For the past several years, catalytic converter theft has been dramatically increasing. If you haven’t already had yours stolen, there’s a great chance you know someone who has. This is a growing concern for vehicle owners for several reasons – they can be incredibly expensive to replace and are astonishingly simple to steal– the whole process can be completed in fewer than two minutes.
Catalytic converters are designed to convert pollutants into less-toxic gasses, and were designed in the seventies to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of exhaust emissions. The units are created using valuable metals, including platinum, palladium, and rhodium. These three metals are Platinum Group Metals (PGM) and can be extracted for a low risk/high reward payoff.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), between 2019 and 2020, catalytic converter theft claims increased 325% in a single year– around 14,500 thefts reported. The following year, thefts jumped up again, with more than 50,000 catalytic converters stolen off parked vehicles. NICB President David Glawe says that theft has increased even more during the COVID-19 pandemic as supply chain challenges grew. “As the value of the precious metals contained within the catalytic converters continues to increase, so do the number of thefts of these devices,” Glawe said in a statement. “There is a clear connection between times of crisis, limited resources, and disruption of the supply chain that drives investors towards these precious metals.”
Why Are Catalytic Converters So Valuable?
The Platinum Group Metals in catalytic converters are incredibly valuable, even in small amounts. As of December 2022, rhodium is worth $13,000 an ounce, palladium is close to $2,000 an ounce and platinum is worth around $1,000 an ounce, but prices fluctuate regularly. These prices are incredibly enticing, even though there are only a small amount of PGMs per catalytic converter. A thief would have to steal 14-15 catalytic converters to claim 1 ounce of each metal– a nice paycheck for what could take less than an hour of work.
Supply and demand challenges make these metals even more valuable. If your catalytic converter is stolen, it could cost thousands of dollars to replace. Therefore, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Finding Solutions For Our Customers
Monroe Truck Equipment’s mTEC products were created to address our customer’s core concerns. Our latest mTEC product is the Cat Cage, a 14 gauge stainless steel box that “cages” the catalytic converter, keeping it safe from theft.
The Cat Cage features tamper-resistant fasteners and can be easily installed to the frame using OEM attachment points. It’s a lightweight design that can effectively deter catalytic converter theft, while still offering straightforward bottom access for greasing the driveshaft.
Right now, our model is available for 2012 or newer Isuzu NPR & NPR-HD gas engine chassis, 2022-current Isuzu NQR and PRR gas engine chassis, Chevrolet W3500 & W4500 gas engine chassis, as well as 2022 to current Ford F350/F450/F550/F600 chassis cabs with a 7.3L gas engines. We are working on expanding the design to accommodate more chassis to better support more and more customers.
Benefits of the Cat Cage
The Cat Cage bolts securely to frame rails with tamper-resistant fasteners, surrounding all sides of your catalytic converter, deterring theft of this costly component and letting you rest easier when your truck isn’t within sight.
Sturdy but lightweight 14 gauge stainless steel is designed with bottom access so that you can easily grease the slip joint on the drive shaft without hassle or disassembly.
Keep your vehicles profitably in service by avoiding weeks of repair from theft, and eliminate replacement costs of catalytic converters.
Additional Preventive Measures
Some municipalities across the country are collaborating with local businesses and the police force to offer free or inexpensive etching services. Users can etch either their license plate number or last six to eight digits of the car’s VIN onto the converter. This deters theft because the parts can be traced back to a real person, increasing the risk of getting caught or punished.
Some automotive businesses have offered to paint their customer’s catalytic converter in an attempt to deter thefts, as auto part stores and scrapyards aren’t supposed to be able to buy marked parts.
Department of Justice Cracks Down on Theft
On Wednesday, November 2, 2022, the United States Department of Justice announced a bust in a large catalytic converter theft ring. A collaboration between federal, state, and local law enforcement from across the United States executed a coordinated takedown of the leaders and associates of a national network of thieves, dealers, and processors for their involvement in stolen catalytic converters being sold to a metal refinery for tens of millions of dollars.
Arrests, searches, and seizures took place in California, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia. In total, 21 individuals in five states have been arrested and/or charged for their roles in the conspiracy.
“This national network of criminals hurt victims across the country,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “They made hundreds of millions of dollars in the process—on the backs of thousands of innocent car owners. Today’s charges showcase how the FBI and its partners act together to stop crimes that hurt all too many Americans.”
In addition to the efforts by the Department of Justice, legislators across the country have been introducing bills to curb the rate of catalytic converter thefts in their area. According to Bill Track 50, “over the last decade almost 350 bills have been introduced that aim to address some part of the catalytic converter craze. This year alone, 84 bills have been proposed in 29 states – Minnesota and Missouri each proposed 12 bills.”
In November, federal legislators brought the fight to a nation-wide level. U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Amy Klobuchar (D, Minn.) introduced Senate legislation to combat the rise in catalytic converter thefts across the country. Representative Jim Baird (R, Ind.) is leading the efforts with affiliated legislation in the House of Representatives.
Engineering With You In Mind
Our mTEC team is dedicated to engineering creative solutions for our customer’s most pressing needs. Along with the Cat Cage, our mTEC team has created the StepMate System and SmoothRide systems. Learn more about mTEC and how we serve our customers at commercial.monroetruck.com/work-trucks/mtec/