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Frank Hovis

Catalytic Converter Thefts Double As Metal Prices Rise

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Thefts of catalytic converters from motor vehicles have more than doubled over the past three years, a BBC investigation has found.

Almost 25,000 thefts were reported to police forces across the UK between 2010 and the first half of this year.

Thieves are ripping out the devices because they contain precious metals such as platinum and palladium.

Motorists can be left with repair bills of thousands of pounds

Police say vans and 4x4 vehicles, which are easy to crawl underneath, are particularly at risk.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24811143

Catalytic converters were a real bugbear of the honest-as-the-day-is-long (genuinely, sadly now deceased) guy who ran my local garage. He was always moaning about the national chains (and one particular one locally, though I'm sure this was no better and no worse than the rest) who, when they got an older car in with a few running problems, would rapidly come up with the solution that the catalytic converter needed replacing.

This they would do and send the motorist on their way.

It rarely did, and they always kept the old convertor. When the motorist came back they would try and also charge for something else.

I bet that theft dwarfs the 25,000 quoted above.

Edit: when I aksed how long they should last he said ten years easily, probably fifteen or more. Unless you get emissions problems that mean you fail the MoT for it do not even consider changing it. If any garage suggests it as a first or early option then either walk away or ask how much they are going to pay you for you old one if you let them keep it.

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Thanks for that top tip.

I thought cats were pretty much maintenance free and lasted the life of the vehicle?

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Thanks for that top tip.

I thought cats were pretty much maintenance free and lasted the life of the vehicle?

See my later edit BL. The short answer is yes they do, so why do national chains change so many of them?

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They're welcome to try, I fitted a de-cat section to my van in the summer to try and eek out every last asthmatic diesel pony power.

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Saw this on the BBC this morning.

I'm guessing mostly this is vans being targeted on industrial estates? Getting underneath a car on the road isn't going to be too easy and then trying to hacksaw off the part of the exhaust, all for £20 - £50.

How are they selling the precious metals on? Are they claiming they work for a garage?

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Always get a second or even a third opinion, listening to garages is very much buyer beware.

I had a fault on a Vauxhall Astra, Masterfit said they could do the job so I took it in and paid the money, drove it 300 yards down the road and the fault was still there!

I took it back and they said "well that part probably needed changing" and that they couldn't fix the fault because it wasn't something they did but the main garage workshop would be able to help me! I went elsewhere saved a shed load of money and got the fault repaired without all the fannying around.

I have recently sacked the place that does my MOT as they really took the mickey this year saying work needed to be done.

Going back to the original point about thefts though, its been really common round here with 4x4's and vans being targeted, we also had a problem of drain covers on roads being pinched (a van was going around at night (it had a hole cut in the floor and would drive over the drain cover where someone in side would pull the drain cover into the van).

Don't get complacent that these thefts will stop because scrap yards can no longer pay in cash to unidentified persons. Customs have been finding Shipping Containers full of stolen parts/street furniture at ports, a lot gets through undetected because their isn't the manpower to check what is going out of the UK.

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Edit: when I aksed how long they should last he said ten years easily, probably fifteen or more. Unless you get emissions problems that mean you fail the MoT for it do not even consider changing it. If any garage suggests it as a first or early option then either walk away or ask how much they are going to pay you for you old one if you let them keep it.

The one thing that can kill them prematurely is if the ceramic matrix inside them breaks, and then a chunk of it works free and blocks the exhaust pipe. What usually causes the matrix to break is driving through a large puddle or dip of flooded road - thermal shock from the change in temperature. The moral of the story: do not try to drive through large puddles (especially on rural roads) if your car has a cat on it. This happened to me on my last car, with the cat starting to rattle shortly after driving through a puddle. I worked out that the rattle was coming from somewhere in the exhaust, but the car passed an MOT two months later, and so I didn't worry any more about it. A few weeks after that, the engine just stopped suddenly and would not restart for love nor money: the problem was a chunk of cat matrix blocking the pipe.

On the subject of them being nicked, last year I got a flyer from the garage that normally does my MOT, offering to stamp a unique serial number on the cat that would enable it to be identified if stolen, and ensure that no legitimate used parts reseller would buy it from the thief. I took them up on the offer, but on examining the car they discovered that the cat was buried in a small space between the engine block and the firewall, quite high up, meaning that without an inspection pit, a large toolkit and a couple of hours, no-one would be able to remove it. Why all vehicles aren't designed like this I have no idea. The downside, I suppose, if that if it ever did need to be replaced legitimately, you'd incur that two-hour labour bill.

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I'm guessing mostly this is vans being targeted on industrial estates? Getting underneath a car on the road isn't going to be too easy and then trying to hacksaw off the part of the exhaust, all for £20 - £50.

Everything's fair game on an industrial estate, my Dad runs one and the pikeys have a drive round in the morning to collect scrap left out for them, and then over the weekend anything not left out for them.

(Spare wheel, Ford Transit)

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Everything's fair game on an industrial estate, my Dad runs one and the pikeys have a drive round in the morning to collect scrap left out for them, and then over the weekend anything not left out for them.

