I was in a meeting with a fellow auto repair shop owner a couple of weeks back and we were exchanging stories about customers who have had catalytic converters stolen off their vehicles. His story, which involves a truck pulling up in his shop parking lot in broad daylight and removing a catalytic converter in less time than the few minutes it took him to look out and realize what was happening, was more dramatic than mine. However, the fact that we have had to replace the catalytic converter on a church bus, twice (!), is to me even more disheartening. The people that are performing these acts of cowardice have absolutely no scruples. But it's up to us to make sure that our communities our safe. Why we have not made a bigger issue of this with our senators and congressman is inexcusable. Therefore, we have to make enough noise that something gets done.
In another blog post on our other shop's site I talk more about the why of catalytic converter theft. You can link to that article here:
In this article I would like to focus on the what we can do about it. Here is something to think about. A number of months back we had a gentleman come by our shop offering to pay cash for our catalytic converter cores. This is not abnormal. We have people who like to take our scrap metal, our catalytic converters and more. But, his was a new face in our shop. We have been dealing with the same person for quite a few years so we declined this new visitor's request. He went across the street to our dealership neighbor and inquired about the same thing. But, that night, while we all lay sleeping, he was caught on that dealership's cameras taking for free what he had offered to buy earlier in the day. Pulling up in a truck, he and others proceeded to cut the "cats" from a number of the cars in that lot. The footage was given to the police, but that perpetrator is still at large.
This is a lucrative business. As of this writing, catalytic converters for a Prius can be thousands of dollars to replace and are on back order for months. This is especially true for Colorado, where our change in emission standards had doubled the price of converters (as a side note, please don't yell at us that they are so expensive, we are just the messengers). When this kind of thing happens, as it did to my niece in Seattle (in the hospital parking lot while she worked on the Covid unit putting her life it risk, no less), it can be frustrating enough to want to put a Charles Bronson Death Wish kind of revenge plan in place. But that really isn't going to solve the problem in the larger scheme of things.
What we can do is this. While it pains me to say sayonara to the gentleman who has been buying our converters for years, it only makes sense that we regulate this industry. I know, that word sparks a lot of hard feelings for some people, but it's the truth. Catalytic converter installation and core recycling should only be done by licensed facilities. I'm not saying this to put more money in my pocket, I make plenty from replacing missing converters. I'm saying this because we can't have it both ways. This is the message that needs to be conveyed to our government and in the end, it will be a cheaper alternative for you the consumer. A stolen converter is only covered by your insurance if you have a more expensive policy, a missing converter is thousands of dollars, so having this work done by select licensed facilities seems a small price to pay. The people who stand to lose in this deal are the catalytic converter do-it-yourselfers and the criminals. There are still plenty of repairs left over for shade-tree mechanics to save money, but the upside is that the converter theft problem dries up. If you think about it I'm sure you'd agree.
Next step, reach out to your local senators and congress people and begin to get the ball rolling!