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Catalytic Converter Theft – What it Means and What to Do

There is no mistaking that empty feeling in your gut when you start up your Tacoma only to hear a roar coming from below. It is the “sound” of your catalytic converter being stolen. Here is what it means and what you can do.

Catalytic Converter Theft - What it Means and What to Do

Does your Tacoma look like this? Then, your catalytic converter has been stolen. Here are ideas about what you can do about it.

Catalytic converter thefts are mostly found on higher clearance vehicles (see: Toyota Tacoma). The thief crawls under the truck and saws off the part with a reciprocating saw. In under 30 seconds, he has a removed an essential and expensive piece of equipment for the platinum. The thief then goes to a recycling or junk yard to sell it. They make a few hundred dollars and you or your insurance company are hundreds if not thousands depending on age of the vehicle and other damage caused.

Unfortunately, by the time you get to your truck, the thief is long gone. You don’t normally see any evidence of the theft and really you don’t know anything is wrong until you turn over the engine. Police are often at a loss to catch the thief since there is a lack of physical evidence.

Over the past few years, lawmakers have been writing laws to prevent these and other precious metal thefts. In 48 states there is some form of law requiring scrap metal dealers to maintain documentation of the sale. Often this means that anyone looking to sell scrap metal like a catalytic converter must provide documentation. While each state varies, here is a list of some of the items they need:

  • Government ID
  • Fingerprint
  • Affidavit
  • Seller is photographed or video is taken by buyer

A recent USA today article said:

The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported this spring that metal theft claims have increased 81% from Jan. 1, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2011. States generating the most claims were Ohio, Texas, Georgia, California and Illinois. The bureau reported the increased thefts were driven by rising prices for base metals—especially copper.

Nationwide Insurance has this list of prevention ideas:

  • Always park in well-lighted areas.
  • At shopping centers and other similar parking lots, park close the entrance of the building, or near the access road where there’s a lot of traffic.
  • If you own or work at a business or factory, park within a fenced area that’s busy during the day and secured at night.
  • Engrave your license plate number on the converter to make it traceable. This can act as a catalytic converter theft deterrent and help with local police investigations.
  • Purchase a vehicle security system, and make sure its set to triggered with just the slightest motion.
  • Visit a local muffler shop and have the converter secured to the vehicle’s frame with a couple of pieces of hardened steel welded to the frame.
  • Check out the different types of catalytic converter theft deterrent systems at your local auto parts store or on the Internet.

What to Do

Your first step should be to turn off the truck. You could cause irreparable damage to the engine by having an exhaust missing a key piece. Second, call the police and call your insurance agent. Often this repair/replacement is covered under you comprehensive auto policy.

If you don’t have insurance or it isn’t covered, there are still options. You can check your local scrap yard for a replacement or online. And you can check in with your local mechanic to see how it will cost.

Just keep in mind that your truck is now no longer drivable. This means you are going to need to tow it to repair shop or your dealer.

Sadly, that is about all you can do about your current situation.

In the future, you might consider a product to protect your catalytic converter like a CatGuard. Check out our post on this product for more information.

Have you had your catalytic converter stolen? Share your story below. Thanks to Rob K for the heads-up.

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