5 things you can do to prevent catalytic converter theft

·3 min read
A catalytic converter is shown under a car on a lift. The devices, which convert toxic gases into more benign emissions, are often the target of thieves because they contain precious metals, including platinum.
A catalytic converter is shown under a car on a lift. The devices, which convert toxic gases into more benign emissions, are often the target of thieves because they contain precious metals, including platinum.

Over a 14-month period, as many as 13,000 catalytic converters were stolen in Greater Columbus, causing an estimated $19 million in losses.

That's according to Groveport police Chief Casey Adams, whose department has been leading a multi-agency investigation into rampant theft of the emission-control devices, which can fetch thousands of dollars because of the precious metals they contain.

Six people were arrested last week by Groveport police in connection with catalytic converter theft. The arrests come about six months after authorities arrested a Columbus man they say led a catalytic converter theft ring that was operating across five central Ohio counties.

But Adams, during a press conference last week announcing the latest arrests, said Ohio law enforcement officers can only do so much in combatting the scourge. Legislative change by Ohio's lawmakers is needed to address the problem, he said.

"I almost feel like I'm playing whack-a-mole," the Groveport police chief said. "We'll take this group out, the next ones will come in."

Adams encouraged central Ohioans to consider investing in products like catalytic converter cages and doorbell cameras. While not foolproof, they can often slow thieves down or make them think twice about their plans.

Here are five things you can do to protect against catalytic converter theft:

Is your car a likely target for catalytic converter theft? Check your make and model

According to Allstate, hybrids, SUVs and trucks have valuable or easily removable catalytic converters.

“The (Toyota) Prius is the No. 1 vehicle for car thefts” in the Sacramento area, the owner of a muffler shop told NerdWallet. As an ultra low-emissions vehicle, the Prius has a catalytic converter that contains more of the rhodium, palladium and platinum that render pollutants harmless, according to the personal finance company.

Nerdwallet also says trucks and SUVs are often hit by thieves because it's easy to slide under the vehicle rather than jack it up.

Etch your license plate number or VIN onto your catalytic converter

This makes the part identifiable to law enforcement, according to Farmers Insurance.

"The idea is that a thief who sees the etching moves on to an easier target," the insurance company says.

Park in well-lit areas

Allstate also recommends regularly moving your car's spot or using a closed garage.

Install motion-sensitive lights and cameras in your parking area

Motion-sensitive lights can be an inexpensive way to ward off thieves. Some motion detectors even have a notification system for smart phones.

Install an anti-theft device

Adams and others recommend investing in anti-theft devices, like steel shields or cages made of rebar that fit over catalytic converters. While pricey, they are often less expensive than getting a new converter.

According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, insurance claims for a stolen catalytic converter in 2020 ranged from $500 to $3,000.

Bonus tip: Paint your catalytic converter to (hopefully) deter buyers

Nerdwallet says some have recommend using a high-temperature fluorescent orange paint, such as those sprayed on barbecue grills, on your catalytic converter. A reputable scrap metal dealer might decline to buy it.

Monroe Trombly covers breaking and trending news.

mtrombly@dispatch.com

@monroetrombly

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Catalytic converter theft: 5 ways to protect your car