The catalytic converter on your car is an important part of your exhaust system. If it is removed, your car will become unroadworthy. As well as producing emissions that are higher than the legal limit permitted, it will be illegal to drive.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals that help to reduce harmful emissions escaping from exhausts. When global values of the metals go up, it can result in a sudden rise in thefts. The catalytic converter is easy to access, which means the crime itself is a relatively quick one for thieves to carry out. An extremely loud, rough engine noise is a tell-tale sign that your catalytic converter has been removed.

The rise in popularity of hybrid cars has also contributed to an increase in thefts. As these types of vehicles run on their internal combustion engine less frequently than a petrol or diesel car, their catalytic converters don’t see as much use, and the metals inside are usually less corroded. While hybrid cars are often targeted, vehicles that sit up off the road, such as SUVs and vans, are more likely to be stolen from too. The greater clearance and easier access under the vehicle makes their catalytic converter an easier target for thieves. The Scrap Metal Dealers Act, launched in 2013, attempted to cut the crime by banning cash sales and mandating that scrap metal dealers carry out identity checks on sellers. However, years of limited enforcement and restrictive council powers have made little difference in tackling the crime.

Between 2019 and 2020 alone, incidents of catalytic converter theft in England, Northern Ireland and Wales rose a staggering 104% on average. This rise is despite the national lockdowns in 2020, where the majority of people and their cars were at home.

Catalytic converter theft is estimated to cost car insurance customers an average of £1,500, and that is before you consider the impact it will have on your annual premium. Even more worryingly, the crime could make your car a write off if the cost to repair the vehicle is greater than the vehicle value.

In this article we outline some of the steps you can take to try and reduce the chances of thieves targeting your car.

Give careful consideration to where you park your car

Wherever possible, park your car in a locked garage. If you don’t have off-street parking or you are away from home, park the side of your car closest to the catalytic converter against a fence, wall or high kerb and avoid mounting the pavement on two wheels. Thieves targeting your catalytic converter need to get under your car to remove it. By carefully considering how/where you park, you are making this more difficult and limiting the space they have to use a jack and to get underneath your vehicle to cut out the catalytic converter using power tools.

There are a number of videos circulating on Social Media showing brazen thieves holding up traffic on a busy street while they remove a catalytic converter and removing one from a car in a car park during the day in less than 60 seconds. Some brazen thieves will still target vehicles in broad daylight but parking your car in well-lit areas could deter any would-be thieves from taking advantage of the cover of darkness.

Mark your catalytic converter

A local garage may be able to add a serial number to your catalytic converter. The 2013 Scrap Metal Dealers Act states that scrap metal dealers check the identity of any sellers against the unique serial number. Although illegal sales have continued, reputable scrap dealers should check the serial number to identify which car the catalytic converter belongs to. This improves your chances of retrieving it, should it end up in the hands of a reputable dealer. You will receive a window sticker advising that your catalytic converter has been marked, which could potentially make any thieves think twice about removing it.

Fit your vehicle with a lock/guard

There is the option to fit a lock or guard to the underside of your car. Some car manufacturers are offering locks in an attempt to deter or at least slow thieves down if they target your catalytic converter. For example, Toyota will fit a catalytic converter lock (Catloc) for the Prius (3rd Generation) and Auris (2nd Generation), as these cars are frequently targeted.

Garages have started to fit ‘cat cages’ to give an extra level of protection. Owners can pay around £200 for this makeshift solution that is completed within a couple of hours. Any potential thieves may think twice about having to remove a metal cage before they even get to the catalytic converter.

If your car is fitted with Thatcham category alarm, category 1 devices use tilt sensors in order to detect if your vehicle is being lifted by a jack. If such motion is detected, the alarm sounds. You can check if your vehicle is fitted with a Thatcham device by selecting your make and model on the Thatcham website.

It is important to remember to declare any vehicle modifications to your insurance provider.

Report the crime

The Police are asking that anyone who finds themselves a victim of catalytic converter theft, reports it to them. If the Police are to measure the full scale of catalytic converter theft and attempt to tackle it, it is imperative that every theft is registered, regardless of the possibility of a prosecution.

Tony Buckingham, Managing Director of Buckingham Insurance says, “Catalytic converter theft continues to be a real problem, and can be very costly for the person who discovers that theirs has been removed. If you find yourself the victim of this crime and would like to discuss how to proceed with getting your vehicle roadworthy again, please don’t hesitate to contact us or telephone one of our friendly staff on 01246 575 625 (Clowne) or 01773 748 627 (Ripley). They will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.”