Short-term catalytic converter thief dissuasion?
November 12, 2021 9:35 AM   Subscribe

I happened to be awake this morning full of regret for accepting a 6am meeting request when I heard some bozos* jacking up my husband's car, I'm sure to steal the catalytic converter. I ran them off. I just need to make it extremely unattractive for them to try again until we can permanently remediate.

I've been meaning to order converter guards and take them to the mechanic to put on (most places here don't stock them but will install if you buy). We own two 2006 Priuses, which are apparently a favorite. Mine is in the driveway, which is steep enough that you'd have to be a somewhat confident bozo to want to be underneath a car on a jack; the car they tried this morning is parked on the flat street in front of the house. Also it has Pandemic Battery, which we were going to get replaced when we had the guard put on, alas, but we can jump it to move it probably.

It is Friday, my husband is on a stressful deadline, I have to work, and we're getting boostered later this afternoon. This weekend is a non-starter for any serious remediation but I should have a few usable hours post-booster tonight to rearrange the cars in a manner that makes it not worth the effort to try again. I know the bozos will come back tonight. We won't be able to get guards delivered to take to the mechanic until some time next week.

Liabilities: We do not have a garage they can go in. We are primarily surrounded by nitpicky old people who would probably come complain if I buy a giant Home Depot skeleton to pose menacingly on top of our cars. We do not have any electrical outlets on the front or sides of the house, though we do have a long enough extension cord if that is somehow really useful. It is not safe for any human, us or precious metal thieves, to interact with local law enforcement. This is Los Angeles, there's not anywhere safer to put the cars than our sleepy deep-suburban neighborhood.

Assets: We do have the angled driveway in which both cars could be parked - we generally don't do that because it's an awkward fit with two cars with huge front doors, but that could be used to our advantage. The driveway is bordered by a white picket fence on one side and a car's length of extremely nasty rose bushes on the other. I have a wifi camera with night vision that I believe I can get to alert me on movement. I have several large wheelie trash bins that can be made extremely heavy. I also have at least half a week's worth of two medium-size dogs' shit, an old pallet, sidewalk chalk, a lot of craft and gardening supplies, a garden hose and a wifi irrigation controller that can turn it on from my phone. And while I do not wish to actually harm somebody, I am out of fucks and kinda sorry I didn't buy one of those skeletons when I had the chance. We will be at Target for our shots but probably otherwise don't have time to go shopping, unless it's something I can get through Instacart if absolutely necessary, or maybe curbside pickup at a hardware store.

Suggestions to just make the effort really, really unappealing for suburban CC thieves, at least for the weekend?

*This, it turns out, is the word that comes to me when I am standing on my front porch in a t-shirt and underpants shouting into the dark.
posted by Lyn Never to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Park the cars in the driveway, put signs somewhere visible (on the windows of the cars? on your house? idk) that say "Smile, you're on camera!" Even if the camera isn't installed, THEY don't know that.
posted by cooker girl at 9:51 AM on November 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

If you have existing driveway lights, what about replacing them with motion-activated floods? You can pick them up at any of the big-box home improvement stores. If there are no lights, installing some shouldn't be terribly complicated.
posted by jquinby at 9:54 AM on November 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

I have a CatLoc on my Prius, but I also bought one of those alarms you attach to a bicycle that goes off if motion is detected - much cheaper than a motion-detector alarm for a car. I bought two fobs and the whole thing cost me less than £20. I attached it to the front grille of the car with a cable tie and you wouldn't even notice it.
posted by essexjan at 10:03 AM on November 12, 2021 [5 favorites]

We park our cars butt-to-butt now, practically touching. And as close to a wall as possible. Makes it at least a little bit harder for someone to maneuver in there. Good luck!
posted by oxisos at 10:12 AM on November 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Just getting the car off the street will help a lot - if it hasn't been moved in a long time, the thieves likely noticed and figured it was easy pickings. Jump it and park it in the driveway in whatever direction makes it hard to get underneath. If you have a timer, set a light to go on in the house a bit before the time the thieves arrived (or sporadically throughout the night, like someone can't sleep) so it looks like someone's up.
posted by momus_window at 10:14 AM on November 12, 2021

