Catalytic converter theft on the rise

Stolen vehicle recovery expert Tracker is urging car and van owners to be extra vigilant following a spike in catalytic converter thefts. However, those affected must be aware of the need to replace with quality parts rather than be swayed by costs.

The rising value of precious metals, such as rhodium, platinum and palladium, is believed to be behind the rise in thefts. Palladium is currently more valuable than gold, pushing the price of a catalytic converter on the black market to over £500, the company states. 

“Criminals can remove catalytic converters in seconds, leaving vehicle owners with an average replacement bill of £1,300 and insurance headaches,” Clive Wain, Head of Police Liaison at Tracker commented. “But costs can soar if the vehicle is written off by the damage caused by thieves stripping converters from the exhaust.”

While any vehicle can be subject to catalytic converter theft, taller vehicles (4x4s) are particularly vulnerable due to the converters being more accessible. Plus, they tend to have larger engines, so contain more of the precious metals. Plug-in and self-charging hybrid vehicles are also a highly desirable target for thieves as their catalytic converters, are less corroded than those in petrol and diesel vehicles which rely on them more. The Toyota Auris, Toyota Prius, Honda Jazz and Honda Accord are specific make and models reported by Leicester police to be particularly vulnerable to this type of theft.

“Police forces across the UK are committed to tackling the increase in catalytic converter thefts and the organised gangs behind them; just last month, more than 300 Metropolitan police officers took part in an early morning operation across London to smash what is believed to be a criminal network fuelling an increase in the thefts of catalytic converters across the city,” adds Wain.

“Owners who take measures to safeguard their catalytic converters, are playing a vital role in aiding forces in tackling this increasing type of crime. Parking in a secure place isn’t always an option, but parking in a way that makes it difficult for would-be thieves to access the underside of the vehicle can be a huge deterrent.”

Vehicle manufacturer Toyota recently announced it was working with Smartwater to provide marking kits to local police forces. The carmaker highlighted the potential of theft with its hybrid models. 

Quality replacements

Garages must also ensure they are replacing any catalytic converters with good quality options, to help combat dangerouls levels of pollution. BM Catalysts managing director Toby Massey highlighted the issue of drivers being tempted by cheaper alternatices rather than systems that do the job they are supposed to.

Catalytic converters are required to pass strict emissions testing procedures as part of the type approval process before they can be sold. These tests ensure that the relevant emission standard is met, thereby reducing the vehicle’s impact on air quality and health.

During the type approval process a replacement catalytic converter is tested on a representative vehicle that the type of catalytic converter is intended to be installed on. The tailpipe emissions are measured and are compared to that of an original catalytic converter. The replacement must also meet any relevant durability, noise and vehicle performance requirements in order to gain approval. 

The message from BM Catalysts comes against a backdrop of the rising price of the Platinum Group Metal, Rhodium, and also an acceleration in the government’s green agenda, designed to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. 

Rhodium is a key component in petrol catalytic converters for reducing harmful vehicle emissions, particularly Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), which are produced in any combustion process.

Massey commented: “Without doubt it’s a complicated issue. Poor quality catalytic converters can still pass an MOT and mistakes can happen through the entire supply chain. Legislatively, it’s very complex and this brings about exploitation of the rules and unfair competitive advantages.

“But the issue won’t go away and it’s essential we raise standards to ensure the aftermarket is playing its part in reducing harmful emissions and air pollution.”

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