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In an article about my recent car maintenance, I discuss how my catalytic converter was stolen

I went on vacation the first week of June and arrived back to New York with no damage.

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I left my Honda Fit street-parked in New York during the first week of June, close to my apartment, for eight days. I felt this was a clever move to coincide with an alternate-side parking holiday to avoid getting a citation. I walked up to the automobile after I returned from vacation to make sure it was unharmed. Everything appeared to be in order, so I returned to my apartment and didn’t give it another thought until the weekend, when I left on a Saturday to do some weekend activities. As soon as I started the engine, I realized something wasn’t right because my modest Fit now sounded like a race car.

At first, I believed it to be the muffler finally failing. It is the original unit and has received a lot of salt from winters in New York. That’s okay, I reasoned; the car has already had its alternator, air conditioning compressor, tires, windshield wipers, spark plugs, battery, and other filters replaced numerous times, and that’s just the stuff I can recall. No big deal if a new muffler was required. The automobile has never been in an accident, and the engine and transmission are both in excellent condition. Bone quality is still decent.

I then drove to the shop and asked, “Could you check the muffler? I think there’s something wrong with it.”

¹ They contacted me back about an hour later and delivered the unfavorable information: The catalytic converter had been stolen, which has been happening very frequently lately. The cost of the fix would be just $3,500. Surprised, I informed them that I needed to consider it and would call them later. At about the same moment, I recalled that I have comprehensive insurance, which costs an additional $60 a year but may come in handy. I really did.

I went to the GEICO website to submit a claim, which started a new worry: the prospect that they may write off my automobile. My Fit is 14 years old, despite being in excellent condition, and I hated the thought of having to purchase a replacement vehicle in what may be the worst auto market in recent memory.

But after a few days, GEICO called to let me know that my automobile was not actually totaled. The cost would be covered by insurance, less my $500 deductible. That brought me relief. The business promised to start the repair by ordering a new catalytic converter and the other components they would need.

They informed me that since it is Friday, the components might not arrive until Monday or Tuesday. I responded, “That’s alright,” believing that a weekend without a car was undoubtedly not a big concern.

The aftermarket catalytic converter was on backorder, according to a message I received from the shop on Tuesday, and it might be a few more days before they have it. They didn’t respond to my contact asking for an update I sent them a week later. A few days later, very agitated, I made the decision to march over to the store to find out what the hell was going on. My automobile needed to be retrieved at the very least because it appeared that it would be out of action for some time at this point.

The parts were still on backorder, the shop’s kind employee said, and she apologized for not getting back to me sooner. Then one of her colleagues gave an estimation of “three to five weeks,” and we briefly commiserated over the lack of parts. Most people might have simply tried a different shop at this point, or perhaps even before, but I was hesitant to do that for two reasons: (a) my insurance had already processed the claim and paid it out, so I wasn’t sure what it would mean to reset the entire process; and (b) it’s possible — probably? — that another shop would experience the same problem, making it take even longer. Maybe I was a victim of the sunk cost fallacy and everything else.

Anyway, I took my belongings out of the car and decided that I would survive the summer without a car because New York City has excellent public transit. There were several weeks. Then, approximately ten days ago, I received a call from GEICO informing me that the shop had grown impatient with the long wait for an aftermarket catalytic converter and would now be installing an OEM unit, despite doing so would cost GEICO an additional $1,000.

That’s okay, I remarked.

After reporting the claim more than two months ago, I finally received a call on Monday. Although my phone indicated that the call was likely a fraud, I still answered it. It was the store, my neighborhood Honda dealer, whose phone calls appear to be prank calls. They said the car was finished. Pick it up at any time by coming by.

When I arrived, the total was just under $4,500, of which GEICO had previously reimbursed me for all but $500 a few weeks prior. I carefully examined the parts they replaced, which included quite a few more than only the catalytic converter because the thieves had caused additional damage, as I looked at the receipt. One thing stood out to me: the shop had made a new key after losing the original one at some time in the previous two months. It was a no-cost service.

Although the store gave it to me with all four windows down and one in the back that resisted going up for some reason, when I got in the car, it felt as though it had never left my hands. I’m just relieved to have my Fit back, though. Even though it didn’t work this time, I’m optimistic that the Fit’s ground clearance of just under six inches may help prevent catalytic converter thefts in the future.

I asked the dealer if they could add any sort of anti-theft security to the brand-new catalytic converter. I’d gladly pay for it. Unfortunately, they answered, there isn’t. Even while I now realize it, that seems more like a job for a Brooklyn-based man I know. The last time I saw him, he actually appeared to know a bit too much about the subject.