Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

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Valuethinker
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Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Valuethinker »

This has become "a thing" here in England.

Neighbour had their Toyota's autocatalyst taken off the car (we all park on the street - Victorian neighbourhood) whilst they were on holiday.

Apparently the precious metals are worth enough that it's a good racket. I imagine they use some kind of battery powered saw to cut the pipes at each end, and that or clippers to cut the mounting bracket. Toyotas are apparently particularly vulnerable.

They are an expensive piece of kit to get replaced. It is illegal to drive without one (older cars here have to be periodically "MOT'd" Ministry-Of- Transport certified at a garage as still meeting safety and emission standards) however I have read that some consumers are using an ineffective fake replacement to save costs.

Needless to say the gangs that do this are not people one would want to be confronting on the street or in your driveway (pretty much everyone in England parks outdoors these days - garages are either too small for modern cars, or the space is too useful for storage, etc & of course we have a relatively mild climate).

Is this something happening in America? Are there any recommended preventative measures?
Carl53
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Carl53 »

Not sure how much of a thing it is in the US, but I know that on two occasions one was stolen from a van parked at a church parking lot for an extended time. First time it was behind the building where visibility would be limited and the second from the front lot where such activity would be much more easily spotted from the road. Scrap yards pay something like $100 for one.
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whodidntante
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by whodidntante »

It happens in the USA. It's also common in some areas for people to remove their own cat. Protecting it would be difficult. The part needs sufficient airflow around it. Maybe you'll get an idiot who steals your resonator instead. Maybe write "cat" on it. Those are much cheaper.
winterfan
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by winterfan »

Yes, this has been a very frequent occurrence where I live lately (Midwestern US city). Toyota Priuses have been particularly vulnerable, but I've read Hondas and other Toyota models have been targeted as well. I've read there are auto repair places that will install some kind of cage/lock though. I can't remember the exact specifics.
vested1
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by vested1 »

Back in the distant past when my wife was working as a water meter reader she occasionally had to crawl under vehicles to access a meter when the customer forgot to move their car. She was accused multiple times by residents of being under their car trying to steal their catalytic converter. Actually, it could have been a very lucrative side hustle.

Hmmm... maybe that's why she was able to retire earlier than me, and may explain how she was able to buy all that jewelry! :twisted:
Katietsu
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Katietsu »

I have not personally heard about it in my area recently, but this is a long-standing problem. Pretty sure it was at least a couple of decades ago that I lived in a neighborhood where a rash of these happened. I wonder if the crime goes up with precious metal prices, with economic distress, or is just a randomly fluctuating event.
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Valuethinker
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Valuethinker »

whodidntante wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 6:18 am It happens in the USA. It's also common in some areas for people to remove their own cat. Protecting it would be difficult. The part needs sufficient airflow around it. Maybe you'll get an idiot who steals your resonator instead. Maybe write "cat" on it. Those are much cheaper.
In London, the gangs that do this sort of thing are well organised and smart.

London has a very low rate of violent crime (it's known in sociological circles as "the English anomaly" -- why England has such a low murder rate, the lowest of any developed country, I believe, except Japan; note that that's not true of Scotland, apparently). But being a big city it has some very well organised crime rings -- as Dickens well describes.
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Valuethinker
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Valuethinker »

Katietsu wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 7:03 am I have not personally heard about it in my area recently, but this is a long-standing problem. Pretty sure it was at least a couple of decades ago that I lived in a neighborhood where a rash of these happened. I wonder if the crime goes up with precious metal prices, with economic distress, or is just a randomly fluctuating event.
I, perhaps cynically, don't think this is the sort of crime associated with economic distress. Except quite indirectly if that unemployment is high people with good manual skills would find less "formal" employment.

I believe it would cycle with precious metal prices.

