Catalytic converters were developed to help the environmental movement; thieves have learned the pollution-control units can bring them a different kind of green on the black market, reports the Denver Post. Converters contain three precious metals – platinum, palladium and rhodium – which have skyrocketed in price, sparking a rash of thefts from parked cars. Platinum now trades at nearly $1,600 an ounce and rhodium at $2,450 an ounce.
Catalytic converters are the size of small mufflers and sit between the engine and muffler on a vehicle’s exhaust system. The metals help convert some of the nastier engine exhaust gases to stuff that isn’t so damaging. A thief armed with a battery-powered hacksaw can roll under a car, particularly a four-wheel drive with high ground clearance, and cut off a converter in two minutes. On the black market, converters bring anywhere from $30 to $200 cash. Thieves have become brazen.For hapless owners – some of whom have lost their converters while dining in restaurants – the loss isn’t critical, just expensive. A car can be driven after losing a converter, but it sounds like a dragster because the exhaust system has been cut in front of the mufflers.