While reports of 3 stolen catalytic converters from vehicles in Wellesley over the past 2 weeks doesn’t register as an obvious trend, it was enough to pique my curiosity over what might be up.
Catalytic converter thefts across the country have been on the rise for some time because the value of metals in these devices, like platinum ($1,200 an ounce), palladium ($2,800 an ounce) and rhodium ($27,900 an ounce), are sky high. Wellesley Police Lt. Marie Cleary says Wellesley hadn’t had such thefts in a while, but has heard about similar thefts in other communities of late.
Catalytic converters make the exhaust spewed by vehicles with internal combustion engines less toxic, and if yours is stolen, you’ll know it.
“The obvious clue that it’s been stolen is the sound the vehicle will make. Similar to losing a muffler, just an obvious loud exhaust,” says Jimmy Quinlan of Quinlan’s Automotive on Rte. 9 East in Wellesley.
Protecting your converter can be tricky if you don’t have a garage.
“Most of the time thieves are just cutting them out with battery-powered Sawzalls, in which case there’s nothing you can really do if they have the guts to even attempt that,” Quinlan says.
One option is to install motion sensor lighting where the vehicle is parked, Lt. Cleary said.
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As for why all 3 reported catalytic converter thefts in Wellesley involved Priuses, it could be because they’re an easy target, says Johnny Milch, who owns Milch Motors in Natick. Prius catalytic converters are “easily removed with minimal tools, minimal time, etc.,” he says. (Although as one alleged catalytic converter thief in Anaheim learned, this type of heist is not without perils.)
A new converter from a dealer could cost you anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500, plus labor, Milch says. “If thieves are cutting them out, you may be forced to replace more exhaust pipes than just the cat. itself, depends on the design. A few weeks ago, a parts company I use couldn’t deliver parts to me right away because a few of their vans/trucks had the cats cut out of them,” he says.
Thieves can net $100 to $300 or more in scrap value for the catalytic converters. Milch says the reputable scrap metal outfits he works with are on the lookout for people trying to trade in catalytic converters “that appear to be in good condition and have obviously been removed from running vehicles.” But apparently others are willing to take the contraband.