Also local factors like the presence of scrap metal merchants willing to pay cash. After a wave of thefts of things like copper power cables from railways, they tightened up on the rules re buying metals for cash. Targeted the fences, in effect. Seemed to have some dissuasive effect. Of course, you could just stick these things in a shipping container and they'd be in Kaliningrad (Russian port on the Baltic) before the converter was even reported stolen.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

When I was working right next to a major highway (rt128) outside of Boston, our building management sent warnings not to park near the street. We had huge parking lots. There were no "gangs", but a guy with a battery sawzall. They'd get cats from SUVs as there's no lifting required....just lay under the trucks, cut the cats and drive to the scrap yard.

The problem follows scrap prices. When prices are high, watch out. When they drop, not sure what the crooks do. Maybe get a job. I collect and sell various scrap, although not cats. So I do see the price variations. For example, over the years, I've seen steel at $20 a ton and at $200 a ton. When it's at $200 a ton, that's when the telephone poles get plastered with signs saying they'll pick up your junk car for cash.
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fizxman
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by fizxman »

Jack FFR1846 wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 7:26 am When I was working right next to a major highway (rt128) outside of Boston, our building management sent warnings not to park near the street. We had huge parking lots. There were no "gangs", but a guy with a battery sawzall. They'd get cats from SUVs as there's no lifting required....just lay under the trucks, cut the cats and drive to the scrap yard.

The problem follows scrap prices. When prices are high, watch out. When they drop, not sure what the crooks do. Maybe get a job. I collect and sell various scrap, although not cats. So I do see the price variations. For example, over the years, I've seen steel at $20 a ton and at $200 a ton. When it's at $200 a ton, that's when the telephone poles get plastered with signs saying they'll pick up your junk car for cash.
Great, we already had the wheels stolen off my wife's Honda Fit. Now we have to worry about the catalytic converter being stolen from my F150.
bberris
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by bberris »

In suburban Minneapolis, yes, several in a week in Plymouth. Also lots of cars broken into with nothing taken, presumably looking for guns. Please don't leave these in your car.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Spirit Rider »

I have only heard about three recent cases in the live free or die state. None of them intimately got away with the prize.
  • Two guys caught on video camera and subsequently identified by one's mother and arrested.
  • A father, son and the son's girlfriend caught in the act by a state trooper at a Park & Ride lot at 3pm. Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest.
  • Even a cordless sawzall makes a lot of noise. One guy found that out when confronted by the armed vehicle owner.
Probably more likely to happen in a disarmed UK, NY, Chicago, LA, etc... Trying to steal a catalytic converter from a Texan's pickup truck might be a good way to end up dead
Simba313
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Simba313 »

The catalytic converter in my van was sawed off just a few weeks ago. $1,000 to replace, insurance covers but I have a $1,000 deductible. I live in the Seattle area and it’s a problem. About five years ago it happened to my 4 Runner. My mechanic says they are now stealing them from smaller cars. They bring a jack and are very quick. Prius are one of the popular cars they target. Not sure what advice. Park in a well lit area I guess.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by alfaspider »

Simba313 wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 8:51 am The catalytic converter in my van was sawed off just a few weeks ago. $1,000 to replace, insurance covers but I have a $1,000 deductible. I live in the Seattle area and it’s a problem. About five years ago it happened to my 4 Runner. My mechanic says they are now stealing them from smaller cars. They bring a jack and are very quick. Prius are one of the popular cars they target. Not sure what advice. Park in a well lit area I guess.
Sad thing is they are worth so much less to thief than replacement cost. The thief will get a few tens of dollars for the catalytic converter, while the vehicle owner may pay $1,000 to replace it. The thieves typically don't support the vehicle properly and risk being crushed.
davemanjam
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by davemanjam »

Seems nuts. Like how on earth would you manage this without making a bunch of noise and getting caught.
I guess they don't care.
nesta
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by nesta »

A huge problem in my Minneapolis neighborhood. Everyday I see posts that another person had theirs stolen. And Priuses are a big target. I drive a Prius though have a garage to park in, though there are obviously times I’m parked outside so I am having a cat cover installed at my local mechanic to prevent theft. The estimate for that is around $300.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by cyclist »

My sister and brother-in-law in suburban Philly heard tool noise one evening. The next morning they found out it was the tool cutting the converter out out their Prius.

