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Why thieves are looking at your car’s exhaust

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Crooks are targeting cars where they can remove the catalytic converter and sell on the parts, it has been claimed.

According to Ageas Insurance, there has been a “marked rise” in thefts of catalytic converters over the past year. Before the start of the first lockdown, this sort of theft accounted for around one in five theft claims. This has now jumped to around three in 10 of theft claims.

Cashing in on rising prices

Catalytic converters are an important part of a car’s exhaust system, and include a ‘honeycomb’ coated with precious metals. These include platinum, palladium and rhodium.

According to Ageas and the RAC, these converters are being stolen by criminals so that they can sell them on and profit from those precious metals. These sorts of thefts tend to increase when the global values of the precious metals increase, as has been the case with rhodium which has hit record highs of late having increased 200% since March 2020.

The firms noted that while most thefts occurred while the cars were parked at home, whether on the driveway or the road, in some cases the catalytic converters were stolen while cars were parked in supermarket car parks.

An expensive theft

Ageas warned that while a catalytic converter is just one component of a car, the theft can result in the car being written off entirely.

A particular problem is the fact that drivers are often oblivious that the converter has been stolen. The RAC reported that its patrols are often called to attend cars that have suddenly become incredibly noisy, and it’s only after a proper investigation that it becomes clear that the catalytic converter.

Simon Williams, spokesman for RAC Insurance, urged drivers to take extra precautions to guard against this form of crime.

He said: “Generally-speaking, most car crime takes place at night, so it makes sense to park a vehicle in a well-lit and residential location, or ideally in a garage if available. When away from home, look for car parks that have security patrols and are covered by CCTV. 

“It’s also a good idea to look for the ParkMark logo at car parks as this shows they have met certain security standards.”

When thefts spike

The pandemic has led to sharp jumps in particular types of thefts, beyond those of catalytic converters. For example, dog owners have been warned to be on their guard against thieves after interest in dog ownership rose on the back of the national lockdowns.

Cases of bike thefts have also risen, with the City of London highlighted as a particular hotspot.

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