What is a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters (commonly known as ‘cats’) are part of a modern car’s exhaust system.

A catalytic converter is an exhaust emission control system which reduces exhaust gases and pollutants from an internal combustion engine into less-harmful substances (by catalysing a redox reaction) before releasing them into the atmosphere. 

Why are they a target for theft?

In recent years, catalytic converter theft has risen dramatically.

Catalytic converters have a honeycomb-like interior — coated with precious metals like palladium, rhodium and platinum. When precious metal prices go up the demand for parts that contain them goes up too, and the risk of theft of catalytic converters increases. Older hybrids are targeted as they contain more of the precious metal than newer models.

How do thieves steal catalytic converters?

The theft of catalytic converters can take a matter of minutes in broad daylight or at night. As catalytic converters are part of the exhaust system, they are left exposed beneath most cars. Thieves simply cut the catalytic converter from the exhaust pipe of a parked car using high-powered tools and sell them on. Most catalytic converters are unmarked, which means they cannot be easily traced to an individual vehicle.

Hybrid cars, vans and SUV’s are particularly at risk, as the ride height makes access to the exhaust system beneath them easier.

Cars that are most often targeted are hybrid vehicles, as these vehicles have two power sources, so their catalytic converter are not used as frequently. Therefor the metals are less likely to corrode, which preserves the expensive metals inside making them more attractive to thieves.

When the catalytic converter has been removed, your vehicle will make a loud roaring sound that will get louder as you push the gas pedal.

What you can do to protect your car and prevent catalytic converter theft 

  • Park your car in a locked garage overnight, if not an option, then park it in a well-lit and well-populated area.
  • Park close to fences, walls or a kerb with the exhaust being closest to the fence, wall or kerb to make the theft more difficult.
  • Avoid parking your vehicle half on the pavement and half on the road, as gives thieves easier access to the catalytic converter.
  • Parking in a public car park, consider parking alongside other cars and facing you bonnet towards the wall if possible. The catalytic converter positioned at the front of your vehicle will make it harder for thieves to get close enough to steal it.
  • Consider installing CCTV to cover where your car is normally parked.
  • Speak to a car dealership about the possibility of installing a tilt sensor that activates an alarm if a thief attempts to jack up your vehicle.
  • You can purchase a ‘cage clamp’ which is a cage device that locks in around the converter to make it more difficult to remove. ‘Catloc devices’ also help prevent easy removal by physically attaching it to the vehicle or preventing access to remove it. Contact your vehicle manufacture or local dealership for advice on retrofit security devices to your vehicle and to discuss the best way to protect your car.

 If you see someone acting suspiciously under a vehicle, report it to the Gardai. Obtain as much information as possible, including any vehicle registrations.