They’ve now got an inexpensive aluminum plate installed beneath their car to discourage the thieves from choosing their Prius again. It’s from a California shop - apparently this has been a thing in the Bay Area for a while

We’ve installed one too.

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MarkBarb
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by MarkBarb »

Never heard of that here in the Texas suburbs. There isn't a lot of street parking here. And as someone said above, it would be a good way to get shot.

The problem here is people with giant trucks with parts of their exhaust systems removed. They emit huge amounts of black smoke and are really loud. But that is the vehicle owners doing it themselves rather than having someone do it to them.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Big Dog »

Valuethinker wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 7:08 am
Katietsu wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 7:03 am I have not personally heard about it in my area recently, but this is a long-standing problem. Pretty sure it was at least a couple of decades ago that I lived in a neighborhood where a rash of these happened. I wonder if the crime goes up with precious metal prices, with economic distress, or is just a randomly fluctuating event.
I, perhaps cynically, don't think this is the sort of crime associated with economic distress. Except quite indirectly if that unemployment is high people with good manual skills would find less "formal" employment.

I believe it would cycle with precious metal prices.
Bingo. (Thefts of cats were increasing in the US -- and UK -- back in 2019, when unemployment was extremely low....)
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Big Dog »

davemanjam wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 9:32 am Seems nuts. Like how on earth would you manage this without making a bunch of noise and getting caught.
I guess they don't care.
Efficient thieves can get in and out in <5 minutes....
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lthenderson
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by lthenderson »

It doesn't take long to do. In fact, 60 seconds or less and these two weren't hurrying at all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qybMIkySaXk
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Kenkat »

A friend at work had someone cut the cats / exhaust off his Toyota truck in our parking lot at work in the middle of the day. He was parked at the far end of the lot for exercise and to avoid door dings.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by regularguy455 »

This seems like the exact reason for car insurance. How could you possibly protect against this? And frankly, why should you? The last thing I want to spend mental energy on is worrying about people stealing parts off my car.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Broken Man 1999 »

MarkBarb wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 9:46 am Never heard of that here in the Texas suburbs. There isn't a lot of street parking here. And as someone said above, it would be a good way to get shot.

The problem here is people with giant trucks with parts of their exhaust systems removed. They emit huge amounts of black smoke and are really loud. But that is the vehicle owners doing it themselves rather than having someone do it to them.
Coal rolling is what it is called. Pretty stupid thing to do, for sure. Pollution for the sheer ability to be able to pollute. Rolling coal at bicyclists, EVs, pedestrians is beyond stupid.

Perhaps those so into such activities are seeking a substitute for their own shortcomings, emphasis on "short." Other styles of transportation might make the idiots feel inadequate.

I have never personally known of anyone suffering a stolen catalytic converter. I certainly believe it used to happen, and does still happen, but I haven't even heard about it in many years. In the high crime areas people steal the whole car. Takes less time, and more money to be had.

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Last edited by Broken Man 1999 on Thu Nov 19, 2020 10:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by RiotAct »

regularguy455 wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 10:14 am This seems like the exact reason for car insurance. How could you possibly protect against this? And frankly, why should you? The last thing I want to spend mental energy on is worrying about people stealing parts off my car.
For sure. But then, the rub is that your rates will subsequently rise, through no fault of your own.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Valuethinker »

Jack FFR1846 wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 7:26 am When I was working right next to a major highway (rt128) outside of Boston, our building management sent warnings not to park near the street. We had huge parking lots. There were no "gangs", but a guy with a battery sawzall. They'd get cats from SUVs as there's no lifting required....just lay under the trucks, cut the cats and drive to the scrap yard.

The problem follows scrap prices. When prices are high, watch out. When they drop, not sure what the crooks do. Maybe get a job. I collect and sell various scrap, although not cats. So I do see the price variations. For example, over the years, I've seen steel at $20 a ton and at $200 a ton. When it's at $200 a ton, that's when the telephone poles get plastered with signs saying they'll pick up your junk car for cash.
Going back to the 1980s, Boston was (in)famous for its car thefts-- or so a grad student from there told me. New York had much more murders (even per capita) but Boston, Boston had car thieves.

