In November, Carmen Shorey walked out to the parking lot of her apartment complex in Sarasota County and climbed into her Ford Excursion.
For Shorey, 60, the vehicle had been a reliable mode of transport for 28 years. Shorey, who is disabled, depended on it to get to the grocery store, church and computer classes. She also used it to help neighbors without cars of their own, giving them lifts to run errands and go to the store.
But that day when she turned the key in the ignition, instead of the normal purr of the engine, what she heard was a deafening roar. Turning off the motor, she called her mechanic. Listening to the noise through the phone, he told her to bring the Excursion in first thing the next day. The problem, he surmised, might be one of two things.
After inspecting the vehicle, the mechanic gave her bad news.
“I can’t fix it,” he told Shorey.
The problem was not his first suspicion – a faulty muffler. Instead, it was the second.
The catalytic converter – the part in the exhaust emission system that reduces airborne pollutants – was missing.
It appeared that Shorey had become the latest victim in what is a growing nationwide problem.