Portland mechanics engineering DIY catalytic converter protection


PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) – With the explosion of catalytic converter thefts, muffler and auto shops in Portland are slammed with business, as are shops that sell anti-theft devices.

But in all reality, it’s not always easy to protect catalytic converters: it can be really expensive to buy protection plates, the parts can be hard to get — or not even exist for some cars — so mechanics are becoming something of engineers.

Mechanic Craig Sieckmann told FOX 12 that business at his Portland shop has quadrupled over the last couple of years.

Many of his customers are victims of quick hit jobs where thieves cut off catalytic converters to sell for quick and lucrative cash.

“So many of the people are students, single parents, so yeah it’s getting old,” Sieckmann said.

According to a report released this spring by State Farm Insurance, Oregon ranks sixth in the nation for auto parts thefts.

Across the nation, State Farm claims for catalytic converter thefts have increased by about a whopping 1,200%.

In Portland, the crime is rampant, with few repercussions and no easy way to track the data.

And when you widen the scope to include other types of theft, it’s more grim news for the rose city.

Statistics compiled last year by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office show the Portland Police Bureau in 2021 only referred about five percent of its theft cases over to prosecution. The District Attorney then pursued an average of fewer than half of those cases — meaning only about 2.5 percent of reported thefts ever make it through the judicial system.

It leaves victims overwhelmingly without justice, plus hefty repair bills.

“When people come in they generally want answers, how this can be helped,” Sieckmann said.

Sieckmann said a new catalytic converter can range from a few hundred bucks to around a thousand.

Many of his customers never want to hear that rattle again, but manufacturer protection plates can also be quite expensive, hard to get, or maybe they don’t make them for your car.

It’s forcing mechanics like Sieckmann to get creative.

“We came up with a cable idea and we weld the cable onto the frame and we also weld it to the converter,” Sieckmann said. “So the idea is to make it harder to get off. We weld directly to the converter; in order to cut off the converter they are going to have to cut directly into the converter, to get it.”

Sieckmann told FOX 12 he’s retrofitted the cables in about 600 cars. He charges about $150 bucks per catalytic converter.

“Putting these loops (in the cable) makes it so it vibrates, sawzalls will not cut it. This is some pretty high strength cable, extremely hard to cut as well,” Sieckmann added.

Is it fool-proof? Sieckmann said with thieves, where there’s a will there’s a way, but it the devices can serve as a deterrent – encouraging a would-be thief to move on to an easier job.

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