Seeing films like "The Town" (about the bank robbing fraternity in ?Charlestown?) it seemed to be something about long-lifed criminal fraternities, who had "family businesses" and this was one of them - sort of like families of plumbers or ironworkers (the fellows who build skyscrapers, piece of structural steel by piece of structural steel). But then, I could be accused of having read too much George V Higgins ;-).

Another reason perhaps was the relatively high proportion of high value foreign cars in New England i.e. German and Swedish, not Japanese (this was before the days of Lexus) - which were more valuable?
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Valuethinker »

All good grift, and thank you.

Summary seems to be
1). it's a thing - it's not unique here;
2). Toyotas for whatever reason are more vulnerable (I think it was a Prius);
3). there are things you can do to make yourself less vulnerable

One could imagine a situation where the car is old enough to have the minimum insurance, and this is not covered. But it's not legal to drive without one (although people do).
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by lthenderson »

regularguy455 wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 10:14 am How could you possibly protect against this? And frankly, why should you?
I've heard of people welding hardened steel bars on the pipes on either side of the cat and/or welding up a cage around the cat. They also make a Cat Strap which is essentially an alarm system for your cat that sounds your horn when people attempt to pilfer it.

Me personally I don't do anything. 99% of my parking is either in busy parking lots or in a garage at night and I have insurance.
z0r
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by z0r »

lthenderson wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 10:12 am It doesn't take long to do. In fact, 60 seconds or less and these two weren't hurrying at all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qybMIkySaXk
watching that, my reaction is actually "slow is smooth, and smooth is fast" plus some pauses for observation
smalliebigs
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by smalliebigs »

Cat converters are made of precious metals, that are sometimes very valuable.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by quantAndHold »

The main place where I’ve heard of this happening is motorhomes in storage lots. Someone will come through and take several at one time.

In the urban neighborhood around me, it doesn’t seem to be a thing. Probably because there are too many people around at all hours.
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by barnaclebob »

There are lots of facebook marketplace posts for people who say they buy catalytic converters. Im sure its completely legit.
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telemark
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by telemark »

Some randomish thoughts...

If everyone in London parks on the street, what does that say for the electric car market?

Mazda claims to have a technology that allows 70-90% reduction in the precious metals used in a catalytic converter. But they do a lot of research that never goes into production, and it isn't clear if this is being used.

The preference for certain models probably has to do with how easy it is to remove the converters on those models. Installing a cover is the simplest way to make this more difficult.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by hicabob »

Why are Priuses targeted so much? Bigger engines have bigger cats so more precious metals which you would think would make big trucks/suvs more of a target.
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SmileyFace
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by SmileyFace »

Happened to a friend of mine in the Boston area - this was a few years ago in a commuter parking lot. I believe it still occurs but a lot of the big commuter lots are at least covered by cameras now.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by suemarkp »

Happens here a lot. Brother in law lost his. A common target is Park and Ride lots where people drive their cars to park and get on mass transit. Trucks are easy to crawl under and cut them off. A prius is quite low, but maybe there is an easy way to get to it. Or just bring a floor jack.

Gas cars use palladium and rhodium. Rhodium prices are crazy. I was going to buy a bar a year or so ago when it was $600/oz. Today, it is $13,000/oz. If there were more metals dealers that buy Rhodium I would have bought. I've found one refiner that does, so I may buy again if it gets under $1K/oz again.

The other main metal used is Palladium. That is also expensive, and has been more expensive than gold for the past few years (it is usually half the price of gold). There are people who scrap circuit boards for the thin layer of gold in them. A cat converter has much more palladium than a circuit board.

Diesel cars use more platinum than palladium. Platinum prices have dropped to half of gold in the last few years. So perhaps diesel cars are safer from cat theft than the gas cars right now.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by shunkman »

Even new cars sitting in the dealer's lot are getting hit. Some suspect that traveling specialized gangs are involved with this.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by whodidntante »

telemark wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 11:33 am If everyone in London parks on the street, what does that say for the electric car market?
It says they will need charging thingies near the street when they go fully electric ala Boris.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by whodidntante »

shunkman wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 2:17 pm Even new cars sitting in the dealer's lot are getting hit. Some suspect that traveling specialized gangs are involved with this.
I think it's because the economy sucks and people keep on keeping on.
7eight9
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by 7eight9 »

Didn't bother reading all the posts. This has been an ongoing problem in the United States for the past decade.

