The Toyota Prius is a car that’s supremely easy to live with. A friend of mine has an ’05 with more than 200,000 miles that’s given her minimal issues, and it’s not hard to find similar stories. The Prius gets clowned on by fast-driving enthusiasts, but it’s a spacious car with excellent reliability and gas mileage. Unfortunately, it’s also super attractive to vagrants, as that friend of mine recently learned the hard way.
The pandemic has a lot of people who typically work office jobs working from home. At least for me, I’m super glad I don’t have to slog around in a daily commute to work. Still, the new work-from-home culture means our cars are often sitting around undriven, for days at a time. For some thieves, a car that hasn’t moved is a target.
While relaxing during an afternoon catnap, my friend messaged me, asking me to come take a gander at her car. She claimed it had become deafeningly loud. Immediately, I knew her catalytic converter had been stolen. In her photos underneath the car, it looks as if someone had cleanly unbolted or sawed off the entire mid-pipe and catalytic converter from her vehicle. The friend also said the car stank like rotten eggs, a symptom of a car running without a cat converter.
As some people reading this might know, catalytic converters are effectively filters for a gas-burning engine’s exhaust pipe. Emissions flow through this piece and react with precious metals inside it to be rendered less toxic. Those metals are what makes these parts appealing to thieves. Valuable materials like platinum and rhodium are stuffed inside and give catalytic converters good value at scrap yards. For the same reason, they often cost a lot of money to replace.
Since the pandemic started, catalytic converter theft is up. In California alone, the police raided a warehouse that contained more than $400,000 worth of stolen converters. Many people don’t have jobs, and stealing converters is unfortunately a quick way for somebody desperate to make money. Many states have laws against reselling or installing used catalytic converters, but that doesn’t stop thieves. The converters themselves are full of precious metals that can be recycled and sold. The Prius’s hybrid tech means generally less exhaust flows over the metals, meaning they tend to be less degraded than a gas-only car, making the metals inside worth more.
Thieves have it down to a science, and they can steal a converter from a Prius in just a few seconds.
There are a few deterrents that some Prius owners have done to try to prevent thefts of any exhaust system piece. Some owners weld a cage around the converter – although some argue that it doesn’t do anything but slow thieves. Some weld the converter to the body. More than a few companies sell custom-fit sheaths that fit overtop the underbody.
Luckily, my friend’s insurance covered the cost of repair, and she was on the road in no time flat. For those who don’t have full coverage insurance, they could find themselves paying more than $600 for a new catalytic converter, a bummer for most people’s pocketbooks.
Stay alert and keep on the watch. Hopefully, no thief hacks off your converter.
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