Theft of Catalytic Converters on the Increase

It’s rife and on the rise; catalytic converter theft has increased by 600 per cent in the past year. London is the most targeted area, with over 3,000 incidents reported last year, with Kent, Cambridgeshire, Nottinghamshire and West Yorkshire following closely behind.

Catalytic converters were introduced to the UK in 1975 to help control harmful emissions into the atmosphere. By 1993 it became compulsory for all vehicles meet European emissions standards.  Without fitting a converter, older vehicles simply can’t comply.  So, although the converters are not a legal requirement, they are necessary to ensure many vehicles meet the legal requirements.

For thieves, it is a relatively easy hit, they just crawl under the car, and using specialist-cutting tools, quickly detach the catalytic box from the exhaust pipe. It can take as little as 60 seconds to complete the procedure but often causes wider damage to the vehicle including wires, the exhaust and underneath of the vehicle.

Usually the thieves work in pairs or gangs, targeting busy medium to long stay car parks but not always. We recently had one of our leased vehicles targeted on a busy street in the centre of London in broad daylight, illustrating just how brazen these criminals can be. We have also had one removed from a van we gift to the local children’s hospice, taken from right outside the hospice itself; it seems they have no morals either. 

Stealing catalytic converters is a lucrative business; each one contains small amounts of platinum, palladium, and rhodium, precious metals that can be sold as scrap for anything between £35 and £500 depending upon the vehicle. But it will cost you between £1500 and £3000 to replace the converter itself and further repair costs to fix whatever other damage has been caused.

The vehicles most targeted are hybrids, SUVs and vans such as the Mercedes Sprinter and the VW Crafters. The hybrids because they are used lest frequently and therefore the metals will have less corrosion on them, and SUVs and vans, because they have more ground clearance and are therefore more accessible to the thieves.

Once the converter has been removed most vehicles are un-driveable. Symptoms include a loud exhaust and dark smoke emitting from the exhaust system. However, in some vehicles detection is harder; some can be driven and the driver might not realise that the part has been stolen. Since the converters job is to reduce emissions, driving without the converter will produce harmful gases above the permitted standard. This is illegal and a fineable offence of up to £1000.

Police have turned their attention to the metal recyclers and scrap metal merchants who are enabling this growing crime. More inspections and accountability is being introduced but there is still a long way to go to reduce this increasing crime.

So what can you do to minimise the risk? No system is fool proof but there are deterrents that will help protect your vehicle.

  1. Mark your catalytic box with a serial number or mark that makes your vehicle traceable
  2. Park smarter- when parking in a public space park in between and facing other cars to make access more difficult, in well lit areas, near public entrances. When at home park in the garage if you have one.
  3. Protect your converter with a covering such as wire cage or antitheft device such as a Catloc or a CatClamp(at an average cost of about £200)
  4. Install CCTV cameras and an alarm onto your vehicle