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Catalytic converter thefts: everything you need to know

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August 14, 2019
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Latest figures suggest that up to 1,000 catalytic converters are chopped from cars and vans by thieves each month in London. 

Metropolitan Police statistics show 8,248 cat converters were stolen in the capital last year, a 455 per cent rise on the 1,484 stolen in 2018, which was up from just 174 in 2017.

The most recent three months of figures show a further spike, with 1,406 taken in September, 1,225 in October and 1,390 in November. 

Victims are left with hefty repair and replacement bills which can add up to as much as £2,000 a time.

Experts at Adrian Flux insurance services answer the questions you have been asking about catalytic converters: what they do; why people steal them; how they steal them; the cars most at risk; why the sudden increase in thefts; how to protect your catalytic converter; and the implications on the theft of a catalytic converter on your insurance? 

catalytic converter

What does a catalytic converter do?

A catalytic converter is located in the exhaust pipe near the manifold. It cleans the exhaust fumes emitted from the car and out into the atmosphere.

Specifically, it converts pollutants such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides, into carbon dioxide, water, and nitrogen, all of which are less harmful, though still large contributors to global warming.

Why do people steal catalytic converters?

The metals which clean a cars’ toxic gases include platinum, palladium, and rhodium, which are all highly valuable. 

Rhodium recently hit an 11-year high of £7,700 an ounce, five times the value of gold. Palladium and platinum trade at 70-80 percent of the value of gold.

Individually catalytic converters do not contain a great deal of precious metal. However, organised crime gangs steal them to order for shipment abroad to factories that will salvage the precious metal on an industrial basis.

Once salvaged from the stolen catalytic converter the metals can be recycled for use in jewellery, dentistry and electronics.

How do thieves steal catalytic converters?

The catalytic converter is fitted on to the exhaust system so it is fairly accessible on most cars and vans. A professional gang can jack up a car and use a battery-powered steel cutter or angle-grinder to steal the catalytic converter within five minutes.

Are some cars victim more often than others?

Vehicles with a high clearance off the ground, such as 4x4s are most at risk. The Honda Jazz (pre 2008) and Toyota Prius (2004 to 2016 inclusive) and Toyota Arius (2012 to 2018 inclusive) have been targeted because their older devices are particularly easy to reach. 

Police have also said that German cars such as BMWs, Audis and VWs have also been targeted as have many commercial vehicles.

catalytic converter

Why has there been a sudden increase in thefts?

Incidents of catalytic converter theft had been in decline from its peak around six years ago.  That led to the introduction of new laws making it illegal to buy scrap metal for cash.

Industry experts attributed much of the decline to a fall and bottoming out in metal prices but thefts are now increasing as prices jump to new highs.

How can I protect my catalytic converter?

Police advise etching security details into the converters, but that’s only going to help recover the converter once it has been stolen.

You can fix your catalytic converter into place using extra bolts or fit a protective van lock to make them harder to cut out. Defensive parking up against a wall or next to another low slung car may also act as a deterrent.

Businesses or homeowners with multiple vehicles parked overnight are recommended to use CCTV, secure perimeter fencing and security lighting.

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, though your claim would be subject to the excess you have agreed on your policy.  

You could make a claim whether your policy was fully comprehensive or third party, fire and theft. 

However, the claim would impact on your No Claims Discount, unless it has been protected with an optional extra on your premium. 

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