Catalytic converters: increased demand for precious metals leads to thefts
- There has been a sharp increase in catalytic converters thefts
- The value of metal within the part has increased, leading to more thefts
- Catalytic converter is part of car’s exhaust system, reducing harmful emissions
- Typical vehicles targeted: Honda Jazz, Toyota Prius, Toyota Auris and Lexus RX
There has been a sharp spike in vehicle catalytic converter thefts since lockdown restrictions eased. RAC and Ageas Insurance companies report that the crime accounts for three-in-10 thefts from private vehicles. This is up from two-in-10 before the pandemic started.
When the value of the metals within the catalytic converter typically increases, it leads to an increase in thefts. The price of rhodium metal hit record high earlier this year, having increased more than 200% since March 2020.
The thieves simply cut the catalytic converter from the exhaust pipe of a parked car and sell it as scrap metal. If the unmarked converter is removed from a vehicle, it is often difficult to match it to that vehicle, as there are any distinguishing markings.
Most thefts happen while cars are parked at home, either on the driveway or the road. Converters have also been reported stolen from supermarket and hospital car parks in broad daylight.
What is a catalytic converter?
Catalytic converters (CATs) are a part of car's exhaust system, helping to reduce harmful gases. They contain a honeycomb coated with valuable metals, such as platinum, palladium and rhodium. The metals help filter toxic emissions from the exhaust system.
CATs have been fitted in the exhaust system of most petrol cars since 1992 and diesel vehicles since 2001.
The metals in the CATs, palladium, platinum and rhodium are highly valuable, and easy for thieves to transport and sell. Currently, palladium is more valuable than gold, while rhodium is worth two thirds of the value of gold. Platinum is around half the value of gold.
Which vehicles are targeted?
Often, taller vehicles (4x4s) are targeted as they are more accessible. They also tend to have larger engines and contain more of the valuable metals.
According to Admiral Insurance, the most targeted models are Honda Jazz, Toyota Prius, Toyota Auris and Lexus RX.
Simon Williams, the RAC Insurance spokesman, commented:
"Drivers are often oblivious of their vehicle's catalytic converter being stolen. Our patrols are often called to attend cars that have suddenly become excessively noisy.”
"On investigation it's very often the case that the car's catalytic converter has been stolen."
Drivers are advised to look for car parks that have security patrols and are covered by CCTV. Because thieves slide under the car to access the catalytic converters, parking against a wall can also hinder thieves.