This costly car part has become easy money for local thieves

Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 6:35 PM EDT
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MARTINEZ, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - If you started your car right now, it probably would sound normal. That’s thanks to a catalytic converter -- a very uncommonly heard-of car part.

But thieves know it all too well, and they’re stealing these parts to make some easy money.

A car that doesn’t have a converter sounds extra loud, and it’s not any quieter inside the car, either.

The part helps clean the exhaust in your car and muffles the noise.

It’s also becoming a hot commodity for thieves in Columbia County.

“There were six cars in our complex, not all cars at my place, but cars in the complex that were taken in the same 30-minute time period,” said Tommy Mathewes, owner of Tommy Mathewes Auto.

Mathewes' report is one of seven filed with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office between Wednesday and Friday of last week. Mathewes has been in the business for nearly 40 years and says thieves want these parts like the converter for what’s inside.

“Three precious metals: platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Used in electronics and jewelry,” Mathewes explained.

He says targeting these parts is pretty rare, but he’s seen it before.

“It tends to be more common when the price of gold or those precious metals platinum and palladium are high. It gets to be more popular,” Mathewes said.

It doesn’t take very long for the thieves to remove it, either. They go under the car. They look like a regular mechanic, but really, they’re stealing your parts. Within 30 seconds, they’ve already done thousands of dollars in damage to your car.

Mathewes says usually these parts last the life of the car, so they don’t even carry them in the shop, meaning if yours gets stolen, it’s an even more expensive fix. He also says these thieves tend to target elevated cars. So, if you’ve got a truck or van, you may be an easier target.

Here's a look at recent catalytic converter thefts in Columbia County.
Here's a look at recent catalytic converter thefts in Columbia County.(WRDW)

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