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Mechanics say now is the time to prepare and defend against catalytic converter theft

With the crime trending down, you can take steps now to defend your catalytic converter and to prepare insurance coverage just in case it happens
Experts say now is the time to prepare and defend against catalytic converter theft
Posted at 8:38 AM, Jan 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-11 10:39:07-05

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Catalytic converter thefts are finally starting to trend down in Colorado after years of expensive crimes impacting consumers. Mechanics on the front lines of the issue said now is the time to take steps to defend against the thieves.

”A lot of people don’t even realize they’re a target until they get hit,” John Oakes, who is the shop manager at Bud’s Muffler in Colorado Springs, said.

He’s spent years now trying to help people navigate the expensive headaches that follow having catalytic converters stolen from under their vehicles.

”It’s really disheartening to explain to somebody that they just got ripped off and they have to pay a whole lot of money to get it replaced,” Oakes said.

In some cases, the crooks are so clueless that Oakes said the damage ends up being even worse.

"That’s the downfall, is a lot of times there is more damage than just the converter. They are cutting and they are shorting out computers, they are cutting drive shafts. There is more damage that they are doing because they don’t know what they are doing,” Oakes said.

To combat these crimes, the mechanics at Bud’s Muffler have painted and etched VINs on catalytic converters to help investigators tie them back to specific vehicles if they are stolen and found. Plus, they’ve even installed cages and state-issued kits around vehicle exhaust systems to better protect the parts from being cut out.

”Out of the 1500 or so we have installed. I’d say about four have come back cut again,” Oakes said.

Even with these crime prevention efforts, Oakes is still seeing several customers with catalytic converters stolen while their car was parked in long-term parking areas like at airports. At the end of the day, the crime is fueled by the payday for the precious metals in these auto parts, he said.

Cale Gould is a part of the special unit at Colorado State Patrol working to combat catalytic converter thefts and said controlling these crimes starts with a good partnership and lawmaker regulation of the recycling companies that want the precious metals inside these auto parts.

”If the recycling industry is on board with preventing it and combating it then absolutely there is no market for it because there is no buyer,” Gould said.

As state lawmakers grapple with how to better regulate the industry, Gould said drivers should take steps now to install kits to defend against catalytic converter thefts, especially if they drive a hybrid.

”Hybrids of any variety. Specifically, the Prius is highly targeted,” Gould said.

The cost of replacing a stolen catalytic converter can cost hundreds, or even thousands of dollars. Mechanics recommend drivers who might be at greater risk of these crimes should revisit their insurance coverage.

”The ones who were the most shocked were the ones who didn’t carry full coverage. If they had insurance I would fight with their insurance company to get them covered and then they would just be out their deductible. The ones who didn’t have that and just carried liability, those were the ones most impacted for sure,” Oakes said.

If your catalytic converter is stolen, you’ll likely recognize it by the loud noise from your exhaust system when you start up your car. Not replacing it could impact the performance of your car and could even have legal consequences.

The state of Colorado has made funds available to prevent and offset the costs of the impact of catalytic converter theft. If you are a victim and would like to apply, you can learn more here.

Here is some additional coverage that could help you get connected with those resources.

Mechanics say now is the time to prepare and defend against catalytic converter theft