ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — It is not uncommon for a stolen catalytic converter to sell for as much as $300 in the Rockford area. 

Sometimes they’re worth even more.

But, because of a coordinated effort between businesses and law enforcement, thieves looking to unloaded stolen converters may want to think twice.

While some scrap yards and secondhand parts suppliers will still buy used catalytic converts if sellers have valid ID, others are refusing them and taking it a step further. 

Using their caller ID, some businesses are passing phone numbers they receive from people attempting to sell used converters along to local police. Detectives can then follow up to determine if the callers were trying to fence hot merchandise. 

“They’re trying to keep track of who’s bringing stuff in,” said Nick Martinez, manager of 815 Automotive in Rockford.

Because used catalytic covers are still fetching a pretty penny, crooks are getting proficient at removing them. In the Rockford region, they’ve been stolen from delivery vans, car lots, even the general public.

That means it’s not unheard of for someone to start their car in the morning and immediately realize there’s a problem.

“Usually there’s a really loud exhaust,” Martinez said. “A car will sound like the hornet cars at the Rockford Speedway.”

If the sound of a missing catalytic converter isn’t enough to alert a driver, a “Check Engine” light usually does the trick. Hooking the car up to a code reader can confirm the issue, Martinez said.

“You’ll get the code for a catalytic converter,” he said. 

Then there’s the trip to the auto shop, followed by an often expensive solution. 

“A lot of cars require a factory (catalytic converter) or they’ll throw ‘Check Engine’ lights,” Martinez said. 

The cost to replace a factory catalytic converter on a late-model vehicle could easily run $1,700 or more. To make matters even worse, some vehicles require more than one. 

What is a catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter is the part of a vehicle’s exhaust system that creates a chemical reaction that turns harmful air pollutants into less-harmful substances before they’re expelled through the muffler. 

Since 1975, all gasoline-powered vehicles in the United States are equipped with catalytic converters to comply with federal EPA regulations.

Where is the catalytic converter located?

A catalytic converter is underneath a vehicle. It connects to a pipe that comes from the engine on one end and to the exhaust pipe on the other.

How do thieves steal catalytic converters?

A catalytic converter can be removed with a wrench or special removal tool, although stealing one is typically less involved. A thief usually just crawls underneath the vehicle and cuts it off with a reciprocating saw. A skilled rip-off artist can remove a unit in a couple minutes or less.