In 2021, we published an article on the theft of catalytic converters, especially those found in hybrid and higher-end vehicles. Since then, these thefts have continued to increase, so we thought it was worth updating.
Last week a second-generation customer called me. I’ve known Jennifer since she was a tyke, and now she has her own family. Time flies. Her conversation started like this: “Hi Jack, do you have a minute? I just bought a new Toyota Prius. The dealer told me to make sure I get a cage clamp, or my Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) etched on it. Is that necessary? It sounds like a lot of drama for nothing. Who wants my catalytic converter anyway?”
“First of all, congratulations on the new car, Jennifer. As for what your dealer suggested, I think it’s an excellent idea and would also like to give you the same advice. Did you know that Toyota Prius is the most likely car to have its catalytic converter stolen?”
“Noooo, I didn’t. But now I understand why my husband was so jumpy when I told him I had parked the car in the driveway instead of the garage last night. I just thought he was over-reacting, which he tends to do.”
“Your husband’s right to be concerned. Stolen cats have been a growing problem in and around Los Angeles for a few years now. They stole a bunch from city-owned cars in December 2021 and again in March, and taxpayers ab
sorb that cost.”
Jennifer was beside herself. “What!? Why am I paying for some shnook or gang of schnooks, who are stealing these things from cars? That makes my blood boil.”
“Why would they want a Prius catalytic converter anyway? Are they putting it on another car?
“Nope. They’re being stolen for the precious metals contained in the converters like platinum and rhodium. They extract and sell it. These thieves especially like Prius’. Since it’s a hybrid, it doesn’t use its cat as much as a gas-powered car might, so the precious metals have a longer life span.
“That’s horrible. I’m parking it in the garage from now on. I’m curious, though, if it were stolen, how much would it cost to replace?”
It’ll be in the neighborhood of $2000 or more. However, we do have a financing plan if you ever need it. All joking aside, take precautions. You can find cage clamps online or from an auto parts store. The cage fits around your converter and makes it more difficult for thieves to get to the catalytic converter. Costs range from about $200 to just under the mid-$400s. There are also anti-theft security shields that you can purchase for about $160. We can help you affix them to your car.
Etching the VIN on the cat will also be helpful. You might call around and find someone who can engrave it for you or look out for sponsored events by the local police. The Los Angeles Police Department has already had at least one day of free etching for residents. Engraving kits can be found at hardware stores, but you have to know how to do it without injuring the converter. You can get marking kits that come with labels and etching power. Even if the label comes off, the number remains on the converter.
“Wow, Jack, I had no idea this was happening. I just thought I was buying a fuel-efficient car, you know, doing my part to help the environment. If this is such a problem, why isn’t anyone doing something about it?”
“There’s a bill in Sacramento that addresses this problem. If it passes, it will prohibit auto dealers and retailers from selling vehicles that do not have the car’s VIN etched or engraved on the catalytic converter. Scrap yards would be required to record the VIN found on any catalytic converters they inherit.
In the meantime, be safe and do something that will either make it harder for the thieves to steal your converter or easier for the police to trace it. Most importantly, Jennifer, always speak with us first before spending money on anything car-related.”
“Thanks, Jack. I will. My mom always said you were the Mensch with a Wrench. And she was right. I appreciate your time.”
“We’re here to serve. Take care, Jennifer.”
For valuable tips on how to maintain your hybrid car, from oil changes to brakes to air conditioning and more, contact AutoAid. We invite you to visit our 5,000 square-foot facility in Van Nuys either in person or on our website. If you go to our website, you can also make an appointment or call us at 818-305-6632. AutoAid has been a AAA-Approved Auto Repair and Customer Service Award Winner for more than 30 years. We service many Domestic, Asian, and European vehicles and fleet automobiles for small and large companies. Our highly trained staff is here to answer any questions about your car, truck, or van.