Miami Valley mechanic breaks down catalytic converters thefts

CENTERVILLE, Ohio (WDTN) — Greg McAlpine knows firsthand what it is like to deal with the headache of having a catalytic converter stolen.

“My car personally, several times, and several customer cars on the lot. We come in and go to start one up and it’s making an awful racket and we know immediately what happened,” McAlpine said.

McAlpine owns McAlpine Automotive in Centerville. He is seeing a rise in people getting hit by catalytic converter thefts.

“People need their cars to get to work or just to work, and we have to drop everything and get them working as fast as we possibly can,” McAlpine said.

Catalytic converters take the toxins in a car’s exhaust and convert them into less harmful pollutants. They are usually made of platinum and other precious metals, which is why thieves steal them. McAlpine said they are also relatively easy to take and people usually use power tools to quickly cut them off cars.

“They can get in and out of certain parking lots and areas and cars within minutes. So it’s very fast with the battery-powered tools,” McAlpine said.

McAlpine said thieves can usually sell them for anywhere between $50 to more than $500, however, they will cost people hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to replace.

“Just a catalytic converter by itself for, say a late model Honda, is $400 to $700, and that is if there are no extra pieces or parts in there, if we can weld it in, if there’s extra labor involved. They’re very expensive,” McAlpine said.

So what can people do to deter thieves? McAlpine said not much. There are devices people can buy to try to stop someone from taking your catalytic converter, but he said those can easily be cut and they are also expensive.

Police recommend parking in a well-lit area, installing security cameras, and even marking your catalytic converter just in case it shows up in a shop.

“Some of these guys need these vans for work and they can’t work without them. So it’s a pretty unfortunate thing,” McAlpine said.