Catalytic Converter Theft, What You Can Do to Stop It

A catalytic converter is a device in petrol-powered vehicles that transforms toxic carbon emissions from the internal combustion engine into safer gases before they’re released outside. But did you know modern car exhaust systems are designed with precious metal materials? These precious metals even have a higher value than gold.

Australia has experienced an uptick in the number of catalytic converter thefts across the country. Law enforcement agencies nationwide are warning car owners to be on the lookout for thieves targeting vehicles with exhaust systems containing precious metals. The thieves usually target parked cars in auto dealer lots, residential driveways, commercial parking lots, shopping centre car parks, and commuter car parks.

In the northern beaches of Sydney, at least five exhaust system thefts were reported at the same shopping centre alone. This indicates the frequency of these crimes and why you should be on the lookout for suspicious people around parked cars. It doesn’t take much for a thief to access the catalytic converter of a parked vehicle because all they have to do is crawl underneath it.

Once a thief hacks an exhaust system with their tools and skills, they can disconnect the converter and make off with it before the owner gets back to their vehicle. It doesn’t take long for a skilled thief to steal a catalytic converter because they know what they are looking for and how to steal it.

The catalytic converter looks like a large metal tube installed between the mufflers and the internal combustion engine. It isn’t difficult to notice once a thief gets under a parked vehicle.

The Value of Catalytic Converters

Australian petrol-powered vehicles have come equipped with catalytic converters since 1986. Over 35 years later, millions of cars in the country have catalytic converters with precious metals installed in them. They could become vandalised and stripped of their catalytic converters whenever their owners are not around.

What is the value of the precious metals in the catalytic converters? Why do they contain precious metals in the first place? The catalytic converters are made with precious metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium because they serve as a catalyst that converts toxic hydrocarbons into water and carbon dioxide.

However, the thieves don’t want the precious metals for their catalytic abilities. Instead, they want these precious metals because they have a high standalone value. And since some catalytic converters have more precious metals than others, the value of each catalytic converter is different.

Let’s look at the current value of these precious metals:

Rhodium (2 Grams) – Between $680 and $1360

Palladium (2 to 7 Grams) – Between $178 and $614

Platinum (3 to 7 Grams) – Between $136 and $319

Many older catalytic converters can be worth up to $1,400 because of the amount of rhodium and other precious metals in them. As a result, some people visit wrecking yards and metal recyclers to find old catalytic converters and extract their precious metals from them.

Of course, most junk vehicles have already been stripped of their catalytic converters after they arrive at wrecking yards and recycling stations. But you never know if one of those junk vehicles still has a catalytic converter left in it.

Unfortunately, thieves would rather target people’s parked vehicles than go on a scavenging hunt in the wrecking yard. That is why you must be careful.

How to Stop Catalytic Converter Theft

Australian police reports show the most common vehicles to incur catalytic converter theft are the Toyota Prius, Honda Jazz, and most trucks and SUVs. Thieves target these vehicles because their designs make it easier to get underneath them and steal the catalytic converters. Pretty much any car with a higher ride height is easily susceptible to catalytic converter theft.

Fortunately, you can implement a few preventative measures to stop a potential catalytic converter theft from your vehicle. The best theft prevention tips are as follows:

Park Next to Lower Height Vehicles

When you park your vehicle in a parking space next to other cars with lower ride heights, thieves will find it more difficult to get underneath your car because they won’t have much room to work.

For instance, if you drive an SUV or truck, you should park it next to multiple sedans. It will give you the best chance of deterring would-be thieves from trying to get underneath your vehicle.

Park in Brightly Lit Areas

Parking your vehicle in brightly lit areas is also essential if it is night time. Catalytic converter thieves want to be as discreet as possible and don’t want to risk getting seen. So if you can park underneath car park lights or near buildings with lights, it could deter thieves from messing with your vehicle.

Park Near Surveillance Cameras

Look for surveillance cameras in the parking area and park near them. Surveillance cameras are an even greater deterrent to thieves because they video record all the activity happening in the area. No reasonably intelligent thief would risk having their actions recorded on video, so they will likely stay away from your vehicle if it’s near a surveillance camera.

Engrave the Converter with Your VIN or License Plate Number

If you’re genuinely concerned about your catalytic converter getting stolen, you may want to leave an identifiable mark on it to trace it back to your vehicle.

For example, you could engrave the catalytic converter with your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) or license plate number. That way, if your catalytic converter ever gets stolen, it will be easier to trace it back to your vehicle and locate the thief.

Park in a Garage or Enclosed Space

If you park inside a parking garage or other secure enclosed space, no thief will want to attempt to steal your catalytic converter. Just make sure access to the enclosed space is limited or monitored for security purposes. If you’re at home, park your vehicle in the garage and close the garage door.

Try the CatClamp

There is a new security device for catalytic converters called the CatClamp. The device is a durable wire cage made of aircraft-quality steel that you put over the catalytic converter to protect it from thieves. Since the catalytic converter is locked inside the cage, no thief can remove it.

The CatClamp and other similar theft-prevention products are available online. Choose whichever one looks the best for protecting your vehicle’s catalytic converter.