You might have seen videos posted on social media showing thieves climbing under cars and sawing off key components.
The gangs are targeting catalytic converters. These are part of the car’s exhaust system, and they’re used to convert polluters into less harmful substances.
What’s really shocking about these videos is that they take place in broad daylight…
Why Are Gangs Targeting Catalytic Converters?
Catalytic converters are often made out of valuable metals including rhodium, palladium and platinum. These rare metals can be recycled and used in jewellery, and in the dentistry and electronics industries.
They’re extremely valuable. Rhodium, for example, can sell for up to £2,000 an ounce. That’s twice the value of gold. Palladium can sell for 70% the price of gold, and platinum at 80% the price of gold.
Catalytic converters are relatively easy to remove from cars. You don’t need specialist equipment – the gangs shown in the videos appear to be using everyday tools – and if the car’s a 4×4 with high clearance, it’s not even much of a challenge to get under the car.
According to police statements, this latest spate of thefts has targeted BMWs, Audis and VWs.
Obviously, you don’t want to have a big chunk of your car’s exhaust system sawn off and sold for scrap under your nose. The repairs are going to cost a lot, and it’ll be a particular headache if your insurance doesn’t cover you for theft. If you have to claim on your insurance, you will need to pay an excess and may lose your NCD.
How Widespread is the Problem of Catalytic Converter Theft?
The scale of the problem seems to vary across the country and it’s hard to get an accurate picture of the true scale of the problem.
In 2009, the BBC reported 1,100 thefts of catalytic converters across the UK, but this figure didn’t account for London. More recently, the London Metropolitan police told the BBC that in the period since July 2018, they had recorded 900 reported thefts of catalytic converters.
Incidents of this crime are likely to rise in line with the market prices of platinum and palladium. If videos of thieves operating in broad daylight have appeared on social media, it might not suggest a crime wave so much as a trend in the market prices of these precious metals.
So while your car is somewhat unlikely to get targeted for its catalytic converter, there are still a few things you can do to make theft less likely.
How to Protect Yourself Against Catalytic Converter Theft
- Some commercial vehicles have started displaying stickers stating that the vehicle’s catalytic converter is secure. Whether this will work as a deterrent is hard to say, but it may put off more opportunistic thieves.
- How do you secure a catalytic converter? The standard way is to weld the bolts shut. Though this may not stop a thief from simply using a saw.
- You can buy protective coverings for your catalytic converter. It might cost you a bit, but it’ll be less than the price of replacing a stolen converter.
- Engrave a serial number on your catalytic converter. It could make it easier to trace, and harder to sell to reputable dealers.
Beyond this, it’s simply a case of doing the usual common sense things that everyone does to deter thieves. Parking in well-lit areas didn’t seem to deter the thieves in the videos, but nearby CCTV might make conviction more likely.
Also, if you’ve got a high-clearance vehicle, consider parking near a wall, or close to other videos. This will make it more difficult for thieves to slip underneath your car, which again could deter the more opportunistic thieves out there.
In any case, this is a good opportunity to ensure that your insurance covers you for theft as well as damage. That way, even if your catalytic converter is stolen, you won’t have to pay for the replacement.