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A pile of catalytic converters, which contain palladium, at Alpha Recycling in the Bronx.

JEENAH MOON/The New York Times News Service

I’ve always been aware of the value of the catalytic converter, and you should too. Multiple times per week, I get a visit or a phone call from a scrap metal collector searching for these elusive devices. Retiring your vehicle after years of faithful service? Well, when the tow truck shows up to haul it away, they typically won’t give you an exact dollar value until they take a look underneath the vehicle to see if the converter is still present and if it is an original unit or aftermarket replacement.

The precious metals included in these devices are rhodium, palladium and platinum – and the size of the convertor is important. Theft of these anti-pollution devices are on the rise and if you drive a Toyota Prius, yours is the Holy Grail. The larger the unit, the higher the precious metal content – and the Prius is packing a large one.

These old converters are valued anywhere from $30 to $300 on the scrap metal market. Replacement costs can easily be in the $1000′s depending on the vehicle. But it’s not only the Prius. Every vehicle is also a target. Cube vans and commercial vehicles that offer easier access due to their elevated curb height make the theft process achievable in less than two minutes. Thieves use a battery-operated reciprocating saw, also known as a Sawzall, to hack through the exhaust tubing ahead of and behind the converter. While the cube van offers easy access, the typical sedan needs to be jacked up to allow access.

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So, what do you do, especially if you own a Prius? First off, check with your insurance company and make sure the comprehensive part of your policy does not have a converter theft exclusion and that your deductible is not set excessively high. Specifically for the Prius owner, look into a catalytic convertor protector. A metal shield that is modelled for the Prius and can be installed by the DIY’er or your local shop. While this shield is not impenetrable, it will slow down would-be thieves considerably, and will hopefully discourage them enough to move on. Parking your car in the garage makes for the best solution, but this is not available to everyone. Therefore, make sure your parking spot is well-lit, ideally with a motion sensor light system activated. For businesses with a fleet of cube vans, a robust security system with high resolution night cameras offers police at least a chance of recovering your stolen vehicles. Also consider having a muffler or repair shop create a metal bar theft deterrent cage if your job site is regularly targeted. One can even etch the vehicle’s identification number (VIN) into the converter offering some sort of traceability should a scrap metal dealer spot it and report it to police.

Regrettably, there is no single all-encompassing solution. Should you find yourself jumping into your car one morning and wakening the neighbourhood because of your racer-boy loud exhaust, take pictures and contact your local police and your insurance company. If you don’t have insurance coverage, you can always opt for a cheaper aftermarket replacement catalytic converter. But keep in mind that they don’t last as long due to the fact that they have less of the sought-after precious metals that make the factory original units so much more valuable.


Your automotive questions, answered

Hello,

I have a 2016 VW Tiguan r-line. The OEM tire is 255/40/R19. Recently the VW dealer offered me a significant discount on 4 winter tires with steel rims, however they are on 16-inch rims and they are narrower than my OEM tires. He swears by the fact that these will work on my car and will not cause damage to my car and be safe. I did some research and believe the base model for 2016 came with 16 inch tires.

What do you think? I know it will affect the driving dynamics.

Thanks,

Ben

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Indeed, the 2016 Tiguan base was equipped with a P216/65 R16 steel wheel and tire combination. When I compare the circumference of the two sizes, the variance between the two is minimal. 3 per cent is the industry standard for allowable circumference differences and you are well within that safety margin. Your on-board computers will not detect any difference and your speedometer will read accurately within that 3 per cent margin. As you mentioned, the notable variation will be 40 mm in width. Given that the base model is equipped with the 16′s, you will see no safety compromises.

Your driving style is perhaps the only thing that will need to be adjusted. The 40 mm wider tires offer significant cornering traction advantages. As you shouldn’t be driving at the vehicle limits with winter tires anyways, I say take the deal, store them for the summer and enjoy them later this year.


This past summer I purchased a 2016 Dodge Journey with the Canadian Value Package. It had only 38,000 kilometres on it. Since after the first week of ownership I have been experiencing a slight “waviness” or “hesitation” on an inconsistent basis between 50 and 60 km and especially when decelerating. Occasionally I will feel it at lower speeds and above 60 km, but very rarely. The car has great pickup/passing power, is generally solid and smooth on the highway and has no trouble starting. It never stalls.

The dealership has been very co-operative and have tried to find the problem patiently and persistently. They even split the cost of a new set of tires and have charged me nothing more – even though there is no expressed warranty on the vehicle. So, it’s not tires. Then we tried a different set of rims taken off a newer Journey. No change. They say it is not shocks or struts as I would have felt it more consistently. And it’s probably not the engine or transmission since the tachometer doesn’t flutter and I know what a gear change feels like – and it doesn’t feel like that.

So what could it be? I thought of possibly the fuel pump? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

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Don C.

B.C.

I’m happy that you at least have a very co-operative dealership as I’m sure this would be frustrating for you if they were not being so pleasant. However, the problem you are describing is not in line with the repairs completed thus far, in my opinion. They are addressing a rotating vibration, while it sounds to me like you are describing something else. I know that the transmission’s Torque Converter Clutch (TCC) solenoid is problematic on this vehicle. This solenoid engages and releases the locking portion of the torque converter and is usually repaired when it has obviously failed as the vehicle will stall when coming to a traffic light. I know you are not experiencing that as of yet, but these solenoids earlier on in the failure cycle may cause similar driveability issues at the speeds you are describing. Also, I don’t believe the fuel pump would cause this. Good luck.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

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