There is a piece of your vehicle's exhaust system that is tremendously valuable to the lowly criminals in the world. Your catalytic converter.

It's the part of your exhaust system that converts the more harmful elements and compound results of the combustion engine into lesser harmful gases. Hydrocarbons get broken down into water vapors, carbon monoxide becomes carbon dioxide, etc... and it's only able to do that because of what is contained inside the converter.

Chemistry is just as amazing as it can be confusing. The chemical reaction that takes place in a catalytic converter is only possible by passing harmful emissions by a couple of noble metals. Most converters contain very small amounts of ultra-expensive platinum, palladium, and rhodium that make these chemical reactions happen, leading to cleaner and safer exhaust gases.

How much can it really be worth?

At this specific moment in time when writing this, platinum has a current value of $960-ish per ounce. An ounce of palladium is currently selling for a little over $2200. The same amount of the even more rare rhodium is worth a staggering $15,000.

The average catalytic converter contains about five grams of platinum and palladium, and about a gram and a half of rhodium. Some have less and others, mainly those on hybrid vehicles can tip the scales quite more, even double those amounts. This is why thieves are stealing them. They're worth up to $1500 to the recyclers.

Why don't we make it illegal to sell catalytic converters?

Spoiler alert, many laws have been put on the books in recent years trying to combat this trend of get-rich-quick thievery, but there's just one problem with them... Criminals don't follow the law.

Oklahoma has passed a few laws in the last few years to try to combat this trend, most recently making it a felony, but it's still really easy to sell this equipment to those that recycle it, and those who profit from it are OK with that too.

You only need a few easily faked documents to sell a catalytic converter to a dedicated recycling company, but since cash is king and values only continue to rise, a lot of these places don't even bother with the formalities.

So how do I keep this from happening to me?

It's relatively easy to avoid walking out to your car only to discover a fresh $3,000 repair bill. Criminals are almost always opportunistic. They're after the quick and easy payoff. The harder you make it for them, the more likely they'll move along and rip off your neighbor's vehicle.

Experts will tell you to park in well-lit areas, but cat theft happens in parking lots in the middle of the day. Some say you should invest in an alarm system, but that doesn't stop a meth head looking for their next fix either. Texans take it to the extreme, having grown accustomed to having cages built around their catalytic converters, making it a real challenge to cut one off.

The simplest thing you can do is permanently attach it to your vehicle. Have the exhaust shop take some steel and a welder to bridge a connection of your catalytic converter directly to the frame. The thicker the better.

Exhaust pipe is thin and easy to cut... a criminal isn't going to take the extra time to saw through some thick steel strips or hardened bolts. It's also pretty cheap to have done, even though you'll likely get some weird looks from the people you're asking to do this.

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