In Under Two Minutes: Catalytic Converter Theft
https://www.edmunds.com/auto-insurance/ ... theft.html
I guess it all could be much worse. | They could be warming up my hearse.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by donfairplay »

hicabob wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 11:34 am Why are Priuses targeted so much? Bigger engines have bigger cats so more precious metals which you would think would make big trucks/suvs more of a target.
Harvestable palladium.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/thieves-mi ... 1549803601
interwebopinion
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by interwebopinion »

There are a variety of anti-theft devices for the catalytic converter

https://www.yelp.com/biz/cap-city-muffler-sacramento - This one is popular from what I hear and works. I think they lost their website registration.

Another - https://www.millercat.com/catshield
cyclist
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by cyclist »

I can’t say if it works to defer a thief, but I’ve got the cap city product on our Prius.

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interwebopinion
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by interwebopinion »

cyclist wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 3:16 pm I can’t say if it works to defer a thief, but I’ve got the cap city product on our Prius.

Cyclist
I heard this from a neighbor who had video footage of an attempt. YMMV.
finite_difference
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by finite_difference »

Insurance will cover it?

Report it to the police, organize a neighborhood watch, give young people better opportunities, purchase a car alarm and setup video footage?

In other words throw the kitchen sink at it :)
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by alfaspider »

Valuethinker wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 10:29 am

One could imagine a situation where the car is old enough to have the minimum insurance, and this is not covered. But it's not legal to drive without one (although people do).
Not quite true. It's perfectly legal to drive a car without a catalytic converter if the car did not come with one from the factory (i.e. cars from the 70s and prior).
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wander
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by wander »

In some cities in the US, people remove catalytic converters on purpose, to race and install them back for smoke check.
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Spirit Rider »

Valuethinker wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 10:25 am Going back to the 1980s, Boston was (in)famous for its car thefts-- or so a grad student from there told me. New York had much more murders (even per capita) but Boston, Boston had car thieves.
Actually, Lawrence (1/2 hour north) was the car theft capital of the country for many years. After a while the car thieves got greedy and many thefts were inside jobs.

You actually had to pay to have your stolen for the insurance payments. It was reportedly the safest place to park your car if you weren't intentionally having it stolen

You would go to a bar or restaurant and wala it would not be there when you came out. Many academy awards should have been given when the police were called.

I'm sure this racket extended to Boston during this time.
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ClevrChico
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by ClevrChico »

Midwest US here, it's a very rare thing. Most cars are garaged due to our bad weather. Construction site theft seems to be more common for thieves that scrap.

The best thing you can do to protect your car is a garage.
Last edited by ClevrChico on Sat Nov 21, 2020 9:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Valuethinker
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Re: Theft of catalytic converter ("autocatalyst") ?

Post by Valuethinker »

telemark wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 11:33 am Some randomish thoughts...

If everyone in London parks on the street, what does that say for the electric car market?

Mazda claims to have a technology that allows 70-90% reduction in the precious metals used in a catalytic converter. But they do a lot of research that never goes into production, and it isn't clear if this is being used.

The preference for certain models probably has to do with how easy it is to remove the converters on those models. Installing a cover is the simplest way to make this more difficult.
Suburbs in London built post mid 1920s tended to have garages. Just nowadays everyone parks in the drive & uses garage for storage etc.

And even older houses now often have parking on paved forecourt.

About 30% UK car owners cannot park on their own property.

Quite a few different models of charging are being investigated. My High Street has dedicated chargers. Lampposts are another solution I have seen.

As number of cars rises globally perhaps the precious metals will get more expensive and new more efficient technologies will be used.

Pace that, there may in time be a declining number of ICE cars.
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