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Mechanics offer tips to protect yourself from catalytic converter thefts

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 2:45 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - It only takes a matter of minutes for thieves to get under your truck or car, steal the catalytic converter and disappear without you knowing they were even there.

Mechanics in Wilmington say they get calls every day from customers about replacing one. One has even seen a customer have several catalytic converters stolen within a single month. The criminals are after the metals inside the part like platinum and rhodium.

On a truck at Aaron’s Custom Exhaust today, the stolen catalytic converter could be sold for up to $800 on the black market. That owner is left with a bill of their own, now, totaling about $600.

“What they’re doing is stealing the platinum out of them and the rhodium,” said exhaust shop owner Aaron Harker. “You can turn around and turn it into the junkyard and sell it and get money off of it.”

Harker says it takes only five to ten minutes for the entire process. Another mechanic says it could take as little as 30 seconds to saw off one side of the converter. With such a fast and quiet process, you won’t know they were there or the converter is missing until you start the engine.

“As soon as you started up the vehicle, there would definitely be signs,” said manager of Black’s Tire & Auto Daniel Bostic. “Definitely a loud rattle. It would almost sound like the car’s about to blow up.”

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done to stop the thefts. However, there are devices you can attach to the undercarriage of your vehicle that might deter the would-be criminals.

“It’s called a Cat Shield,” said Bostic. “It goes right below your catalytic converter, kind of like a splash guard for underneath your vehicle. It just sits there and guards those converters for you.”

Those shields can be just as pricey as the converters themselves, in some cases. They cost up to $300 online and you’ll likely have to hire someone to install it.

The Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office also has some advice to protect the converters in your car. That includes registering your catalytic converter with the sheriff’s office, engraving the VIN or owner applied number (OAN) on the converter or have the converter welded to the vehicle.

Not all mechanics agree that welding the converter is the best option as it may not stop a theft from happening. They say the only way to avoid theft is to find a safe place to park like a garage or a well-lit parking lot.

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