Criminals want your catalytic converter. Here’s how to stop them — Part Two.

Image source: screenshot courtesy of YouTube channel Spotted UK. See link further down for full video!

In Part One of this article, we looked at:

  • the rise in catalytic converter theft
  • some advice to reduce the odds of being targeted.

Let’s get straight on with four more ideas, this time focusing on your vehicle.

1. Fit a Thatcham Category 1 Alarm

In the UK, most cars come with a Thatcham Category 2 immobiliser or a Thatcham Category 1 alarm. This page from the RAC helpfully sets out the differences.

The great thing about Thatcham 1 alarms is that they have a tilt sensor, which means they go off when someone starts jacking up the car to steal your cat converter. That’s got to be off-putting for all but the most brazen criminals.

If your car didn’t come with Thatcham 1 as standard, it’s possible (but often pricey) to upgrade the existing system. You would need to weigh those costs against the possibility of losing the cat — which, as noted in Part One, might result in insurers writing off the car.

2. Get a serial number etched on the cat

No, we don’t mean on Fluffy the kitten!

It’s common practice to add serial numbers to expensive, pinchable items — so why not cat converters too? Some garages will now etch a unique identifier onto your cat converter, which makes it (at least in theory), less attractive to thieves. Of course, there’s a danger that a thief either won’t notice or have an I-started-this-so-I’ll-finish-it mindset. So, if you go down this route, make sure you get a warning sticker for your car windscreen (or make your own huge cardboard sign).

How much serial numbers will deter a determined and confident criminal is up for debate, but then that applies to virtually every measure.

3. For certain models, fit a catalytic converter lock

If you own a Toyota hybrid, such as a Prius, there’s bad news and good news. The bad news is that thieves love hybrids because (as we said in Part One), they yield more high-quality precious metals. Older vehicles are especially vulnerable, as the cats on more recent vehicles have much lower amounts of rhodium and palladium. However, the good news is that Toyota have recognised the problem and produced the Catloc, a protective cover that fits over the cat. It retails for around £200.

What about other manufacturers? We haven’t seen reports of them offering anything similar, though aftermarket suppliers are starting to spring up. It could be argued that an angle grinder will make short work of most protective devices, but this is all about making life more difficult for criminals. The hope is that they will look for easier pickings elsewhere — which unfortunately involves them targeting some other blameless soul.

4. Fit a cage, weld the bolds

Along the same lines as the Catloc, some garages are now offering to fit a protective cage around the catalytic converter. It’s a visible deterrant (once the car is jacked up) and certainly offers a level of inconvenience to criminals. However, it’s worth considering that:

  • as an after-market modification, you would need to declare this to your insurer
  • you’ll need to factor in the costs — the device won’t be supplied or fitted for free
  • cages and other protective measures also make it more difficult for mechanics to access your exhaust when that needs replacing
  • cages probably won’t stop an experienced and well-equipped thief

A simpler option might be to get the bolts welded, though again most of the shortcomings above still apply.

100% effective ways of stopping cat converter thieves

There’s no way of sugar-coating this: all of the tips we’ve offered are merely deterrents to thieves. Some criminals aren’t the slightest bit bothered  by CCTV. Cages and other devices can be cut through. An anti-tilt alarm is probably a better bet, but even that isn’t 100% effective.

As far as we can see, there are only two surefire methods of avoiding cat converter thefts, and neither may be practical for many people. The first is to lock your car in a really secure, burglar-proof garage. The second is to buy a car without cats, which in practice either means certain types of classic car or a full electric.

Until the price of precious metals changes (or the Police get the resources they need to tackle these crimes), it looks like cat converter crime has become a fact of modern life. Still, let’s not get this out of proportion: in most areas of the UK, your chances of being targeted are still very low — and don’t forget that car theft as a whole has fallen dramatically over the last twenty years.

The Welsh VW Specialist blog covers a wide range of automotive topics, from the contentious to the light-hearted. We are an independent garage specialising (as the name suggests!) in the VW group marques, including Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT. Welsh VW Specialists provide services, repairs and MOTs, delivering a main dealer level of care at affordable prices. To book your vehicle in, or for any enquiries, get in touch.