LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Despite stricter rules and higher fines passed during the Nevada legislative session, catalytic convertors continue to be stolen.

Now, mechanics are shielding vehicle owners from theft with a literal shield.

Cheri Wiman, for one, frequents California beaches and Montana mountains with the RV she purchased after her retirement. However, when she hit the road over the summer, it was anything but a vacation.

“I started driving it and the whole inside of the car filled with exhaust gas,” Wiman said Friday morning with her RV suspended on a vehicle lift behind her. “It’s my baby.”

Her catalytic converter was stolen from the HOA storage unit where she lives. Wiman said it took six months to get a new one.

She’s one victim of thousands, of thieves looking to sell the precious metals on the inside of catalytic converters that filters out harmful gases.

In 2022 Carfax reported 153,000 thefts nationally.

In Las Vegas, Metro police reported over 2,600 in the same year. Thieves even got away with the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile’s catalytic converter in early February.

AutoZone says those replacements could run victims anywhere from $300 to $2,500.

As thieves become smarter, so do the mechanics fixing the problem.

Richard Castillo and Pete Pele of Pele’s Catalytic Converters & More brought an invention from the Bay Area to Las Vegas in August.

The pair worked with Pele’s father, who altered factory versions of this shield for Priuses to fit most vehicles.

Now, in their central valley location, they said vehicle owners are contacting them daily to repair their cars.

“Especially with rookie thieves, they don’t really know what they’re looking for. They’ll just cut anything,” Castillo said inside the shop Friday morning.

They’re poly-aluminum or stainless-steel shields, secured with heavy-duty rivets, that make it harder to reach the converter.

“Even if you were to cut one of the contact points, you need to cut all four to bring the whole thing down. Even if you were to cut three off that four, you can’t pull that shield down,” Castillo said. “We have those contact points that only our shop knows.”

A feature, according to the repair shop manager and owner, that does not interfere with vehicle functions or getting it services. But, they said it does interfere with the thieves’ time.

“They’re looking for about a minute, but if we can add on five, 10 minutes, they know there’s another vehicle out there without protection,” Pele said. “It’s a great deterrent.”

Pricing for the shield all depends on the car it’s going on, Castillo said. Smaller cars require a shield that costs as low as $320, with some larger cars requiring shields that can cost as high as $900.

They believe these costs pale in comparison to the potential of replacing a catalytic converter multiple times, costing potentially thousands of dollars each time. Pele adds customers have returned after shield installation to repair those shields after thieves attempted and were unsuccessful in reaching the catalytic converter.

With a shield secured to her RV, Wiman says she’s prepping for her next adventure across Oregon, with concerns of her RV flooding in the rear-view mirror.

“If anybody wants to take this, it’s going to take them a while to get to it,” Wiman said with a smile. “I feel like I’m double protected.”

Carfax suggested the best ways to prevent a car from being tampered with is to park in well-lit areas close to public entrances, regularly move a car’s parked spot, utilize a closed garage, and install anti-theft devices in a parking area, like motion-sensitive lights and cameras.