Top car parts targeted by thieves

3 parts in particular are favorites for crooks looking to make a fast buck

By Jennifer Waugh - The Morning Show anchor, I-Team reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Drivers beware!  Thieves aren't just after the valuables you leave inside your car, but there are specific parts attached to your vehicle that may be just as appealing to them.  

What are the top car parts they're stealing to sell for cash?

First on the list, catalytic converters

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 of them make it the number one target for thieves in Jacksonville.

Aaron Nelson with Aaron's Car Care says replacing a catalytic converter that is cut from the car by thieves can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars, depending on the kind of vehicle and the damage done to remove it.

"A neighbor of mine, somebody tried to steal his catalytic converter off of his new Toyota Tundra, the truck didn't have but 6,000 to 8,000 miles on it. Well, the damage to the truck to fix it was several thousand dollars to put the exhaust back to what it was," said Nelson.  "Not only did he damage this particular individual's truck, but in the back of the guy's automobile he had parked out in the street, he had approximately six or eight catalytic converters, which he'd already stolen earlier that night."  

While a victim can be out thousands of dollars, police in Jacksonville say scrap yards will  buy a catalytic converter for as little as $30 each or as much as $150 each, depending on the kind of car.

Second, truck tailgates

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Florida ranks 4th in a first-ever report to analyze tailgate thefts.  The most likely to be stolen is tailgates on the 2008 Ford- F-250.  The second biggest target is the 2010 Ford F-150. The 2007 Chevrolet Silverado ranked 3rd among most stolen tailgates, followed by the 2008 Chevy Silverado.

Nelson showed Channel 4 how quickly a tailgate can be removed.  It took him about 15 seconds: Plenty of time for a thief to get your tailgate and run.  The replacement cost can be $1,000 or more.

Third most popular: airbags

While it may surprise you, the air bag is the third  most common part to be stolen from your car. 

"If you had to replace this, this airbag right here new is about $600," said Nelson.

While airbags are not sold for scrap metal, they are a target because police say there's a real market for reinstalled airbags.  Thieves can sell them for 100-150 dollars each to auto repair shops.

There are some safeguards you can take to make it harder for crooks to steal parts to your car. 

  • Lock your car to better protect your airbag and keep valuables out of plain sight.
  • Lock your tailgate, too. Crooks can't steal the tailgate if they can't open it. Also, etch your VIN in the tailgate to make it easier for police to find it, if it is stolen. There's also a chance the bad guy will see you etched in the VIN, and he may pass to avoid getting caught.
  • Park in a garage, or at least a well-lit area: This will make it less appealing for a thief to sneak under your car and cut out your catalytic converter.

Copyright 2013 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.