The RAC has urged motorists to protect their vehicles amid a spate of catalytic converter thefts during lockdown. The calls come after insurance firm Ageas said thieves were targeting the precious metals found in the catalytic converters of cars parked up during the coronavirus lockdown.

Ageas says it has seen a noticeable increase in the theft of catalytic converters since the start of the first lockdown in March 2020. According to the insurer, this kind of crime now accounts for three in every 10 theft claims reported.

Catalytic converters, which form part of a car’s exhaust system, are targets for thieves because they contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium. These metals help to reduce and filter harmful gases from the exhaust system, but criminals will cut them from the underside of cars in order to sell the metals inside.

Underside of a car shows catalytic converter exhaust pipe

“While catalytic converters are just one component of a car, their theft can often result in a driver’s car being written off, which is the last thing we want for our customers,” said Ageas’ claims director Robin Challand. “We hope that by shining a spotlight on this type of crime, we can arm motorists with the information they need to protect their vehicles.”

Most thefts occur when cars are parked at home, either on the driveway or the road, but thieves have been known to attempt thefts in busier locations. According to the RAC, thieves have even attempted to steal catalytic converters in supermarket car parks, although the organisation says that’s a rare occurrence.

Car underside showing exhaust system catalytic converter

To help protect your car from thefts, the RAC suggests parking vehicles in well-lit, residential areas, helping to reduce the chances of a night-time theft. If you have a garage, the organisation suggests parking there, while it also recommends using car parks with security patrols and CCTV cameras when you’re away from home.

“Drivers are often oblivious of their vehicle’s catalytic converter being stolen,” said RAC spokesman Simon Williams. “Our patrols are often called to attend cars that have suddenly become excessively noisy. On investigation it’s very often the case that the car’s catalytic converter has been stolen.

“We’d strongly recommend motorists get in the habit of taking extra precautions to guard against this type of crime. 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.

“But unfortunately, as Ageas’ data shows, even taking sensible precautions may not necessarily make you immune to this type of crime. For this reason, having a strong, comprehensive insurance policy is vital in case the worst happens.”