In 2021, Edmonton Police reported over 1700 instances of theft relating to one particular part of a vehicle. Do you know which piece that is?
Incredibly, in the first 8-months of this year, the theft of catalytic converters was through the roof. This number reflects only the City of Edmonton. When you consider the whole Province the number was likely three times higher.
Why catalytic converters?
The catalytic converter on your vehicle is an important piece of the puzzle and is mandatory in all vehicles sold in the last 35 years. The catalytic converter was created as response to different environmental protection acts passed by different governments in North America. It is an exhaust emission control device that converts toxic gases and pollutants from gas-powered internal combustion engines into less harmful pollutants. Although they are most commonly found on exhaust systems in automobiles, catalytic converters are also used on electrical generators, forklifts, mining equipment, trucks, buses, locomotives, motorcycles and even on ships.
There are a few ways to protect your fleet vehicles from possible catalytic converter poachers. First, let’s understand a few key things.
Where is it located?
Catalytic converters require a temperature of 400 °C (752 °F) to operate effectively. Therefore, they are placed as close to the engine as possible. One or more smaller catalytic converters could also be placed immediately after the exhaust manifold. Because of the external location on the vehicle, they are often seen as an easy a target for thieves.
Pipe cutters are often used to quietly remove the converter but other tools such as a portable reciprocating saw are often used as well. The rough removal of a catalytic converter can damage other components of the vehicle, such as the alternator, wiring or fuel lines, with potentially dangerous consequences.
Why is it Valuable?
These converters use valuable metals in their construction, such as platinum, palladium and rhodium. Thieves can expect to get around $150 - $200 for the one currently in your vehicle. And a new converter on its own, without any other repair costs, goes for around $650 and up!
What Can You Do?
The Edmonton Police Service has issued the following tips on how to protect your vehicle from theft.
1. Park where it is difficult to find and get to
Most thieves prefer to get the job done as quickly as possible, anything you do that might slow them down could be enough to make them decide your vehicle isn’t worth the risk. It only takes 5-10 minutes to cut off and steal a converter so making sure your fleet aren’t parked out-front, with easy access to the road. Out of sight and out of mind. Better yet, fence your lot and install motion activated lighting and cameras to warn off thieves.
2. Weld the converter to your vehicle
Again, thieves prefer easy pickings. By welding the converter to your vehicle, thieves may be deterred by the extra work it would take to get it off the vehicle. This can be done for a relatively low cost by your local mechanic.
3. Invest in a protective clamp or cage for your converter
This option will likely require a larger investment than the welding option, but it will make it easier to replace the converter if it has other issues not related to being stolen. Less labour in the service center for repairs.
4. Engrave it with your VIN
This may not stop thieves from stealing the converter, but it will make it much easier for them to be caught when they try to sell the part to someone else. This has become such a problem that in 2020 Alberta amended the Protecting Alberta Industry from Theft Act, specifically the existing Scrap Metal Dealers and Recyclers Identification Act. Scrap metal dealers and recyclers are now required to report transactions involving catalytic converters, along with other specific high-value metals, and pay for these transactions with traceable currency. It’s much easier for the metal dealers and police to identify, report and track stolen catalytic converters if there is a VIN.
5. Invest in a vibrationally sensitive car alarm
This is the most expensive option at your disposal, but it is one that can protect you and your fleet from all forms of theft and vandalism. This type of alarm will go off as soon the thief attempts to remove the converter, due to its higher than normal sensitivity. Most thieves will high tail it out of there as soon as they hear the alarm.
The LAND Automotive Group of companies is here to help if you would like to discuss any security options for your fleet of vehicles. We understand that operational costs are high enough, dealing with theft and destruction of assets significantly increases cost, not only in repairs and insurance premiums but in down time while your vehicle is being repaired or waiting for parts. Give any one of our Commercial team a call or stop in to one of our locations to chat options.