Instead of the smooth humming of a normal vehicle, a clunky rattling and loud exhaust bangs are telltale signs that a car clearly has a problem. Why? The catalytic converter has been removed; presumably stolen for some quick cash.
Specialist Director of Curry Automotive Repairs Scott Lorenzen says that the damaged system is easy to notice.
“You’ll know right away the engine would be extremely loud. It’d be like taking your muffler almost the exhaust off as it hit,” he says.
Over the past few weeks, Columbus Police Department officials have noticed a spike in catalytic converter theft.
Columbus Police Department Major Matt Meyers says reports have skyrocketed from once or twice a month to ten occurrences in one week.
“They usually saw them off. They’ll get into parking lot with multiple vehicles and crawl under one and roll over and crawl under another one. Within the last couple of days we’ve had six converters cut off of vehicles at a local business here,” Meyers says.
The foot-long exhaust system connects to the exhaust pipe and rests at the bottom of the vehicle. This exposed location makes it an easy target for thieves looking to make a few hundred dollars.
Lorenzen says that the lack of a converter could cause serious and costly damage to the vehicle.
“With the converter removed it certainly can cause some internal damage to the engine.. burn the valves in the engine. An average cost to replace can be anywhere $400 sometimes up to $900 to replace a converter, some vehicles may have come equipped with two,” Lorenzen says.
Dimly lit parking lots with multiple vehicles have been the primary target for thieves, as well as cars sitting in dark alleyways. Residential areas have remained largely untouched, but are not entirely safe from theft. Vehicles that stand higher on the ground, such as SUV’s and trucks, have been targeted the most due to easy access to the underbelly.
Myers encourages people to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
“I don’t think this is just an issue in Columbus, Indiana. You’re probably going to see them dealing with the same issue here. They’re trying to get the scrap metal to make some quick cash and we’re going to do what we can to get it stopped.”
Since there are no signs of registration or ownership on the converters, scrap yards have little indication as to whether or not the part has been stolen. Police will be working with scrap metal workers to note any suspiciously recurring transactions from potential suspects.