What to do if a thief makes off with your catalytic converter

Expert weighs in after 10 converters stolen over weekend in St. Augustine

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Ten drivers from two neighboring St. Augustine apartment complexes discovered the exhaust pipes had been cut and catalytic converters stolen off their vehicles over the weekend.

The thefts were reported in the Whispering Woods and Whispering Pines apartment complexes off Country Road 207. 

Neither complex has surveillance video of the thieves, making it difficult for deputies to identify them.
One woman was told the damage to her car was in excess of $3,000. 

Midas Mandarin manager Tony Galdi said that in his 40 years in the auto business, he's seen quite a few cars come in with stolen catalytic converters.

The thefts had News4Jax asking questions, and Galdi helped give us the answers.

Why steal catalytic converters?

They contain precious metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium. Catalytic converters can sell for anywhere from $30 to more than $200 at scrap yards.

How do I know if my converter has been stolen?

It will sound very loud when you start the engine -- like a race car.

Should I drive my car if my converter has been stolen?

Not a good idea. If the primary converter has been removed, flames will be coming out of the car. Just get a tow truck. 

Depending on the car, it could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to replace a converter.

What does a catalytic converter do?

Every car has a catalytic converter. It attaches to the muffler, and its job is to turn harmful compounds in car exhaust into harmless ones. The metals inside make them the No. 1 target for thieves.

Because platinum ignites quickly under low heat, excess gas that falls out of the engine hits the converter and burns.

How are catalytic converters stolen undetected?

This is the question that has deputies scratching their heads, because catalytic converters are located under the car, near the center. Thieves would have to saw through metal to get it off, and that would be pretty loud.

In the most recent theft cases, the converters and exhaust pipes were stolen overnight in parking lots outside apartment complexes. 

How can I deter thieves from stealing my catalytic converter?

Park in a garage or a well-lit area, weld your converter to the exhaust system or purchase a catstrap or cage that can be installed around a converter. Some scrap yard owners are trying to prevent the thefts by refusing to buy converters from sellers who don't have the proper license.