Response by poster: It may be useful to know that on Priuses, the best access for cat theft is from the side, basically where the front and back doors meet. They had the jack just behind his front tire when I caught them.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:20 AM on November 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Park it at the airport? Or somewhere way out in the country, with permission?
posted by amtho at 10:42 AM on November 12, 2021

It might be expensive, but likely cheaper than getting your catalytic converter stolen to see if your mechanic will store it until the part comes in
posted by raccoon409 at 11:40 AM on November 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm honestly surprised they jacked it up. 2nd gen Priuses have the cat convertor in easy reach of a tool from the side without jacking.

I'd say get them both in that steep driveway for now. Maybe park them close together, facing in opposite directions so as to be able to get into and out of the driver's door relatively unobstructed.
posted by hanov3r at 11:42 AM on November 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm with cooker girl. Lie and say you have a camera. They don't know and won't risk it.

Just put a sign on the window next to where they would jack up that says there's a camera. Salty language and threats optional.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:50 PM on November 12, 2021

Call your insurance company and change your coverage to lower the deductible on your comprehensive coverage if you have it?

If you have a grassy area you can park the cars on, you could do that, it's very difficult to jack up a car parked on dirt without a large board or something to spread the load. Optionally, you could water heavily to make the ground softer, although you might risk getting stuck.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 1:14 PM on November 12, 2021 [5 favorites]

If you can find something truly foul-smelling, spray it.

Thanks for the reminder, i need the guard, too.
posted by theora55 at 1:15 PM on November 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yeah, my thoughts are: motion detector lights, making access more difficult by parking in the driveway, and doing something gross like smearing some fish oil along your car where they have to touch it to get to the converter. You obviously don't want to make a puddle that you'll track into the house or car. Most thieves do not want to endure any weird discomfort like rosebushes or stinky WTF like fish oil- they'll move on to a not prickly or not-smelly situation. Wash off with Dawn dish soap before taking to the mechanic!

I don't know how much of a deterrent cameras are these days if you have black clothes and a balaclava.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:31 PM on November 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Park next to each other with right side practically TOUCHING each other so they can't get there. Oh, and have the right side of the car next to each other. One had to nose out, other had to back out. But that'd reduce the easy access. You may want to fold the mirror in, and only fold it out once you got onto the street.
posted by kschang at 5:03 PM on November 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'd slide the pallet under the car if possible. I recently had one taken off my 2004 CRV and a good replacement at a dependable mechanic is half the price of the car.... I'm rooting for you.
posted by Nosmot at 9:25 PM on November 12, 2021

Response by poster: So in the end, nothing we did kept them from coming back, and it took the insurance company some leisurely time to get us processed and approved so there was ample opportunity.

Some lessons learned:

- Ask your service provider if your car needs a cat converter guard, and get one put on ASAP if they say yes and your car is not constantly parked in a secured area. (This cost a little under $250 each but that's with already having the car on the lift and work being done on the emission system so YMMV if you're not having other work done, but on the other hand these are Los Angeles Japanese Car Specialist labor prices. It could probably be cheaper.)

- If you have not lately taken photographs of your car from all angles (plus the odometer every so often, and wherever the VIN is marked on your car), you should do that and file it away, maybe do it yearly to track unrelated damage. If your car is stolen, there's an accident or vandalism, catalytic converter stolen, etc, you're going to get asked for photos of the vehicle before the incident.

- Make sure that if your service provider reasonably observes you haven't had an oil change in a year and your brakes are ghastly and battery is trashed and whatever else because pandemic, they split out the out-of-pocket expenses (and cat guard, if insurance won't pay for it - ours would not) onto a separate estimate from the insurance-covered stuff up front, because you may find that after it's invoiced it is basically impossible to do and you have to beg insurance to accept an annotated invoice and email from the mechanic.

Thank you all for your clever ideas.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:52 PM on December 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Perhaps a solution would be to install a dummy camera to deter thieves. Unfortunately, we are encountering this problem more and more often. It is better to park your car in plain sight.
posted by Julian76 at 2:02 AM on May 8

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