Avoid Christmas catalytic convertor thefts

Posted on December 18th, 2014 by Rob Marshall

catAs you travel around this Christmas, depositing gifts, visiting relatives, et al, be aware that not everybody is full of seasonal cheer. While thieves may lurk to steal gifts that you might leave in full view on your back seat, this might not be all that a crook is interested in.

Incorporated within the exhaust system, beneath the car and close to the engine, the catalytic converter is a treasure-box that is stocked full of valuable metals that convert toxic exhaust gases into less dangerous pollutants. An unscrupulous scrap-metal trader, or used parts trader, tends to pay high prices for both ‘cats’ and diesel particulate filters, while leaving the owner of a vehicle a bill that is likely to exceed £500, by a comfortable margin.

However, owners of vehicles that possess a high-ground clearance, including SUVs, 4x4s and certain vans, need to be especially vigilant, because a thief will have sufficient room to climb beneath the vehicle and cut the valuable sections of the exhaust apart with an efficient, and virtually silent, hand-held metal pipe cutter. In most cases, the task takes several minutes only.

Apart from, possibly, inconveniencing pedestrians, owners that park their cars, with two wheels on a high-kerbed pavement, will hike them sufficiently above the ground, to tempt a bandit to venture beneath, to earn his Christmas bonus…

Although it is prudent to park overnight in a well-lit area, a location with CCTV, or even outside a domestic house, it is still unlikely that a person will be noticed, slithering beneath a car. I have even heard of thieves cutting exhaust systems outside main dealer forecourts and, again, on a well-illuminated urban private driveway, with the car positioned within ten feet of the front door.

While certain identification stickers are available (pictured), I think that it is better to deter the miscreant in the first place. Your garage (and insurance company) might be able to advise you, on the inexpensive approach, of welding metal to the pipework, to make it trickier for the thieves’ pipe cutter to work.

Alternatively, several types of catalytic converter clamps exist (this and this, for example), which are a more subtle way of dissuading the opportunist to avoid ruining your Christmas.