Local News

Thefts of catalytic converters on the rise

Posted August 4, 2008

— Thieves looking to steal catalytic converters from vehicles are on the prowl in the Triangle.

Jake Wessell found out his catalytic converter was gone when his wife called about their 2006 Toyota Tundra.

“She called me up and said, 'Something's wrong with the truck.' (She) said it revved really loud," Wessell recalled.

Someone slipped under Wessell's truck and sawed out the catalytic converter while it was parked Friday in the Smith Barney parking lot off Spring Forest Road.

“I just couldn't believe it. I was dumbfounded,” Wessell said.

Wessell is not the only victim, as catalytic converter thefts rise.

“This is probably the fifth or sixth vehicle, at least, in the past two or three weeks that we've been seeing,” J. Cox, manager of Fred Anderson Toyota, said.

Cox said thieves can make a few hundred bucks off the emission-reduction device, selling the trace precious metals inside for scrap.

“As the dollar weakens, these precious metals become more valuable,” Wessell said.

Wessell has insurance, but the cost to replace a catalytic converter is not cheap. He is expecting to pay about $3,500.

Trucks are common targets because their ground clearance offers easy access for thieves.

“The bigger jacked up trucks are what we're seeing the most of,” Cox said.

“Instead of people stealing your gas, they're going to come after your catalytic converters,” Wessell warned.

Wessell said he is so frustrated, he is calling for legislation to toughen penalties for converter thefts. In the meantime, he said, he will be parking in public places where more people can keep an eye on his truck.


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  • TheAdmiral Aug 11, 2008

    "Wessell said he is so frustrated, he is calling for legislation to toughen penalties for converter thefts."

    I see bigger government.

    I see no reason to not install a used CAT from a wrecked car. I think this entire emissions junk is causing more harm than good.

  • jse830fcnawa030klgmvnnaw+ Aug 6, 2008

    missdawg, one other clarification. I even contacted NCDENR Division of Air Quality to try and get a waiver for the 30-day repair requirements after failing the emissions test. The waiver is only possible if a single emissions-related repair is over a particular amount. The Cat was a single repair at $2200, so a waiver was not possible. Plus, NCDENR did try to locate a cheaper Cat for my vehicle, including researching junk/recycling yards, and that is how I found out about the Federal law restricting only using new or EPA-certified rebuilt Cats. Bottom line is that I exhausted (no pun intended) all options before paying the $2200 for the Cat replacement, and again most of that expense was on the part alone (labor was minimal).

  • jse830fcnawa030klgmvnnaw+ Aug 5, 2008

    missdawg, I do agree that I got ripped off but not the way you are implying. I went to an independent shop and then to the dealer, and they both told me the same thing. For my car model, only Toyota makes the Cat, period. May be for your car, there are secondary sources and you do not have to purchase the Cat from Honda, but in my case, this was not the case. So the price can vary a lot.

    Now, I did complain to Toyota corporate, and they did reimburse me for half of the Cat replacement cost. So the Cat replacement was ultimately about $1100 for me.

  • missdawg Aug 5, 2008

    "I paid over $2200 for my replacement Cat from Toyota. That is the normal price range for a new Cat, again depending on the vehicle. This was for a compact car." treet007

    Treet, you got completely ripped off. A new cat for my Honda was $350 with parts and labor. There are some things that you never take your car to a dealer for, and a catalytic converter is one of those things.

  • jse830fcnawa030klgmvnnaw+ Aug 5, 2008

    eric3, it is against Federal law to install a used Catalytic converter unless it is from an EPA-certified rebuild facility (like http://brownrecycling.com/reman/index.html). I found that out when I tried to obtain a used Cat converter for my car (from the junk yards) when the check engine light came on, basically stating my Cat was bad.

    So I had no choice to purchase a new Cat, and I had 30-days to do so since I failed Raleigh emissions testing. I paid over $2200 for my replacement Cat from Toyota. That is the normal price range for a new Cat, again depending on the vehicle. This was for a compact car.

    BTW, I heard you can punch a hole on the failed Cat to bypass it. However, I decided that I did not want to do that since I really do not want to pollute the air from my car. The Cat serves a purpose in reducing emissions, and I support that. However, I believe it is a crime for the amount of $$$ charged for a new one, despite the fact that they are mass produced.

  • snizzake Aug 5, 2008

    rtwngr, you hit the nail on the head... thanks!! One thing WRAL didn't report correctly is that WE ALL NEED TO BE VIGILANT against these punks that want to steal this kind of thing. We have to watch out for EACH OTHER! We all (most of us, at least I hope) work very hard for the nice things we have, especially our vehicles, and to have someone help themselves to something they see as "easy pickins" makes me mad as... If I saw some crackhead roll out from under somebody's car with a catalytic converter in his hand, you better believe he won't be getting out from under that car without a boot in his face, if I can help it!! On another note, the insurance companies are NOT going to lose money on this crime for long! They are going to start jacking up EVERYONE's premiums to cover these losses occurring now. Like rtwngr said, take away the market for these theives by cracking down on scrap metal dealers who buy the converters and we might have a start.

  • snizzake Aug 5, 2008

    Something else for everyone to understand.... No one got "ripped off" twice! If anyone is getting ripped off, it is the insurance company who is footing the ENTIRE BILL, even the rental car while it's getting fixed. Each catalytic converter for the Toyota Tundra is $1,400 from the factory, for a total of $2,800 for the two stolen. Then you have 2 oxygen sensors (don't know the cost, maybe a couple hundred) and the labor to repair a sawzall job on the pipes. In order to retain the 8 year 80,0000-mile WARRANTY on the catalytic converters, you must install genuine TOYOTA parts. So, to all of you geniuses who think you can get this fixed for a few hundred bucks, with aftermarket parts, be my guest... I will keep my full coverage insurance and ZERO DOLLAR deductible so it doesn't cost me a DIME!!! It's more of a pain in the neck to deal with, and it makes me sick that the cops can't do anything to a thief even when they catch them with 20 converters in the back of their truck.

  • rtwngr Aug 5, 2008

    It seems like most people commenting are missing the point. Regardless of the price, this person is probably most likely not paying for it himself, insurance is. So it's not him getting "taken", it's the insurance companies, which in turn means everyones rates eventually go up because of the deliquents who are too lazy to either get jobs to pay their bills or support thier drug habits. The fact is that this crime will not go away unless they crack down on the unscrupulous scrap metal dealers, who make a market for it. Wake up and stop worrying about what Fred Andersons wife or daughter looks like. Key point - you worked for him. Jealously is usually why people talk smack.

  • snizzake Aug 5, 2008

    Let me just straighten everyone out here.... First of all, WRAL did the typical media thing by butchering the point of the story. The point is that catalytic converters are being stolen and sold to scrap metal processors for the PLATINUM, RHODIUM, AND PALLADIUM, which are precious metals that have increased in value by 75% over the last 6 months. Platinum goes for about $1,500/oz, Rhodium for about $7,900/oz. Yes, those are real numbers. Now, a typical catalytic converter contains several hundred dollars worth of each of these metals, so the scrap metal dealers will pay a thief about $150 per converter. The Toyota Tundra has TWO catalytic converters (as do many trucks and SUVs) and they are huge, and have a lot more platinum than older converters or the ones on small cars. Therefore, they are a bigger target, especially since they have 2 or 3 times the ground clearance (from the factory, not all "jacked up" like most of you think).

  • momof3inNC Aug 5, 2008

    I thought that Margaret girl was his wife. Very misleading. Since they are trying to promote that they are all about family.