PSA: Why Catalytic Converter Theft is on the Rise

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News outlets across Canada are reporting a sharp increase in catalytic converter theft. The catalytic converters are being stolen off commercial and consumer vehicles alike.

The catalytic converter is part of your vehicle’s exhaust system. It is vulnerable to theft partly because it's easy to remove. It also doesn't require access to the interior of the vehicle, or engine, to disconnect it from your exhaust system.

Why are they stolen? Well, the precious metals used to make catalytic converters, which include Rhodium and Palladium, are more valuable than gold. This, combined with no part-tracking numbers, make it a popular target for theft.

Here in British Columbia, ICBC reported over 1500 theft claims for catalytic converters in 2020. This is up from 886 in 2019 and only 205 claims in 2018. 

What do Catalytic Converters do?

Catalytic converters lower your car's emissions. The metallic core of the catalytic converter contains trace amounts of precious metals like Platinum, Palladium, and Rhodium. These extremely valuable metals that absorb harmful gases like Carbon Monoxide and Nitrous Oxide. In turn, they convert the harmful emissions into less harmful gases like Carbon Dioxide, Nitrogen, and even water.

While there are only trace amounts of these metals in the converter, one ounce of palladium is worth $3000. One ounce of rhodium is worth $24,000. With these incredibly high prices, thieves have been incentivized to target vehicles across Canada for a quick and lucrative payoff. Thieves are targeting dealerships, school buses, and even consumer vehicles without prejudice.  

How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft  

Unfortunately, there is almost no way to guarantee your vehicle isn’t a target of theft (catalytic converter or otherwise). There are however a few steps that the police advise you to take that can greatly reduce the chance it happens to your vehicle.

  1. Use an enclosed garage if possible. 
  2. Park your vehicle as close to your house or apartment as possible
  3. Use well-lit places for parking, preferably with security camera coverage

In the event your catalytic converter is stolen, your vehicle will be noticeably louder. The exhaust system no longer functions properly without the converter. The insurance Bureau of Canada is currently looking into adding tracking numbers to catalytic converters, which would make the resale process for stolen converters much more difficult and will hopefully lead to a decline in these thefts. 

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