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Catalytic converter theft


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Happened to me yesterday. Thieves slide under the vehicle and saw the exhaust connected to either side of the cat. I guess it only takes a couple minutes, and they resell the converter (which contains precious metals) - the scrap guys who buy them may also be in on the crime. Certain cars are high risk - Prius is #1, as are other hybrids and vehicles with high ground clearance.

Anybody experienced this? Apparently they sell aftermarket cat guards to prevent a second theft. Also recommend you paint it fluorescent orange and engrave your VIN to make resale difficult.

Any insight into buying a replacement catalytic converter? Do cat guards work? I know I'm polluting by driving and I may foul some emissions equipment, but will driving the car cause any more serious damage?

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Yep. They have platinum in them but certain vehicles are worth a lot more.  I've got a fleet of Tundra trucks and this happens from time to time.  Great idea with the paint and VIN. I'll pass that along.  You can drive a vehicle without a catalytic converter just fine without causing any damage to your vehicle.  They are 100% emissions control.   The car will likely throw codes and not pass inspection until fixed. Your insurance may cover it...just depends if its enough over your deductible to be worth it.

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Yeah, it's become super common.   I live in a small town and our local police posted a warning about a rash of thefts from apartment buildings.

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30 minutes ago, Terminalxylem said:

Happened to me yesterday. Thieves slide under the vehicle and saw the exhaust connected to either side of the cat. I guess it only takes a couple minutes, and they resell the converter (which contains precious metals) - the scrap guys who buy them may also be in on the crime. Certain cars are high risk - Prius is #1, as are other hybrids and vehicles with high ground clearance.

Anybody experienced this? Apparently they sell aftermarket cat guards to prevent a second theft. Also recommend you paint it fluorescent orange and engrave your VIN to make resale difficult.

Any insight into buying a replacement catalytic converter? Do cat guards work? I know I'm polluting by driving and I may foul some emissions equipment, but will driving the car cause any more serious damage?

How did you even know?

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26 minutes ago, Terminalxylem said:

Happened to me yesterday. Thieves slide under the vehicle and saw the exhaust connected to either side of the cat. I guess it only takes a couple minutes, and they resell the converter (which contains precious metals) - the scrap guys who buy them may also be in on the crime. Certain cars are high risk - Prius is #1, as are other hybrids and vehicles with high ground clearance.

Anybody experienced this? Apparently they sell aftermarket cat guards to prevent a second theft. Also recommend you paint it fluorescent orange and engrave your VIN to make resale difficult.

Any insight into buying a replacement catalytic converter? Do cat guards work? I know I'm polluting by driving and I may foul some emissions equipment, but will driving the car cause any more serious damage?

Yes. Pretty common these days. A friend is a mechanic and tells me this is an ongoing problem at his work (especially recently). It's the precious metals as you indicated. Not hard to do either, pretty easy for these criminals looking for quick cash. 

Not sure if it'll do more damage to the car to drive it as you await to get it fixed. I doubt it, but not sure. 

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32 minutes ago, The Z Machine said:

I always wondered what these guys use to do the sawing?  Small hacksaw?  Cordless Sawzall?  Cordless grinder?

I bet that cordless sawzall would do a nice job.

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Posted (edited)
3 minutes ago, FairWarning said:

I bet that cordless sawzall would do a nice job.

That was my thought.  Noisier but faster.

One handed recip: https://www.dewalt.com/products/power-tools/saws/reciprocating-saws/atomic-20v-max-cordless-onehanded-reciprocating-saw-tool-only/dcs369b

Edited by The Z Machine
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12 hours ago, gianmarco said:

How did you even know?

Car was super loud immediately after starting - essentially they allowed exhaust to directly flow from the manifold, as the the muffler is distal to the catalytic converter.

I also knew cat thefts had occurred in the area, but there wasn’t much choice other than not parking there at all.

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9 hours ago, NutterButter said:

Catalytic converter theft and cicada broods has become an annual event in the news.  Where were you when this happened?   

Oahu North Shore. Parked along the road opposite the beach. It happened in broad daylight, while I climbed the cliff overlooking the area. I could see my car from the crag, but it was at least a quarter mile away as the bird flies. People were camping/fishing on the beach less than 50 yards away.

