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Why can't I get a stolen catalytic converter returned to me? | Why Guy

Law enforcement doesn't say why they can't return stolen catalytic converters, but offer tips to help you keep your car parts out of the hands of thieves.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Today's Why Guy question comes in from Pebbles Llamas, who asks, "is there a way to get a stolen catalytic converter returned to me? Why can't I do that?"

Pebbles, the theft of catalytic converters has reached epidemic status in California. Thieves target vehicles like Toyotas, Fords and Hyundais getting under the car to cut the catalytic converters, sometimes in less than a minute. The converters are then sold to junkyards and scrap yards for a couple of hundred dollars. For you to replace it though can cost over $2,000.

So what can you do? Sgt. Tom McCue with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office offers a few tips.

"It's a very good idea to get etching on your converter," McCue said. "You can etch your license plate number, driver's license number or VIN number. It's a great thing for officers when they stop a suspect. There is a problem that does occur when the etching is scratched off." 

If you start your car and it sounds like a monster truck, that's a good indication your catalytic converter is gone.

Law enforcement also recommend installing a cage under your car to protect against theft. 

"The best solution in my opinion is the cage," McCue said. "It creates a difficult task for them to cut through that metal and most of the time they'll bypass cages because it takes too long."

The cost for a cage is about $350 if you have someone install it for you. But the cost for a new catalytic converter can run over $2,000.

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