Photo by Diego Garcia
Jonah Cloninger, Vice President of Biltmore Iron and Metal Co., spoke about the legality of buying certain auto parts from individual sellers.
According to Stephanie Weiner, thieves cost students at UNC Asheville thousands of dollars from stolen auto parts.
“I turned my car on to go to the grocery store and it sounded like a tanker truck. Then I took it to a car park and they told me my catalyst had been stolen,” said Stephanie Weiner, junior at UNCA.
Weiner said she believes the first incident happened at night a few weeks ago and the culprits remain at large as police are still investigating through security screening.
“It was about that $ 2000 for just the part itself and it caused other problems because of that. They unscrewed the catalytic converter from the downpipe and sawed off the opposite end in the direction of the exhaust silencer. So I had to weld on my exhaust pipe and a new converter, ”said Weiner.
According to campus police, the Asheville Police Department is now involved due to the increasing number of stolen catalytic converters.
“I did my own research and had a security device installed that costs a little more. When I got it fixed it was about $ 2,500 total. It’s also like a welded box that covers the catalyst so it can’t get there. Even if they sawed off the other side, they might not get the part they want. It’s like a metal plate that runs around the floor of the car, ”said Weiner.
Weiner said she suspects they are targeting cars that have the portion exposed below, as well as cars that are easy to slip under.
“It seems like a group of people involved because one person is driving, another person cutting it off and then throwing it in the trunk. They have the footage of it, but they can’t tell who it is. I just think they’re trying to make money, ”Weiner said.
Weiner said the money the thieves make doesn’t cost nearly as much as it does the victims to get their vehicle repaired.
“It didn’t affect me personally because I insured it for the most part. You have the security device added and the things that went wrong with it like that Problems with my engine, ”said Weiner.
James H. Barnette, an insurance agent for Barnette and Coates Inc., said customers have been affected by this type of vandalism.
“When you have full coverage, or better known as full coverage, the insurance company pays most of the cost,” said Barnette. “I would therefore recommend full coverage as this includes fire, theft, vandalism such as breaking a window or beating an animal. So if someone wrecks your car, or if they steal a catalytic converter or whatever it is under full cover it covers. “
Individuals recommended by Barnette should have full coverage.
“In North Carolina, for example, you can choose anywhere or in every body shop so you don’t have to be limited to one location to take it anywhere to have it replaced,” he said.
Colby Monday, a service advisor at Toyota in Asheville, said that it is not just looking for the Prius’ catalyst, but any converters in general that are being targeted.
“I worked for a dealer 10 years ago where they made $ 1.2 million in catalysts. They stole every single converter from a Honda dealer of new and used vehicles, ”said Monday.
The way they did it involved a team of five with a van and what Montag called a quick and strategic plan.
“They sawed off every single catalyst in the parking lot, and what makes them valuable is the copper and platinum in them. So what happens is people melt them down by taking them apart to make money off of them.” said Monday.
Despite targeting Priuses, all converters are valuable. He said he thinks it could be searched because Asheville has a lot of Priuses.
“There may be a certain exhaust component that is a little more valuable compared to a Chevy Equinox. There could be more platinum in this one and they are taking it somewhere to disassemble and sell elsewhere. I think I’ve had about 10 of them here myself and I know some of them had to come back, ”said Montag.
A customer who recently went to Toyota to literally have the part installed had it take twice in 24 hours, according to Monday, showing the extent of the problem.
“The cost to repair is $ 2,600 and the component is only about $ 146 to install, but the part itself costs about $ 2,000, so it’s a big deal,” said Monday.
He also suspected thieves had a couple of electric saw blades in their pockets and stated that they could take over the part from roughly 163-168 cars in less than an hour.
“Some preventive measures that can be taken are security guards, which look like an underrun protection plate riveted to the frame of the car. It also protects the car from low curbs and prevents it from being stolen again. We’ve got a few of these installed now and cost about $ 277 to attract them, but it’s worth every penny, “said Monday.
“The state of North Carolina makes it illegal to buy catalytic converters from individuals and they only have the parts that come from the junk vehicles they receive,” said Jonah W. Cloninger, vice president of Biltmore Iron and Metal Co.
Cloninger also stated that mechanic or exhaust companies can get rid of old converters because they can provide the necessary information. Car companies tend to use them as the cores for the new products, i.e. the parts are sent to the manufacturers who recycle them.