Car Catalytic Converter Theft: Why it Happens

When you think of catalytic converter theft, most people most often think of petrol cars. However, the truth is that this type of theft is becoming more and more common in other types of vehicles.

One of the main reasons is the tempting prices for which metal can be sold. However, there may be other motivations, such as how easy it is to steal the component.

In this article, we’ll explain why this crime has become more widespread, which cars are most often targeted, and what you can do to avoid falling victim to this type of theft.

Keep reading!


What is a aCr Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is responsible for converting greenhouse gases produced by a car engine into substances that are less harmful to the environment.


What is the Function of a Catalytic Converter?

The specific function of a catalytic converter is to reduce the amount of harmful pollutants released in engine exhaust gases.

It converts toxic substances into less harmful gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen (N2), and water (H2O), through controlled chemical reactions.


Where Are Catalytic Converters Located?

Catalytic converters are located in the exhaust system, along with the exhaust pipe, next to the manifold.

The component works most effectively when kept at high temperatures. As the manifold is the component within the entire exhaust system that reaches the highest temperatures, catalytic converters perform better when placed next to it.



What Are the Components of a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters generally have a cylindrical stainless steel housing. Inside, they contain a metallic or ceramic substrate with a porous layer of precious metals to increase the contact surface and allow for efficient catalysis.

Most modern catalytic converter models contain a lambda sensor as well as exhaust gas temperature and nitrogen oxide sensors.


What Types of Catalytic Converters Are There?

Two types of catalytic converter are used in vehicles:


1. Oxidation Catalytic Converter

This type of catalytic converter converts unburned hydrocarbons (HC) and carbon monoxide (CO) into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) through oxidation reactions.

These converters generally consist of platinum and/or palladium (which is more expensive than gold).


2. Selective Catalytic Reduction System

Also known as a 3-way catalytic converter (TWC – Three-Way Catalyst), this model is able to simultaneously reduce three pollutants present in the exhaust gases of combustion engines:

  1. Nitrogen oxides (NOx);
  2. Carbon monoxide (CO);
  3. Hydrocarbons (HC).

To do so, it uses a mixture of metals such as platinum, rhodium, and palladium in its composition to promote specific chemical reactions that convert these pollutants into less harmful gases.


Why are Catalytic Converters Often Stolen?

Thefts of catalytic converters have increased due to:

  • Precious metals having a significant market value;
  • Difficulty identifying and recovering them once removed;
  • The ease with which a catalytic converter can be removed using simple tools;
  • High demand in the parallel market, especially in the black market and in recycling companies that recover precious metals.


Why Were Catalytic Converters Made Mandatory in Cars?

Before catalytic converters started being used in cars, they released a significant amount of harmful pollutants directly into the atmosphere – such as carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), and nitrogen oxides (NOx), contributing to air pollution.

This resulted in a rise in respiratory problems and negative impacts on human health, as well as these pollutants being key contributors to smog and acid rain.

To reduce these effects, the implementation of catalytic converters in vehicles was made mandatory, therefore significantly reducing vehicle pollutant emissions, as they transform harmful gases and pollutants into less harmful substances such as carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapour (H2O) and nitrogen (N2).


What is the Difference Between a Catalytic Converter and Particulate Filter?

While catalytic converters promote chemical reactions to convert harmful gases into less harmful substances, particulate filters catch solid particles from exhaust gases.

Both components are designed to reduce polluting emissions from vehicles operating in different ways.

However, both are key to meeting emissions regulations and reducing the environmental impact of vehicles.



Which Metals are used in Vehicle Catalytic Converters?

Car catalytic converters are composed of various metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium.

These materials filter toxic emissions from diesel and petrol engines, turning them into harmless gases such as H2O, CO2, and/or nitrogen.

As they are attached to a vehicle’s exhaust pipe, thieves need to cut them off using an angle grinder.


How Much Does a Catalytic Converter Cost?

The price of a catalytic converter can easily reach several hundreds of euros, though the price will depend on the model of the vehicle in question.


Which Catalytic Converters Are Most Often Stolen?

Catalytic converter theft is more common for newer cars, whether they have combustion engines or are hybrid cars, as their catalytic converters have undergone less use.

The main reason is that they contain valuable particles that remain in a good state and are, therefore, worth more.

Where hybrid cars are concerned, they use their electric engines more often than their combustion engines, which means their catalytic converters see less usage.

To prevent the theft of this component, there are certain precautions car owners can take.


Preventing Catalytic Converter Theft

The best thing you can do is park your vehicle in a locked garage, therefore avoiding thefts made possible by your car being in a public place.

If this is not possible, install an alarm system in your vehicle that alerts you if someone tries to tamper with the exhaust system.

Try to install anti-theft devices like wheel clamps to make it difficult to access the catalytic converter.


Does Car Insurance Cover Catalytic Converter Theft?

Certain more comprehensive or specific car insurance may include coverage against theft of vehicle parts, such as the catalytic converter, while others may not offer this protection or require additional coverage.

If you are concerned about your catalytic converter being stolen, it is essential that you carefully review your car insurance policy and, if necessary, contact your insurer to clarify whether coverage of the component is included in your current plan.


Can you Sell or Install a used Catalytic Converter in your Car?

The sale and installation of a non-certified, used catalytic converter is prohibited.


Can you Change a used Catalytic Converter?

Used catalytic converters must also match the original car equipment, and the age of the vehicle can also be determinant.

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