First it was hubcabs and radios, then it was those obnoxious xenon headlights, more recently it was GPS units. Well now we're all crawling underneath cars and SUV's and robbing their catalytic converters!
A catalytic converter is used to reduce the toxicity of emissions from an internal combustion engine. They were first introduced on cars in the US market for the 1975 model year to comply with tightening EPA regulations on auto exhaust.
Catalytic converters are also used on generator sets, forklifts, mining equipment, trucks, buses, trains, and other engine-equipped machines. A catalytic converter provides an environment for a chemical reaction wherein toxic combustion by-products are converted to less-toxic substances.
The muffler-sized converters don't seem like an obvious target but there are trace amounts of platinum, a wonderful metal that converts pollutants into harmless chemicals, inside the converters. Platinum hit all-time highs on global commodities markets this year and dudes can get anywhere from $50-$1,000 depending on the type of converter at a scrap yard that doesn't ask questions.
From the scrapyards, the converters make their way into the metal-recycling industry, where the platinum and other precious elements, including palladium and rhodium, are removed and used to build high-tech machinery, including more catalytic converters!
Catalytic converters are the latest thing to be stolen in the rising theft of other metal products such as bleachers, kegs and copper wiring. Like the precious metals, the price of more common metals such as copper and aluminum has skyrocketed.
While drug addicts and other petty thieves are hitting cars on an individual basis, organised teams are removing catalytic converters en masse from car dealerships and wrecking yards galore.
A Hyundai dealership in Jersey reported losing 28 converters in one night, worth $1,000 each. An Auto Wreckers shop was hit multiple times, including the theft of 400 in one fell swoop - god, I love that phrase!