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I-Team Investigation: Spike in failed emissions tests caused by catalytic converter thefts

I-TEAM INVESTIGATION: Drivers paying again after catalytic converter thefts
Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 7:14 PM EDT
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(WFSB) - Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise.

It’s an expensive problem to fix and the I-Team is learning the impact can still be felt years after the crime.

If you failed an emissions test, you can go to the experts at Groton Tire and Auto.

They said they’re seeing a spike in failed emissions and they’re making the connection to the spike in thefts of catalytic converters.

“One cut here, one cut here and it just drops out,” said Ryan McCarthy, Manager at Groton Tire and Auto.

That’s how easy it is for a catalytic converter to be stolen.

McCarthy said the fix is very expensive.

“Usually on a cheaper Honda, it’s $1500. If you get up to a Prius, with bigger cats, it’s $3000 to $3500,” he said.

Since no one budgets for their converter to be stolen, drivers oftentimes attempt to save during the repairs, and that means installing an aftermarket converter.

“You’re probably still looking at at least $1,000, depending on the car,” McCarthy said.

The I-Team looked at a catalytic converter from an SUV.

On the outside, you can’t really tell the difference between the manufactured part and an aftermarket one.

The difference is on the inside.

This is where the precious metals are.

It’s those metals that help filter out all the pollutants.

Experts said the manufacturer ones do it the best.

The aftermarket ones have a much shorter lifespan.

“A factory cat will usually last you the life of the vehicle. The aftermarkets, you get a couple of years out of them, maybe,” McCarthy said.

For many, the harsh reality that the replacement converter has gone bad hits when it comes time to get the car’s emissions tested.

“Why will it fail emissions?” the I-Team asked.

“It’s not filtering out the exhaust gasses the way it should,” said McCarthy.

Compared to last year, McCarthy says they’re seeing a 50-percent spike in drivers looking to get their cars in compliance, after failing the emissions test.

“Probably about half the cars in here right now are in for emissions repairs,” he said.

“Is it because of bad catalytic converters?” the I-Team asked.

“A lot, yes,” McCarthy said.

This parallels the uptick in thefts we’ve seen over the years.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, there were 3,400 thefts nationwide in 2019.

In 2020, it jumped to 14,443.

“So many of them are getting stolen,” said McCarthy.

If it happens to you, the advice is to bite the bullet and try to get an OEM, original equipment manufacturer part, but due to the surge in thefts, these parts are in high demand, and you may need to wait.

“I think one of them it took us a month and a half to get one and that was for a Chevy pickup truck,” McCarthy said.

There are devices that can protect your catalytic converter and we’ll explore that next week.

In the meantime, the state also offers a grace period for failed emissions.

You have 60 days to get in compliance.