CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Which devices best prevent catalytic-converter theft

May 4, 2022, 1:57 PM

Catalytic converter theft...

A catalytic converter, being demonstrated during a press conference at the Utah Trucking Association headquarters in West Valley. Catalytic converter thefts are becoming a big problem, according to business leaders and lawmakers. (Photo: Paul Nelson)

(Photo: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY — It takes a thief less than two minutes to steal the catalytic converter underneath your vehicle. How much will it cost to replace it? 

The average cost to repair a catalytic converter is between $945 and $2,475 including parts and labor. The catalytic-converter cost itself can be up to $2,250. That might be close to your car’s value or more.

A catalytic converter’s job is to control the poisonous exhaust emissions emitted by a vehicle.

Inside a catalytic converter is a honeycomb structure. It allows exhaust gases to pass through the catalytic converter where gases interact with catalyst particles such as platinum, palladium and rhodium embedded in the honeycomb, according to carbrain.com.

The catalytic converter is valuable to thieves because

  • today, platinum is priced at $977 per ounce;
  • palladium is $ 2,271.26 per ounce, which is more expensive than gold; and
  • the hard, shiny, silvery metal rhodium sells for $18,300 per ounce.

While there’s only grams in each catalytic converter, it’s still valuable to thieves everywhere.

Sloan Schrage, a producer for the KSL Investigates team, told KSL NewsRadio hosts Dave and Dujanovic what he learned about anti-theft devices to protect your catalytic converter from theft.

SUVs are easier targets

Schrage said SUVs are the easiest vehicle to access the catalytic converter because of the larger ground clearance. But, no car is safe.

Schrage also pointed out that the damage thieves do to a vehicle removing the valuable catalytic converter also adds to the price at the repair shop.

“Is this stuff typically covered by insurance if someone hacks it out?” Dave said.

“So if you have comprehensive insurance, then they typically will, not in all cases, but most cases they will cover that. However, if you (only) have liability, you’re not going to be in good shape,” Schrage said.

Anti-theft add-ons

Schrage said he bought three anti-theft devices and tested them to see if the catalytic converter could be stolen, namely,

  • an alarm that responds if the exhaust system is jostled that Schrage said costs $30 on eBay, 
  • a long stainless-steel cable about 5/16 of an inch in diameter that wraps around the catalytic converter and attaches to the vehicle frame. Schrage said it cost $210.

He said it took 24 seconds to cut through the cable.

“How hard was it to install?” Dave asked.

“That was a tough one to install,” he said, adding most car owners would not be comfortable installing it themselves.

“You would probably have to call in a shop to help you do the assist [and] that might add a couple of hundred (dollars) to the install cost.”

The third device is made up of three cables inside a protective sheet that surrounds the converter and exhaust pipes. It cost $130. But Schrage said he could not get a good grip on the device because it kept moving.  

“It really grinds down your blade to like a butter-knife quality,” he said. “That really slowed it down. It’s probably added 15 to 20 minutes at least to the crime, and so we thought it was a very effective deterrent.”

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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Which devices best prevent catalytic-converter theft