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I volunteer at a food pantry at a church in suburban Indianapolis. We have a can used to pickup food from various sources and bring it back to the pantry for distribution. We have had the cat cut out of the van twice in the past year. It stays parked in the church lot and both times was hit at night despite being parked under a light and in sight of a security camera.  Last time they did a sloppy job cutting it and damaged some other parts of the van. $4000 repair bill.  
 

We just had the dealership put in one of the guards/cages for the cc this time so we will see if it happens again.  We are also looking around to see if we can find a better place to park it. 

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13 hours ago, The Z Machine said:

I always wondered what these guys use to do the sawing?  Small hacksaw?  Cordless Sawzall?  Cordless grinder?

Good luck on your career change Z.

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58 minutes ago, Terminalxylem said:

Oahu North Shore. Parked along the road opposite the beach. It happened in broad daylight, while I climbed the cliff overlooking the area. I could see my car from the crag, but it was at least a quarter mile away as the bird flies. People were camping/fishing on the beach less than 50 yards away.

All those millennial slackers “camping” there are likely the ones who stole it.  Crazy that stuff like that happens in broad daylight in island paradise.

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Just now, Alex P Keaton said:

All those millennial slackers “camping” there are likely the ones who stole it.  Crazy that stuff like that happens in broad daylight in island paradise.

It’s certainly possible. The people on the beach looked local, and older than millennials though.

HI doesn’t have as many problems as the continental US, but property theft, homelessness and meth use are among the worst in the country. Not too hard to connect the dots between those three phenomena.

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11 minutes ago, Terminalxylem said:

It’s certainly possible. The people on the beach looked local, and older than millennials though.

HI doesn’t have as many problems as the continental US, but property theft, homelessness and meth use are among the worst in the country. Not too hard to connect the dots between those three phenomena.

No doubt.  I have a decent idea of where you were.  Was mostly joking about the millennial comment.  I just remember that area and recall thinking this is like a subculture that I’m not welcome in, and it probably wouldn’t be safe here after dark.

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1 hour ago, Terminalxylem said:

Oahu North Shore. Parked along the road opposite the beach. It happened in broad daylight, while I climbed the cliff overlooking the area. I could see my car from the crag, but it was at least a quarter mile away as the bird flies. People were camping/fishing on the beach less than 50 yards away.

Ah Oahu. I heard about that place. The catalytic converter theft capital of the world.  That explains it.   

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16 hours ago, The Z Machine said:

I always wondered what these guys use to do the sawing?  Small hacksaw?  Cordless Sawzall?  Cordless grinder?

Dremel tool

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20 hours ago, eoMMan said:

Never heard of this.

Are people still stealing copper from HVAC units too?

In abandoned or empty homes, yes.  From the pipes in the walls too.  

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Posted (edited)

My car friend said it's more common with the Prius to have it stolen. 

He also said some of the models of the Prius have a coolant antifreeze line that runs through the catalytic converter. So if your model is one of these models, it could damage it to drive without the catalytic converter. Normally on most cars, he said it wouldn't hurt it, but it might on some Prius models.

Edited by Don't Toews Me
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5 hours ago, Terminalxylem said:

Yeah, it’s pretty rough out here. Best if people avoid it.

Best they visit the westside, much safer for haoles there.... Bay Area is out of control with cat converters being cut off vehicles.

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Happened to my son twice in a couple of weeks.  My daughter-in-law drives a Prius.  Someone cut the first one off, he noticed it didn't sound right.  He replaced it and 2 nights later it was stolen too.  They've since rented one of the garages in the apartment complex to park in over night.  

Do cat converters have to be made with precious metal?  Why?  

 

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1 hour ago, Jayrok said:

Happened to my son twice in a couple of weeks.  My daughter-in-law drives a Prius.  Someone cut the first one off, he noticed it didn't sound right.  He replaced it and 2 nights later it was stolen too.  They've since rented one of the garages in the apartment complex to park in over night.  

Do cat converters have to be made with precious metal?  Why?  

 

Usually because you are trying to oxidate materials, and metals that serve as catalysts to this tend to....rust....if not precious.  I was under impression PD was much more popular in gas car CC these days that PT which was mostly left to big diesel trucks.  

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2 minutes ago, DA RAIDERS said:

Been going on for quite awhile.  Gotta get that fix

I mean what are you gonna do to fix this other than go electric?  

Before CC theft people would put Tahoe's on blocks here to steal the rims.  If they couldn't find a buyer they were actually worth quite a bit in melt for their moly content.  GM reformulated the rims as a result, doing so for this critical component that isn't aesthetic seems unlikely.  

