Going (for) Platinum

I was doing some reading and got into one of those tailspins where the article seems very far-fetched, so you naturally go looking for other articles that will either corroborate or dispute the first, and deeper down the rabbit hole you find yourself.

Last year, I saw a ton of articles and heard several accounts of people electrocuting themselves in the attempt at stealing copper wire, usually from power company fields. The second-hand stories usually included gory details of charred digits or limbs left at the scene.

Apparently with the recent jump in price of platinum, The latest trend is to steal catalytic converters from cars. The primary target for this kind of theft are those monstrously huge SUVs you see all over suburbia. The reasons for targeting the SUV’s are twofold: their catalytic converter is larger, and will thus have more platinum and palladium, and also due to their being off-road inspired, have a high ground clearance. The high ground clearance allows for getting under the truck easily without any equipment.

Catalytic converter jackers are able to crawl under, and with a basic ratchet and socket, get away with the part in under 90 seconds. In the case they use a cordless reciprocating saw (sometimes referred to as a “sawzall”, which is the model name from a particular brand, if I’m not mistaken), the time drops to under 60 seconds.

For those whose eyes glaze over when they see the names of car parts, a catalytic converter comes before the muffler on the waste air line, and uses a chemical reaction to kill off some of the nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide (as well as some of the unburned gas) that otherwise would be going into the air. All cars since the early ’70s come with them. And no, it has nothing to do with the Cadillac brand. The air goes through a honeycomb weave of metal inside the cat which is made of platinum or palladium(maybe even rhodium) coated with an acid. The acid used to be urea, and I didn’t see any clues as to whether they are still using the urea or not. As the air passes through the honeycomb, it is able to react with the acids and metal(s), and they are oxidized. In the case of the nitrogen oxide, the reaction attracts the nitrogen particle away from the oxygens. Separated, these particles are not harmful. Similar reactions take place to reduce the air pollution from the other compounds mentioned.

A couple of the better related articles I found are HERE and HERE.

With a recent jump of over 11 percent in the price of platinum, an ounce of the silvery stuff is topping 1400 smackers. Replacing a cat after yours is stolen is a bit more than that. The part itself is 80-200 dollars, depending on your part of the country and the size needed, and then the labor for installation, as well as repair of any other damage done. This easily reaches the thousand dollar mark for the full repair. Running without one will likely be obnoxiously loud, smelly, and will get you a sizable ticket in most places.