Catalytic converters – how to protect yours from theft

Catalytic converters – how to protect yours from theft

You might not be aware of your catalytic converter but it’s an important part of your exhaust system and if it’s missing, your car will produce emissions above legal limits.

As catalytic converter theft continues to rise, we talk you through some of the steps you can take to reduce the chances of thieves targeting your vehicle.

Why do criminals target catalytic converters?

Catalytic converters contain precious metals that help to reduce harmful emissions escaping from exhausts. When global values of the metals go up, it can lead to a spate of thefts.

Since the parts are easily accessed, the crime itself is a relatively quick one for thieves to carry out. 

A YouTube video posted in 2019 showed criminals caught in the act of stealing a catalytic converter from a parked car in London whilst brazenly holding up traffic.

The popularity of hybrid cars has also contributed to a surge in the crime. Because the greener vehicles run on their internal combustion engine less often than a petrol or diesel car, their catalytic converters see less action and the metals inside are usually less corroded.

While hybrid cars are often targeted, vehicles that sit higher from the ground, such as SUVs and vans, are more likely to be stolen from too. The greater clearance under the vehicle makes their catalytic converter an easier target for thieves.

How big of a problem is catalytic converter theft?

Catalytic converter theft is estimated to cost car insurance customers an average of £1,500 – and that’s before you consider rising premium costs. Worryingly, the crime could also make your car a write off.

Car insurance companies have noticed the growing problem too. In the year starting from March 2020, the price of Rhodium increased by more than 200%. It’s no coincidence that one insurance provider reported a 57% rise in catalytic converter thefts in March 2021, compared with the year before.

Similarly, the Metropolitan Police investigated 15,000 reports of the thefts in 2020, compared with 9,500 over the previous year.1 Profits from the crime are believed to fund bigger crimes in the UK and abroad.

The Scrap Metal Dealers Act, launched in 2013, attempted to cut the crime by banning cash sales and demanding that dealers carry out identity checks on sellers. But years of limited enforcement and restrictive council powers have made little difference in stemming the tide.

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Reduce the chance of your catalytic converter being stolen

catalytic-converter-theft-tips

If you’re worried that thieves might target your car’s catalytic converter, there’s still hope.

Our tips below could prevent a would-be criminal from completing their next dodgy scrap metal deal.

1. Choose where to park your car carefully

Where possible, park your car in a locked garage.

If you don’t have the luxury of off-street parking or you’re not at home, you should park with the side of the car closest to the catalytic converter near to a fence, wall, high kerb or other vehicles, and avoid mounting the pavement on two wheels.

Catalytic converter thieves need to get under your car to get a hold of their loot. You should make this as difficult as possible and give them limited space to use a jack and to slide beneath your vehicle to unscrew bolts or cut parts away using power tools. 

Some brazen criminals will work in broad daylight, but parking in well-lit areas to prevent the thieves from working under the cover of darkness can help.

For more info on the in's and out's of parking in different places, read our guide to parking.

2. Boost your home security

To boost your home security, you can invest in sturdy garage doors, CCTV systems and even alarms for your driveway. Kit out your property with three things in mind: 

Prevention

Try fitting reinforced garage doors or adding a motion-triggered security light overlooking your drive. A combination of both will help to deter would-be thieves before they strike.

Detection

CCTV cameras will help you to gather evidence during a theft. Look out for weatherproof models with an IP66 rating or higher, and options that capture footage in low light conditions. 

Your reaction

Some driveway alarm systems will alert the police immediately when they detect an intruder. The automated technology can make all the difference after a crime and may help the police catch a fleeing criminal.

For true peace of mind, consider products approved by Secure by Design (SbD). The police-owned initiative provides a recognised standard for security products that can deter and reduce crime.

Not all security features have to involve top-of-the-range technology. You can try adding gravel or other loose material to your drive to deter intruders from stepping foot on your property.

You should also ensure that fences, bushes and walls at the front of your garden are no more than one metre high.2 That way you give intruders less opportunity to hide and can keep an eye on your car if it’s parked on the street outside your property.

3. Add a lock, guard or alarm to your vehicle

Locks and guards for the underside of cars are also available. However, you should declare the security features with your insurance provider and check if adding one might affect a future claim.

Some manufacturers are offering locks to slow thieves down if they try to remove your catalytic converter.

Toyota, for example, will fit a 'Catloc' for the Prius (3rd generation) and Auris (2nd generation). You can contact your Toyota dealership for more information.

Elsewhere, mechanics have started fitting makeshift ‘cat cages’ as an extra layer of protection. Alternatively, you could ask a trusted garage to weld bolts shut to make them more difficult to loosen. 

There is one more option; a Thatcham category alarm. Category 1 devices use tilt sensors to detect if your car is being lifted by a jack before it sounds an audible alarm.

You can check if your vehicle is fitted with a Thatcham device by visiting the Thatcham Research website.

4. Mark your catalytic converter 

You can ask a garage to add a serial number to your catalytic converter too. The Scrap Metal Dealers Act requires that dealers check the identity of sellers against the unique code. 

Although illegal sales have continued since, trusted dealers should check the combination of letters and numbers to identify which car the part belongs to and improve your chances of retrieving it. 

You’ll also receive a window sticker indicating that your catalytic converter has been marked – another way to deter potential thieves.

5. Report suspicious activity to the police

It may seem obvious but contacting the police is one of the best ways to prevent catalytic converter theft.

If the situation isn’t an emergency, try calling the police on 101. Alternatively, you can report an incident using an online form

Whatever you do, you should gather as much information as possible, including any vehicle registrations.

 


1 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-56502390
2 https://www.met.police.uk/cp/crime-prevention/protect-home-crime/protecting-garden-to-safeguard-your-home/

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^10% of all customers buying Car Insurance Plus with us from 1st January 2021 to 30th June 2021 paid less than £151. Based on comprehensive Car Insurance Plus, purchased direct, excluding any additional products and upgrades, with payment on an annual basis. Your premium will depend on your circumstances and the level of cover you choose.