It was warm outside when Brandi Ellinger, 34, got into her car to drive to work. She turned her key and there she heard him – an arrogant roaring noise. She knew catalytic converter thefts were a problem on her street, and the noise confirmed her worst fear: her converter had been stolen.
Ellinger, a single mother, said she doesn’t have the money to fix the car with a new catalytic converter, which can cost upwards of a thousand dollars to replace. Instead, she sold her car to a junkyard.
“You overwhelmed me,” she said. “I was just shocked that someone would actually do this to people, just randomly take something from your car.”
Ellinger is one of hundreds of people whose catalytic converters were stolen last year, with catalytic converter thefts increasing 1,000% in the past two years, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
What is a catalytic converter?
The catalytic converter is an essential part of a vehicle’s emission system and reduces the amount of harmful pollution a vehicle emits, according to Carfax. It converts harmful chemicals, such as carbon monoxide, into substances that are healthier for people to breathe, such as water vapor and carbon dioxide. The part is located between the engine and the muffler.
Why are catalytic converters valuable?
Converters can be sold for scrap or recycling to buyers for anywhere from $50 to $250, according to the National Insurance Crime Office, but the metals inside are the most valuable.
Platinum, palladium, and rhodium are three precious metals inside a catalytic converter that can be melted and sold. The cost for platinum was $932 an ounce, palladium $2,282 an ounce and rhodium $14,300 an ounce as of Sept. 19, according to moneymetals.comAlthough prices fluctuate daily.
Your catalytic converter has been stolen. What now?
Drivers often know that their catalytic converter has been stolen because the car will make a loud thunderous noise after turning on the ignition.
Anyone whose catalytic converter has been stolen in Indianapolis should call the Indianapolis City Police Department’s non-emergency line at 317-327-3811. They can then contact their insurance company to see if the alternative is covered by insurance.
Not everyone may have catalytic converter theft coverage. With AllState and StateFarm, a stolen catalytic converter can be covered by comprehensive coverage.
How is the situation in Indianapolis?
There’s a car at Ralph’s Muffler & Brake Shop with a stolen catalytic converter almost every day, said Jerry Medellin, the manager.
He said each car had different amounts of metal inside its adapters. Medellin said cars that are higher off the ground may be targeted because they are easier to slide, but that some cars, such as Hyundais and Hondas, have higher amounts of precious metals in them, which also makes them targets.
“They do a lot of damage when they cut it,” Medellin said of catalytic converter thieves. “It costs the owner a lot more to fix it because they don’t care what they’re doing.”
He said the number of vehicles that have a converter stolen varies from week to week, but that his store sees about 15 to 20 cars a week missing catalytic converters. Medellin said replacing the adapter costs between $400 and $1,500, depending on the vehicle.
Catalytic converter theft is not a new problem, Medellin said, but it has only gotten worse in the past few years.
There are solutions, such as cages that can be built around the transformer. Medellin said these cages can cost anywhere between $300 and $600, so car owners have to gamble whether it’s worth it or not.
There is also a spray paint program introduced by IMPD and cages that can be placed to protect the transformers. Medellin is not optimistic that these programs will be sufficient.
“If they put a limit on where they sell, there will be a limit on that,” he said.
What are the solutions to the problem?
Dozens of cars queued outside the Take 5 Oil Change in Indianapolis last month waiting to paint the catalytic converter for their car.
It was part of a free program that was run by the Indianapolis City Police Department to deter catalytic converter thieves from part theft.
IMPD Captain Stephen Verclayk said he saw catalytic converters captured across central Indiana and into Kentucky to be sold, he said August 17. In the past two or three years, he’s noticed a slight rise in thefts.
“It is not a special area for the southeast region or the city,” he said. “It’s been happening all over the country too.”
Verklick said spraying the transformer might not be the ultimate solution, but he hopes it will deter thieves. He also said he hopes anyone who buys transformers will realize that the painted transformers have been stolen.
a new law In March it regulated the sale of catalytic converters so that only licensed salvage recyclers could buy or sell them. The law also requires recyclers to keep records of converters, sets a $25 cap on cash payments for separate catalytic converters per day, and also requires businesses that buy or sell catalytic converters to be licensed with the State Department’s Department of Automotive Dealer Services. The law went into effect on July 1.
In their latest effort to curb catalytic converter theft, Jiffy Lube of Indiana has partnered with IMPD and Mayor Joe Hogsett to offer free converter protection starting August 30. All Jiffy Lubes in Indiana will offer to add a strip of heat-resistant paint and emboss the last eight VIN numbers of the vehicle onto the catalytic converter for free. The services are valid indefinitely, according to a press release.
Ellinger thinks IMPD’s software is a great idea, she says, but she’s not sure if it will prevent theft.
On the day the catalytic converter was stolen, Ellinger was unable to work or pick up her daughter from school.
Although Ellinger was lucky enough to own another car, it had a flat tire. Additionally, the theft came months after someone stole her wallet from her car. Ellinger, who was pregnant at the time, was trying to save money for maternity leave.
“Back then it was one thing after another,” she said.
Contact Phyllis Cha at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @phyllischa.
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