair. Still, you should not engage in routine driving without the CC. While driving without a CC is not dangerous and will not damage your car, it is not environmentally friendly. It is also illegal. Driving without a CC can set you up to get ticketed and fined. Plus, if you are driving without your CC, everyone near you will know. The sound is loud!
Catalytic Converter Theft and Insurance
Is catalytic converter theft covered by insurance? The answer is- maybe. Individual coverage depends on your policy’s specific details, your coverage limits and is subject to your deductible. Suppose you have a comprehensive car insurance policy. In that case, your car insurance should help you pay to replace the CC. It may also help pay to repair any other damage done by the thief.
Catalytic converter replacement costs range from around $1000 to $3000. Costs depend on your vehicle type. Also, you may need to replace additional parts, depending on how the thief stole the converter. If you have a low deductible and your repair cost is high, an insurance claim may make sense. However, if you have a higher deductible and your repair cost is low, you might want to self-pay. You want to check with your insurance company to see if making a claim will result in higher insurance rates for you. With that information, you can determine which option is ultimately the most affordable.
Hybrid Cars at Higher Risk
You may have heard about targeted Prius catalytic converter theft. Why do thieves appear to be targeting Priuses and other hybrid cars? The answer is simple. Hybrid vehicles do not burn as much gasoline. The gasoline-burning process is what uses up the metals in a CC. So, the CCs in hybrid cars are likely to contain more of the metals that thieves are targeting. This is especially true in older model hybrid cars. Older model Priuses are a popular target because they had a greater amount of those metals.
Frequently Targeted Vehicles
No cars manufactured after 1974 are safe from catalytic converter thieves. However, but there are some catalytic converter theft popular cars that are at higher risk. Generally, thieves are more likely to target trucks and SUVs because they are higher off the ground, making it easier for thieves to get to the CC.
The highest risk vehicles are Toyota trucks or SUVs manufactured in the ’90s through the late 2000s. Their CCs are more accessible for thieves than those on other vehicles. Some of these vehicles also have two CCs. With two CCs, thieves can double their reward while only adding a couple of minutes of additional risk.
After Market Catalytic Converters
If you have an after-market catalytic converter, you have a reduced risk. After-market CCs manufactured in the past few years contain fewer precious metals. This makes them a lower-reward option for thieves. Having an after-market CC does not mean that a thief will not try to steal it, just that you are at a lower risk.
How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft in High-risk Locations
Because thieves have to physically access the underside of vehicles in order to steal catalytic converters, avoiding parking in these high-risk locations seems like the logical first step in catalytic converter theft prevention. However, this is easier said than done. The vast majority of catalytic converter thefts occur from residential driveways or from cars parked on residential streets. If you have a garage, parking your car in your shut garage can reduce your risk, but for many people, that simply is not an option. The second most popular place is actually from parking lots in hardware and convenience stores. A lookout keeps watch as you go inside, and you come out to find that your catalytic converter is missing. Of course, auto dealers and auto transport trailers offer the biggest potential rewards for thieves and are major targets of theft.
What do these high-risk areas mean for most car owners? You can set up security in your driveway to capture people on camera or turn on motion lights, but those are only mild deterrents to determined thieves. You could also avoid public parking lots, but that seems like an extreme measure. A motion-detecting alarm on your car may be the most affordable prevention remedy because it are designed to alert you to the presence of people who are too close to your vehicle.
Catalytic Converter Theft Prevention Tips
Of course, there are some other steps you can take to prevent catalytic converter theft.
Etching is one of the easiest steps you can take to help prevent catalytic converter theft. You etch your CC with your license plate number or another identifier. Many police departments may even do this for free. This method can help make it more difficult for thieves to sell CCs.
However, because thieves are moving quickly when stealing the parts, they may not notice the etching until after they have already taken the CC. We would not rely on it alone to significantly reduce your risk. Still, it is an excellent strategy to use with other methods.
People have been using inventive ways to prevent these thefts. They have their mechanics weld extra material onto their exhaust systems. The additional material makes it more difficult to remove the CC. While it is effective and reasonably affordable to add this extra material, it can be unattractive.
Security Clamps. Security clamps may be the best deterrent to potential thieves. These devices clamp around the CC and prevent thefts. They are also known as catalytic converter protection devices. The price for these systems depends on the vehicle, and installation costs may vary. They cost significantly less than replacing a CC.
Motion Detector Alarms. For many vehicle owners, alarms are the preferred solution for reducing risk. Also known as proximity sensors, they alert you when someone gets too close to your vehicle. Their popularity is because they do not just protect the CC but can offer protection for the whole car. The downside is that these motion detector alarms can go off when there is no risk. Over time, if people ignore them, they become ineffective.
What Can Specialized Truck and Auto Do for Me?
We are a full-service auto repair shop located in Humble, Texas. We are highly rated by our customers. We have built a reputation for offering fair, affordable, reliable auto repairs and maintenance for our customers.
We work with insurance companies. Our technicians and mechanics can replace your CC and repair any other damages from the theft.
We also offer to finance. The same high metal prices that make CCs so tempting to thieves can also make replacing them an unexpected financial burden for many people.
Unfortunately, we cannot change the market structure that is driving these costs up so high. However, we try to make it possible for our customers to get their vehicles repaired quickly and pay for those repairs over time.
Finally, we can help you with prevention. Unless these metal prices drop, catalytic converter thefts are just going to keep rising. We offer security clamps and motion detector alarms to help deter thieves. We can also help you determine your vehicle’s best option.