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Fleet Management Information for Sweeping Professionals

Catalytic Converter Thefts An Increasing Problem

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross
March 2023

The theft of catalytic converters from a wide-ranging number of vehicle makes and models – including Isuzu sweeper chassis – has reached crisis proportions. If you want to have an overview of the relevance of catalytic converters and how they operate, we suggest this article by

Note: At the end of this article are shown three different anti-theft deterrent devices as well as catalytic converter anti-theft advice.


TheftsByMonth Thanks to higher prices for platinum, rhodium, palladium and other metals found in the components, catalytic converter thefts rose from about 100 a month in 2018 to more than 1,200 a month in 2020, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIB). (That's the latest year where reputable source data could be located.)

While thieves hit all kinds of vehicles, the catalytic converters from some models command higher prices from the recyclers who process them because they contain more of the high-priced metals.

In the current market, catalytic converters can be resold to recyclers for as little as $50 or to precious metal dealers for as much as thousands of dollars per ounce, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). Because advanced models of catalytic converters include even more precious metals than older models, thieves have an increasingly attractive opportunity to make quick cash.

Catalytic converters are increasingly a target for thieves due to the current market value of a catalytic converter’s precious metals; the ease of removing a catalytic converter by an experienced thief; and, the inability to track catalytic converters since they don't have any type of built-in tracking system.

Vehicles manufactured after 1974 have catalytic converters, so there are a lot of cars on the road that might appeal to catalytic converter thieves. However, thieves often target taller vehicles because they can easily fit under the vehicle to access the catalytic converter.

For this article we interviewed a long-time sweeping contractor in the Northeast part of the US. Theirs was a saga of multiple catalytic converter thefts from their sweeping fleet. In order to protect the company's identity, for reasons that will become clear in the article, we are not identifying this source publicly.

"We've had the sheriff's department and state police here investigating the thefts that occurred on our sweepers," said the contractor. "After the thieves cut out four converters from our sweepers and we replaced them at significant expense, they came back and stole them again. I told the state police trooper that we weren't replacing them again and he said 'Off the record I don't blame you.'"

"We ended up having a big meeting five or six months ago in our locale where I learned just how many businesses in our area had been hit. Besides us they included three repair shops, a landscaper and an autobody shop. We have personally been hit three times. The first time the thieves came through and hit us for 16. Isuzu chassis, I learned, are prime targets since where the converters are located make them easy to get to. We watched the thieves on our exterior cameras after the fact, but there wasn't anything that helped us identify them.

"The first time when they took the 16 they first cut our chain link fence with a battery-powered saws-all. They then went through our fleet of trucks; surprisingly, they didn't mess with any of our diesel sweepers. Those converters are $10-$15,000 a pop, which is why I was surprised. Clearly the market for the thieves was gas units; however, for the Isuzu chassis a replacement converter is well over $1,000. With a saws-all they could remove a converter in just 3-4 minutes. A few months ago the penalty went from a misdemeanor to a felony so thefts have slowed down somewhat in our area since then.

"When we met with the state police and sheriff's office personnel, they told us some people are grinding up some kind of precious metal inside and snorting it. You had to wonder who the dumbass was who first came up with that idea. Mostly, though, thieves are getting $200-$250 apiece for the stolen converters on the black market. The thefts have become so prevalent that loads of stolen converters are being shipped around the country. During this process we learned from talking to a couple of large truck supply operators that they'd been hit for 170 converters in just one weekend. This kind of theft has really become a thriving business for thieves.

The reason the contractor is not being identified is the owner was serious about not replacing the twice-stolen catalytic convertors on the company's sweepers. They are now welding a straight pipe in the area the converters were. However, when they do that then the 02 sensor will turn on the check engine light, which throws some other codes and will make the truck run rough. Where the sensor screws into the exhaust pipe, they add a brass male-to-female extender piece that puts the sensor further out of the pipe so it doesn't trigger since it is no longer directly in the airflow. They then re-flash and clear the codes and the machine runs fine.

In order to pass inspection, the company mechanic has installed a two-bolt flange onto the pipe and they've purchased a couple catalytic convertors for Isuzu chassis and keep them on-hand. When it comes time for an inspection they bolt the needed catalytic converter onto the flange for the inspection. Afterwards, the converters are unbolted and the straight pipe bolted back on.

The sweepers that still have catalytic converters on them they park inside their building if they can. Management is also having some of their employees park the sweepers at their house.

The cost to replace and install a new catalytic converter on a gas chassis can be as much as $3,000; anecdotally, we were told that for diesel chassis the cost may be up to five times that amount. Insurance claims for a stolen catalytic converter in 2020 ranged from $500 to $3,000, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute.