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What seems strange to me is all of the reported thefts .... some during daylight hours ...yet you never hear of anyone being caught.

Also, seems to me it would put a stop to this if the scrap yards buying these  were able to be prosecuted for receiving stolen property.

There should be a vin on every one of these and records kept of purchases, ...and positive id required when people bring them in to sell.

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We have had 1 stolen, replaced and then it was tried again. Caught them on tape, Caught license plate on video but still got to pay twice for this. Honda Element. 1st CC had platinum in it and was worth about $250-500. Second one is only worth about $75-150. No platinum also had them put a cage around the CC this time. License plate did no good as the car was stolen from another area. Watch the gentlemen (9:00pm) running the cordless sawzall slide only part way under car (arms up to shoulders) start cutting and go back to the vehicle with either a broken blade or a blade that came out of the sawzall. replace it and come back and try again but in the end was not smart enough to get it off of the car. He was about an inch away on both front and back of the CC and for whatever reason left. They did come back about 3 hours later. Car was in driveway both times the CC was worked on.

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6 hours ago, Bossman said:

What seems strange to me is all of the reported thefts .... some during daylight hours ...yet you never hear of anyone being caught.

Also, seems to me it would put a stop to this if the scrap yards buying these  were able to be prosecuted for receiving stolen property.

There should be a vin on every one of these and records kept of purchases, ...and positive id required when people bring them in to sell.

Although there were beach goers, my car was parked on a pretty remote part of the island. And it only takes a couple minutes to cut and run.

But I agree this should be easy to stop, if you make sellers prove they own the vehicle from which the cat was recovered. I think the scrap guys are in on it, along with some of the shops who re-install them.

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5 hours ago, Terminalxylem said:

Although there were beach goers, my car was parked on a pretty remote part of the island. And it only takes a couple minutes to cut and run.

But I agree this should be easy to stop, if you make sellers prove they own the vehicle from which the cat was recovered. I think the scrap guys are in on it, along with some of the shops who re-install them.

I remember when I was a kid a couple friends making some $$ stealing Lincoln hubcaps and selling them to the Lincoln-Mercury dealer in town.

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6 hours ago, Terminalxylem said:

Although there were beach goers, my car was parked on a pretty remote part of the island. And it only takes a couple minutes to cut and run.

But I agree this should be easy to stop, if you make sellers prove they own the vehicle from which the cat was recovered. I think the scrap guys are in on it, along with some of the shops who re-install them.

Are they not breaking down the systems to extract the guts?  

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1 hour ago, culdeus said:

Are they not breaking down the systems to extract the guts?  

I don’t think the petty thieves are - my understanding is they sell the cats intact, and the scrap guys do the extracting, or sell them to a third party who does:

Quote

Let’s assume that you have a pile of 500 or more old catalytic converters that you’ve been saving up. Let’s also assume that you got them by visiting an automobile junkyard, where you used a small cutoff tool to extract them from junked cars. You have proven it. You are a capable do-it-yourselfer.

So, can’t you use that same cutoff tool to open up all those cat converters, extract the platinum, rhodium, palladium and other materials they contain, and take those metals to a precious metals refinery? You’ve got the tool, you’ve got the time . . . so why not do it all yourself?

As much as we admire your gumption and willingness to eliminate a “middle man” who will extract those precious metals, your plan won’t work too well, for some reasons you might not know about.

First, the internal structures of catalytic converters are complicated and confusing. When you open one up, you are going to find a lot of passageways and housings where little pellets are located. When exhaust gases pass through, they react with those pellets, which reduce the quantity of noxious gases that the exhaust contains. So even though you can work hard to extract those pellets from the structures that hold them, you are going to end up with a lot of small pellets that contain platinum, palladium, and rhodium. But how much precious metal is really there? You are going to have to send all those pellets to a qualified precious metals refinery anyway to have them tested and analyzed. So why not just send your intact cat converters to a refinery in the first place for analysis? You aren’t accomplishing much by doing all the extracting on your own.

Second, the precious metals inside catalytic converters are not found in a pure state. The pellets contain platinum, palladium, rhodium and other precious metals, yes. But those pellets are made not of those pure precious metals, but of alloys that contain a number of metals. A qualified precious metals lab is going to have to separate out the precious metals anyway, so even though you are working hard to extract those pellets, in reality, you are not accomplishing much.

 

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