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Guest Column:

Anti-theft measures for every car part?

January 17, 2008|By Ken Khteian

Come on, what’s next? We have steering wheel “clubs” and annoying car alarms that blare out for the wrong reasons; do we now have to install little alarms onto every single component on our cars to prevent theft? I hope it doesn’t come down to that.

A catalytic converter was stolen Jan. 5 from my daughter’s boyfriend’s 1990 Toyota 4Runner right in front of our house at the 5100 block on Palm Drive in La Cañada. OK, it was raining on that Saturday night and our street is dark, but it seemed it was done right under our very noses.

We discovered the part was missing the next morning when the vehicle was started and sounded like a Daytona race car. I asked if it normally sounded that loud, and my daughter’s boyfriend, Shant, screamed over the now very loud engine noise, “No way, something’s changed.” He killed the engine and dangled from his passenger seat beneath his vehicle like a rag doll looking for something under his bed. I bent down and cocked my head to have a look also, and we both saw that a pipe was obviously missing, and a gap was where a catalytic converter once was firmly bolted.

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The only trace of the converter at the scene were four bolts scattered on the rain-reflected asphalt like threaded soldiers who gave it their all but couldn’t hold up their line of defense — and the pliers that were used to kill them.

Our family watchdog, Sadie, was off duty that night with the heavy rains, courtesy of a note from the head of the household, and was snug in her bed inside the house. Otherwise, she and the two dogs across the street would have certainly barked vehemently at all passersby and anyone suspiciously lurking around any vehicle.

What the heck is a catalytic converter and what makes it so valuable to thieves? We all know that cars are known to contribute to cities’ smog problems, and to help solve those problems, cities, states and the federal government created clean-air laws that restricted the amount of pollution that cars can produce. Over the years, automakers have made many refinements to car engines and fuel systems to keep up with these laws. One of these changes came about in 1975 with an interesting device called a catalytic converter, which is an elongated metal, horizontal cylinder that intersects an exhaust pipe.

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