Hartsville car thieves are going platinum

HARTSVILLE, SC (WMBF) – Auto shop employees are filling more orders for a specific car part customers say are being stolen right under their car.

The Advanced Auto Parts in Hartsville has had several requests for catalytic converts. Assistant Manager Larry Foss said local dealership owners are finding cars in their lots where the part has been sawed off.

"One dealership had five cut out. Another one had two or three," Foss said. He explained the value comes from the platinum contained in the main part of the converter.

Kitco Metals Inc., one of the world's largest retailers of precious metals, lusts the costs of platinum around $1800 per ounce.

Experts say it takes as few as two minutes to saw both ends of the converter from the pipe to which it is attached.

Depending on how they cut it out, you might also need to replace other parts of the exhaust system."

"You could potentially wind up spending five, six hundred dollars just to get your exhaust system the way it should be," Foss explained. Installing the part ranges in cost from $250 to $500 dollars, depending on the model.

"The economy is bad, there's more people out of work, but that's no excuse to steal," Charles Rollings criticized. He has heard of catalytic converter thefts in the past, but never in such large quantities.

"I'm glad I kind of live off the beat and tracks so maybe they won't steal mine in my front yard," he added.

A catalytic converter filters the air that leaves the exhaust pipe and muffles the sound of the car engine. The car will function without it, however, exhaust fumes can carry over to passenger compartment and the engine will sound 10 times louder than normal.

Car owners can purchase a lock kit that prevents catalytic converter theft. THEY range in COST from $100 to $300 and can be installed with basic mechanic skills.

Copyright 2011 WMBF News. All rights reserved.