Catalytic Converter Theft: Understanding the Risks and Prevention Tips

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  • Nearly 100,000 catalytic converters have been stolen in the last three years.
  • Hybrid car models are at more risk of theft due to precious metals in the converter. 
  • It can take a thief less than a minute to steal your catalytic converter.

Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise, but there are things you can do to prevent it

Catalytic converter theft is hitting record highs in the UK. Thieves have been making headlines and are targeting these car parts, which help reduce car emissions, to sell them for a hefty profit. This spike is a worry for car owners nationwide, but there are things you can do to prevent your catalytic converter being stolen.


What are catalytic converters?

Most people won’t know what a catalytic converter is, why it’s important or even where it’s located in your car. But don’t worry… we’re here to help you understand what it is and why they’re so attractive to thieves.

A catalytic converter sits between a car's engine and exhaust. Its main purpose is to turn pollutants into safe emissions, cleaning the air and cutting down on smog and acid rain. It tackles three main pollutants:

  • Nitrogen oxides – by breaking them down into nitrogen and oxygen (harmless gases that already exist in the air we breathe).
  • Carbon monoxide – by turning this deadly gas into CO2.
  • Leftover hydrocarbons – by changing them into CO2 and water.

Catalytic converters do important work by cutting down the bad pollutants cars release, helping keep us and the Earth healthier. They play a key part in making cars cleaner and tackling air pollution worldwide.


Why are catalytic converters being stolen?

Catalytic converter theft is on the rise mainly because they contain precious metals such as rhodium, palladium, and platinum, which can all fetch a high price.

The Metropolitan Police warn they can be stolen in as little as a minute. This means thieves can steal multiple catalytic converters quickly for a large profit.

This issue is affecting the whole of the UK. While London and the West Midlands have the most recorded thefts, rural areas are also hugely affected. 


Is your car safe?

The Met police reports that hybrid vehicles are the most common vehicles targeted for catalytic converter thefts. Fast Guard Alarms says the most common models to have their catalytic converters pinched are:

  • Toyota Prius
  • Toyota Auris
  • Honda Jazz
  • Honda CR-V

Thieves love these hybrid vehicles as the metals used in their devices are worth more. Thieves also tend to target the same car model for catalytic converter theft because they become skilled at quickly and quietly removing the converter from that specific type of vehicle. As they’re familiar with the models, it makes the theft faster and less likely to be noticed.

Also, a good thing to note, thieves aren’t as keen on American-made cars as their catalytic converters aren’t as valuable! 


How much does catalytic converter theft cost?

If your catalytic converter is stolen, you could be at risk of having your car written off entirely as the price of replacing the catalytic converter could be higher than the car’s actual value. The average excess for a car insurance theft claim is over £300 but replacement and repair costs for catalytic converters can have drivers forking out a whopping £1,200. So it’s good to know more about your excess and what your car insurance covers.

Losing your catalytic converter can be costly for motorists. Knowing how you can protect your vehicle can be key.


How can you prevent catalytic converter theft?

There are lots of ways you can reduce the risk of catalytic converter theft. The Met and West Yorkshire Police have published helpful theft-prevention pointers in a bid to crack down on criminals.

Some of their helpful tips include:

  • Park your car in a locked garage. If that’s not possible, opt for a well-lit, highly populated area.
  • Park close to CCTV cameras and/or get driveway alarms and sensors.
  • Park so your exhaust is close to a fence, wall, curb or any obstruction to make it harder for thieves to access.
  • Avoid parking half on the pavement and half on the road, as this makes it easier for thieves to access your catalytic converter.
  • Purchase a ‘cage clamp’ – a device that locks around the converter to make it more difficult to remove.
  • Install a Thatcham approved alarm or other approved guards or locking mechanisms.
  • Have your catalytic converter registered and marked with a forensic marker – if you own a Toyota or Lexus model, enquire about Smartwater technology.

Remember, stealing a catalytic converter isn't a quiet job. Thieves have to lift the car up with a jack and use loud tools like grinders or saws to cut the converter out. So, it's something you can easily see and hear happening.

If someone steals your catalytic converter, it's not because you did anything wrong. Thieves are out there looking for cars to target and, even with precautions, they might still manage to steal it. We do what we can to protect our cars but sometimes theft just happens. It's important you know how to keep your car safe and to have good insurance just in case.


What are car manufacturers doing about it?

Car manufacturers like Toyota have teamed up with the police and, using Smartwater, they can mark catalytic converters with a special invisible tag… like a microchip for your pet! If one gets stolen, this tag helps trace it. This makes it easier for the police to track down the thieves and discourages others from dealing with stolen converters, from the theft itself to when they try to sell or recycle it.

It's free to get the catalytic converter marked, all customers need to do is call their local Toyota or Lexus retailer to arrange a visit.

Other manufacturers are also trying to help with this problem and are also offering ‘catlocs’ for certain models. A catloc is a device that can be fitted to many types of cars and catalytic converters. It uses steel cables to tie around the car's frame underneath. While catlocs can stop theft, they might not be the perfect solution for every car.


Does car insurance cover catalytic converter theft?

Motorists will find that comprehensive insurance policies and packages often cover theft. This usually includes any resulting damage to your car. 

So, the theft and damage by catalytic converter theft may be covered but what about the other costs? And what happens if your car is written off? It’s always best to go over your policy documents or get in touch with your insurer to check your individual car insurance details. 

With reliable cover, you’ll have backing you can trust with incidents such as catalytic converter theft – get a car insurance quote with us today.

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