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My catalytic converter was stolen

Image for article titled It Happened to Me: My Catalytic Converter Was Stolen

image: Erik Shilling

I went on vacation the first week of June, leaving my Honda Fit parked on the street in New York somewhere not far from my apartment for eight days – just in time, great I think, to a parked vacation. the car next to me so I won’t ‘not sell tickets. When I returned from vacation, I went to the car to make sure it was still alive. All seemed fine, so I went back to my apartment and didn’t think about it until the weekend, when I hit the road on Saturday to do some weekend work. I knew something was wrong as soon as I started the engine, because my humble Fit now sounds like a race car.

At first, I thought it was just the silencer that ended up failing. It’s the original unit, and it’s seen a lot of salt from the New York winter. That’s fine I think – the alternator, the air conditioning compressor, the tires, the windshield wipers (several times), the spark plugs, the battery and various filters (several times) have all been changed. in the car, and that’s all I can remember. If it’s time for a new silencer, no problem. The engine and transmission are still in good working order and the car has never been wrecked. The bones are still good.

So I drove to the shop and explained, I think something is wrong with the silencer, can you check it? ¹ About an hour later, they called me back and told me the bad news: The catalytic converter was stolen, that’s been happening a lot lately. The repair will only be $3,500. Quite surprisingly, I told them I would have to think about it and call them back. Around the same time, I remember paying for comprehensive coverage, because it only adds $60 a year and I might need it. In fact, I did.

I went to GEICO’s website to file a claim, which started a new worry: The possibility that they might total my car. Despite having a great body, my Fit is 14 years old and I dread the idea of ​​having to buy a replacement car in the worst car market in recent memory.

However, after a few days, GEICO called me to let me know that my car was not, in fact. Insurance will pass the bill, saving my $500 deductible. It was a relief. The store says it will order a new catalytic converter and other necessary parts and carry out repairs.

It’s Friday, they said, so the parts may not get here till Monday or Tuesday. That’s fine, I said, thinking that a weekend without the car was certainly not a big deal.

On Tuesday, I got a message from the shop, saying that the aftermarket catalytic converter was on backorder, and it might be several more days before they got it. A week after that, I sent them a message to get an update, which went unreplied. A few days after that — somewhat perturbed — I decided to march down to the shop to see What The Hell Is Going On. At the very least, I had to retrieve some things from my car, as, at this point, it seemed likely to be out of commission for a while.

A nice woman at the shop apologized for not getting back to me, saying that the parts were still on backorder. A colleague of hers then offered an estimate of “three to five weeks,” and we commiserated about parts shortages for a bit. At this point — or maybe before this point — most people might have simply tried a different shop, but I was not eager to do that because (a) my insurance had already processed the claim and paid it out, and I wasn’t sure what resetting the whole process would mean; and (b) it’s possible — probable? — that another shop would experience the same issue, and then it might take even longer. Perhaps, too, I’d fallen prey to the sunk cost fallacy and all of that.

Anyway, I retrieved my things from the car and resigned myself to a summer without a vehicle, which is fine, because New York City has good public transportation. Several weeks passed. Then, about 10 days ago, I got a call from GEICO, who informed me that the shop was tired of waiting around for an aftermarket catalytic converter, so they’d now be installing an OEM unit, though that would cost GEICO another $1,000.

That is fine, I said.

Finally, on Monday, over two months since I reported the claim, I got a call, which my phone flagged as a likely scam, but I picked up anyway. It was the shop, which is my local Honda dealer, whose calls apparently seem like scams. The car is done, they said. Come by and pick it up anytime.

The bill, when I got there, was just under $4,500, all but $500 of which had already been paid to me weeks ago by GEICO. I looked at the receipt, perusing all the parts they replaced, which was a bit more than just the catalytic converter because the thieves did other damage, too. One item stuck out to me: At some point in the past two months, the shop had lost the key, which necessitated them making a new one. That service was free.

When I got in the car, it was like the car had never left my hands — though for some reason the shop gave it to me with all four windows rolled down, and a window in the rear was a bit stubborn about going back up. Still, I’m just glad to have my Fit back. And I’m hoping, once again, that the Fit’s ground clearance of just under six inches helps deter future catalytic converter thefts, even though it didn’t this time.

I asked the dealer if there was any kind of anti-theft protection they could install on the new catalytic converter. I would happily pay for it. They said unfortunately there is not. Though I realize now, that seems more like a job for a guy I know in Brooklyn. Last time I saw him, he seemed to know a little too much about the topic, in fact.

¹Some of you might be wondering why I got the exhaust fixed at all, since my straight-piped car sounded AWESOME. The issue, of course, is that my car needs a catalytic converter to pass New York state inspection and thus be road legal. Having once let my inspection lapse, and having had the car towed as a result, let me tell you it’s a very bad day when you arrive at the tow pound to retrieve your non-road-legal car. They’ll inform you that, no, they will not be letting you drive the car away from the tow pound, did you not hear me the first time about it not being road legal? Then one must arrange one’s own tow truck to tow one’s non-road-legal car from the tow pound to a shop for a simple $35 inspection. Another reason: The interior of the car smelled like exhaust. A third: I am old and law-abiding these days.

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