What is catalytic converter theft and how can you prevent it?

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There has been a huge rise in the theft of catalytic converters recently, so why are they stolen and what can we do to prevent it?
  • Nearly 100,000 catalytic converters stolen in three years
  • Hybrid 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 soaring across the UK. Sky News found that there has been just under 100,000 catalytic converters thefts in the last three years. Thefts of these devices – fitted to the exhaust of a vehicle to reduce emissions – have been making headline news as criminals look to sell the converters on for hefty prices.

Catalytic converter theft

The research revealed that car owners could even be at risk of having their car written off entirely as the price of replacing the catalytic converter could be higher than their car’s value. The average excess for a car insurance theft claim is over £300 and replacement and repair costs for catalytic converters have been reported to exceed £1,200. 

These large repair bills can be impossible for some motorists to meet. So knowing how you can protect your vehicle can be key.

Why are catalytic converters stolen?

One of the main reasons catalytic converter theft is rising is that the value of precious metals is currently soaring. 
Rhodium, palladium and platinum are all precious metals used in catalytic converters.

The Metropolitan Police
also warn that thefts can take as little as a minute. Combined, this means thieves can steal multiple catalytic converters quickly for a large profit.

Surprisingly, this issue isn’t just affecting urban areas. While London and the West Midlands have the most recorded thefts, the research shows that rural areas are also hugely affected. Dorset alone experienced 350 thefts in 2022.

Which cars are targeted for catalytic converter theft?

According to the Met, hybrid vehicles are the most vulnerable when it comes to catalytic converter thefts. This is due to thieves targeting these vehicles more frequently as the metals used in their devices are of greater value. 

Can you prevent catalytic converter theft?

There are many ways that motorists can reduce the risk of catalytic converter theft. Forces such as the Met and West Yorkshire Police have published helpful theft-prevention pointers in a bid to crack down on criminals.

The key thing to keep in mind is that, while quick to execute, catalytic converter theft is not a subtle act. Vehicles need to be raised off the ground using a car jack and an angle grinder or power saw is needed to remove the device from the exhaust. This means a theft will be clear to both see and hear.

What are car manufacturers doing about it?

In May 2021, Toyota (GB) announced that it would be marking over 100,000 catalytic converters in order to help combat theft. By working with police and Smartwater, catalytic converters can be tagged with an invisible marking, meaning that a stolen catalytic converter can be traced to a specific crime. This will help police to catch the organised gangs responsible for catalytic converter thefts and should help in deterring all those who handle stolen devices along the criminal chain, from theft to eventual disposal and recycling.

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. In addition to this, Toyota has issued 20,000 Smartwater kits to police to support their local anti-catalyst theft initiatives.

Other manufacturers are set to follow suit, with many also offering ‘Catlocs’ for certain models. A catloc can be installed to multiple vehicle models and various shapes of catalytic converter, using steel ropes to wrap around a vehicle's sub frame. Although Catlocs are effective, they're not always the best way to approach the issue.

Catalytic converter theft prevention

Here are some of the main pieces of advice from the police on how to reduce the risk of converter theft:

  • Research catalytic converter anti-theft products such as 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
  • If it’s bolted on, ask your mechanic to weld the bolts 
  • Cage clamps are available to buy and Toyota are offering ‘Catlocs’ for certain models
  • Park your vehicle overnight in a secure garage or compound
  • If a garage isn’t possible, opt for a well-lit, highly populated area
  • Park close to obstructions so the exhaust can’t be easily reached
  • Avoid parking with half of your vehicle on the pavement as this could make a theft easier for a criminal
  • Park close to CCTV cameras and/or get driveway alarms and sensors

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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