Richmond auto shops offer free etching to deter catalytic converter thefts

Catalytic converter thefts have been rampant across the Lower Mainland. The Richmond RCMP teams up with local auto shops to help car owners out. Cecilia Hua reports.

By Cecilia Hua and Aastha Pandey-Kanaan

Mounties in Richmond have partnered with local auto shops to help car owners protect against catalytic converter thefts.

Catalytic converter thefts have become rampant across the lower mainland. According to ICBC, in the first seven months of 2023, claims involving stolen converters totaled 8.2 million dollars.

To combat this, the Richmond RCMP is working with ten auto shops to offer etching services to car owners.

“We engrave the last 8 numbers of your VIN on your catalytic converter. If we catch someone with that converter and the VIN doesn’t match up, then we know it’s stolen,” said Const. Frank Bryson.

Car owners can inquire about the services at auto shops, and if it’s one of the ten, a technician will do it free of charge — helping to bring down costs for drivers.

This pilot project comes after Surrey RCMP launched a similar initiative last year. Officers tell CityNews they’re also working to target the buyers of these stolen converters.

Officers say they have specialized units, plain clothed units, and other agencies helping them look into the companies that recycle the stolen items.

A mechanic at the Canadian Tire Auto Shop says catalytic converters can be sold for scrap metals for a couple hundred dollars because of their precious metal components. Meanwhile, it can cost the car owner thousands of dollars to replace when stolen.

“This one is really hard to replace, because this goes all the way to the engine and we barely have any space to get our hands in,” says mechanic Carlos Antonio.

He says if you don’t have a catalytic converter in your car, you can tell by the “really loud noise” that will be heard when you start your engine.

With files from Cecilia Hua.

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