Most comprehensive vehicle insurance can help cover a stolen catalytic converter. Check with your insurer to see how your policy can minimize the impact of a stolen catalytic converter. However, keep in mind that when any company has claims against their insurance companies it goes against their loss runs, which you will cost the company in the long run. Company owners have to decide whether to pay out of pocket or file a claim. Consider what will be the best option; when any company has claims against their insurance companies it will cost you in the long run. AllstateLogo Allstate Insurance suggests these tips to help protect vehicles from catalytic converter theft:

  • Know if your vehicle model is a likely target: hybrids, SUVs and trucks have valuable or easily removable catalytic converters.
  • Etch your license plate number or VIN onto your catalytic converter – this may help alert a scrap dealer that it was stolen and make it easier to identify the owner.
  • Park in well-lit areas close to public entrances, regularly move your car’s spot or use a closed garage.
  • Install an anti-theft device
  • Install motion-sensitive lights and cameras in your parking area
  • Paint your catalytic converter to deter buyers – some local police departments even offer free programs for painting
  • Understanding when your car might be a target for catalytic converter theft is the first key to preventing it. By following these protective measures, you may help deter thieves from targeting your car.
In some cases, this kind of theft is covered by insurance. The optional comprehensive portion of your insurance policy, the portion that covers damage caused to your vehicle not caused by accident, covers this kind of loss. However, the owner will be responsible for paying the deductible. If your deductible is $1,000 and the cost to repair the damage costs $1,000 or maybe a few hundred dollars more, drivers may not opt to file a claim.

Monroe Logo

There are a variety of anti-theft devices available. However, because of all of the sweeper components at least some of these are not feasible. Monroe Equipment, part of the Aebi Schmidt Group, for example, offers an Isuzu NPR solution called a 'Cat Cage.' This is a device that bolts onto the frame in the area of the catalytic converter.

Cat Cage We spoke to Steve, at Monroe, who said the Cat Cage hardware kit uses the six pre-tapped holes in the frame by the converter. As long as that part of the frame is accessible then the Cat Cage can be installed. He said the device hangs down about a foot below the frame. They have installed Cat Cages primarily onto NPR box trucks but doesn't know if the room exists on any particular sweeper model. You will find Monroe Commercial Truck Equipment at Their phone number is 800-356-8134.


CatClamp Builtmore Contract Manufacturing offers a theft prevention device it calls the 'CatClamp.' This consists of aircraft grade wire rope that surrounds the catalytic converter. The wire rope is routed through the chassis in order to "lock" the converter to the chassis. This is an open cage design that appears to take up less space than the box sold by Monroe, so if space is a consideration it appears worth checking out.

The CatClamp is also made for Isuzu NPR machines and, as can be seen in the photo, it offers an open cage design that allows for normal heat dissipation from the converter. Builtmore offers contact with the company via a contact form located here.

Cat Strap Logo

A third anti-theft deterrent to prevent catalytic converter theft is called the 'CatStrap.' Kits under that moniker are available for both gas and diesel chassis. The one for diesel is outlined below; for the one for gas models appears to be very similar at a somewhat lower price.

Cat Strap The Catstrap & Cateye Bundle is available with a Manual or Automatic Alarm configuration. The manual alarm the company touts as "best for RV's, plug-in hybrids, or any vehicle with electrical charging or for vehicles that are off for long periods of time. Uses remote Fob control."

The automatic Alarm is called "Best for daily driver cars/trucks and vehicles that are driven frequently. The automatic feature eliminates the need to remember to set the alarm. Automically arms/disarms itself when engine turns off/on."

From the website is this verbiage... A combination of the Cateye and the Catstrap for provide maximum protection and consist of:

  • 1 Catstrap (12 ft long – Shown Coiled)
  • Dual-layer, custom-hardened strip steel + three aircraft-grade steel cables designed for enhanced cutting protection
  • Orange warning strip for additional visual deterrent.
  • Built-In Heat-Activated Adhesive Strip (designed to bond to the converter body)
  • Built-In Adhesive Strip
  • 20 Stainless Steel Ties
  • 2 (two) Clamp Collars for use with the exhaust clamps on either side of the converter body (Note: standard exhaust clamps not included).
  • 1 Bright Yellow Warning Label

Pricing appears to be just below or above $300 per unit. To find out more go to the company's website, which indicates the products are available in the US, Canada, UK and Europe. You may call the Ohio-based firm at 419-344-8232.

If you have questions or comments about this interview, please, let us know and, if appropriate, we can add it in as an addendum to this article.

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