How to prevent catalytic converter theft
Monday, 24 February 2020
In this article, we take a look at the rise in thefts of catalytic converters, why this may have occurred, and, more importantly, how you can prevent catalytic converter theft happening to your vehicle. Plus, find out about what to do if you are affected by this type of theft.
What is a catalytic converter?
Catalytic converters (CATs) are a crucial component of a car’s exhaust system. They’re located under the car, attached to the exhaust pipe (usually with bolts). A catalytic converter cleans harmful gases before they exit a vehicle’s exhaust pipe.
Catalytic converters are usually used with internal combustion engines fuelled by either petrol or diesel. They are fitted into most petrol-fuelled vehicles made since 1992 and most diesel-fuelled vehicles made since 2001.
A CAT is one of the most valuable salvage car parts out there.
Why are thieves stealing catalytic converters?
Catalytic Converter theft has risen due to the value of what they are made of and how easy it is to steal them. A CAT can be bolt cut from the underside of a vehicle with relative ease, and they are lacking in identifying marks, which makes them hard to trace when they are resold.
A catalytic converter contains palladium, platinum, and rhodium – all precious metals. Palladium is worth around £1,375 per ounce, platinum approximately £700 per ounce, and rhodium about £4,000. If and when the prices of these precious metals rise, so does the value of a CAT, making them far more attractive to thieves.
Despite it being illegal to pay for scrap metal with cash, unfortunately, some merchants will buy stolen materials for cash, making it harder to trace the theft and tempting thieves to steal valuable car parts.
How do thieves steal catalytic converters?
CATs are found under a vehicle, in a box connected to the exhaust pipe. To steal them is, unfortunately, a simple process - thieves get under the car and use high-powered cutting tools or simple bolt cutters to detach the box from the pipes around it.
Thieves take the stolen catalytic converters to metal recyclers who can pay anywhere from £50 - £100 per converter for the precious metals inside them. The better condition the converter is in, the more money a thief can make.
Are some cars victim more often than others?
Yes, some cars are more frequently targeted by thieves for catalytic converters. Although there are around 10,000 different types of CAT, the cars that are most often targeted are hybrid vehicles.
Hybrid cars are targeted because they have two power sources – an electric motor and a petrol or diesel engine – so their catalytic converters are used less frequently to process pollutants. This means the metals inside them are less likely to corrode, making them more valuable.
Vehicles that are higher off the ground such as 4x4s are also at higher risk of catalytic converter theft because it is far easier for a thief to get under the vehicle. The Honda Jazz and Honda Accord are also targeted more frequently because their older catalytic converters are particularly easy to reach.
The AA has reported that rural, as well as urban gangs, are working to steal these valuable parts. County shows where hundreds of vehicles are parked for long periods are often targeted.
No matter your vehicle type, you should be taking precautions and protecting your vehicle from theft.
What should you do if your catalytic converter is stolen?
Driving without a CAT could lead to engine damage. As soon as you realise the theft has occurred:
- Take the vehicle to a repair shop or garage to avoid a more costly repair and to prevent harmful emissions getting into the atmosphere
- Report the theft to your local police so they can assist
You may be able to tell if your vehicle’s catalytic converter has been stolen upon starting up, as the exhaust will likely sound much louder. However, some drivers might not even know the part has been stolen because a vehicle can still run without it.
If you don’t have a catalytic converter fitted, your vehicle will produce emissions above the permitted standard. This makes the vehicle illegal to drive on the road. The police can fine drivers up to £1,000 if a catalytic converter is missing. This is regardless of a driver’s knowledge of the theft.
Can I claim on my insurance for a stolen catalytic converter?
Yes. You should be able to claim on your insurance for the theft of the catalytic converter. Be aware that any claims are subject to the excess you have agreed on your policy and could impact any no claims discount.
How can you prevent catalytic converter theft?
There are a few ways you can prevent catalytic converter theft:
- Park your vehicle in a garage or somewhere that makes it difficult for anyone to access its underside
- Install CCTV and an alarm system that captures where you park
- Don’t park your car in one place for a long time
- Etch security details into the converter
- Secure the CAT with extra bolts or a protective sleeve to make it harder to cut out
- Try ‘defensive parking’ against a wall or by another lower vehicle to make it more difficult to reach under yours
- Have a mechanic weld the catalytic converter to the exhaust system
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