Catalytic converters are both a blessing and a curse for modern motorists. On the positive side, they reduce toxic gases from exhaust emissions, on the negative side they’re an in-demand commodity for thieves.
In September 2019 the BBC reported a rise in catalytic converter thefts - up to 2984 in the first six months of 2019 compared to 1674 in the whole of 2018.
The rise in catalytic converter thefts is due to the value of the metals that make them. Thieves can cash in as much as £1300 for an ounce of palladium and £4300 for an ounce of rhodium.
What is Catalytic Converter & How Are They Stolen?
A catalytic converter is an exhaust emissions control device that reduces the release of harmful gases into the atmosphere. Manufacturers have been instaling the devices on most cars since the 90s, but thefts have only rocketed in the past 12-18 months.
Thieves can steal catalytic converters in minutes and will often return to a vehicle after a new one is fitted. Thefts wreak havoc for car owners who are often disowned by their insurance company which makes it harder to get a reasonable premium elsewhere.
To steal the converter, thieves must access the box on the exhaust pipe. Once they’ve slid under the car, they use powerful cutting tools to take the box from the car. Watch this video from Nottinghamshire Police to see how it can be done in under one minute.
Car Owners Need to Be Alert As Lockdown Eases
Dozens of police forces in the UK have reported spikes in catalytic converter thefts in recent weeks. With more people going out and about, thieves are spotting more opportunities to steal the converters.
In Berkshire, a paramedic had her car stolen, which meant she couldn’t get to work. She also has to replace her car after the insurance company said the cost of repairs outweighs the value of the car. Her daughter-in-law set up a Just Giving page to help her raise the money.
While catalytic converters make up around 1% of insurance claims, the damage to people’s cars is often irreversible and can cost them large sums of money. Be vigilant and do everything you can to protect your car.
Which Cars Are Targeted for Catalytic Converter Theft?
In petrol and diesel cars the metal is more likely to corrode, meaning thieves can’t extract as much value from them and they should remain untouched. Hybrid cars are the most likely to come under threat from thieves, as the catalytic converter isn’t required some of the time, meaning it’s less likely to corrode. Electric cars don’t have catalytic converters, so you don’t need to worry if you own an electric car.
Admiral report that these cars are the most susceptible to catalytic converter theft:
However, if you have any hybrid car you should take measures to protect it as thieves will target any car they can make money from.
How to Protect Your Car From Catalytic Converter Thieves
Police forces across the country list the following measures to help keep your car safe:
Park in a garage or well-lit, built-up area.
Park closer to fences, walls, kerbs or other cars. This makes the theft more difficult. Be careful not to block anyone’s path.
Don’t mount your car on the kerb because it makes the theft easier.
If you have a bolt-on converter, get your local garage to weld them on.
Get a cage clamp, which bolts around the converter.
Speak to a garage about a tilt sensor, which activates your alarm if someone jacks it up.
Call the police if you see suspicious behaviour.
Further Reading: Car Theft Risk During Pandemic: Here's the Solution