(Spare wheel, Ford Transit)

I drive a 4x4 and I had rebar wielded all around my cat converter so they cannot cut it ...it is gypsies that are causing this crime wave and my local Travis Perkins will not sell anyone they do not know any pipe cutters ....it supposedly only takes a minute for them to do ....and in my case would be well over a thousand pounds to repair

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My neighbours 4x4 got its CAT nicked it was parked in a pretty normal street of terraced houses, no one heard a thing.

I find it almost unbelievable that it's worth the effort. Where can people sell these things and for how much?

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Everything's fair game on an industrial estate, my Dad runs one and the pikeys have a drive round in the morning to collect scrap left out for them, and then over the weekend anything not left out for them.

(Spare wheel, Ford Transit)

I can see that a spare wheel might be valuable, and could be sold on EBay, without looking suspicious.

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Always get a second or even a third opinion, listening to garages is very much buyer beware.

I had a fault on a Vauxhall Astra, Masterfit said they could do the job so I took it in and paid the money, drove it 300 yards down the road and the fault was still there!

I took it back and they said "well that part probably needed changing" and that they couldn't fix the fault because it wasn't something they did but the main garage workshop would be able to help me! I went elsewhere saved a shed load of money and got the fault repaired without all the fannying around.

I have recently sacked the place that does my MOT as they really took the mickey this year saying work needed to be done.

Going back to the original point about thefts though, its been really common round here with 4x4's and vans being targeted, we also had a problem of drain covers on roads being pinched (a van was going around at night (it had a hole cut in the floor and would drive over the drain cover where someone in side would pull the drain cover into the van).

Don't get complacent that these thefts will stop because scrap yards can no longer pay in cash to unidentified persons. Customs have been finding Shipping Containers full of stolen parts/street furniture at ports, a lot gets through undetected because their isn't the manpower to check what is going out of the UK.

Drain covers must be huge Gyppo coins? :huh:

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Thanks for that top tip.

I thought cats were pretty much maintenance free and lasted the life of the vehicle?

They should do, but can be damaged if engine problems are ignored, or if poor quality fuel or the incorrect engine oil are used.

Catalytic converters work by burning any unburned fuel in the exhaust (which used to give exhaust fumes that solventy smell) as well as neutralising any other toxins, such as carbon monoxide. If there is an engine problem which is causing unburned fuel to get into the exhaust (e.g. misfire, leaky injector, faulty oxygen sensor, etc.) then the cat will have to burn it, and if prolonged it can overheat. A friend of mine had a spark plug fail on a long trip home one night. The engine malfunction light came on, and quickly started flashing (flashing malfunction light indicates an engine problem which is about to cause critical catalyst damage). He decided to chance it. About 4 miles later, he was witness to an impressive light show in his rear-view-mirror as the now molten catalytic converter, was blasted out of the exhaust when he put is foot down to get up a hill.

Other enigne malfunctions, can cause slower, more insidious damage to the converter.

Some fuel additives used to boost octane rating, etc. contain metals; the metals have a cleaning effect on the engine, and improve combustion. However, they don't burn, and instead create powdery ash. These have been banned in the UK for a long time, and all fuel additives (added at the refinery) used in the UK must be absolutely ash-less. The reason this is a problem is because the catalytic converter is basically a metal sponge, with tiny pores through which the exhaust flows and comes into contact with the previous metal. Any ash produced from the fuel can lodge and clog up the catalyst.

Similarly, engine oils do leak gradually into the combustion chambers during use, and the additives in the oils will produce ash. A large part of the reason that there are so many different oil specifications, is different ash levels. The latest engine oils must leave only trace amounts of ash behind, whereas for or generic oils, ash wasn't a relevant specification.

The same issue applies to any aftermarket fuel/oil additives, e.g. injector cleaner solutions. There are also issues with contaminated fuels (e.g. leaded petrol robbed from an aerodrome will kill catalysts, as the lead contaminates the surface of the precious metal)

In general, cats aren't as bad as DPFs. The pores in a DPF are by necessity much smaller in a DPF, than in a cat (which isn't designed to filter solid stuff). The problem is that if a DPF plugs with soot (as it is intended to do), the soot can be burned off by heating the DPF. If the DPF is clogged with ash (from the wrong engine oil or poor quality fuel) then it has to be replaced.

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They should do, but can be damaged if engine problems are ignored, or if poor quality fuel or the incorrect engine oil are used.

Catalytic converters work by burning any unburned fuel in the exhaust (which used to give exhaust fumes that solventy smell) as well as neutralising any other toxins, such as carbon monoxide. If there is an engine problem which is causing unburned fuel to get into the exhaust (e.g. misfire, leaky injector, faulty oxygen sensor, etc.) then the cat will have to burn it, and if prolonged it can overheat. A friend of mine had a spark plug fail on a long trip home one night. The engine malfunction light came on, and quickly started flashing (flashing malfunction light indicates an engine problem which is about to cause critical catalyst damage). He decided to chance it. About 4 miles later, he was witness to an impressive light show in his rear-view-mirror as the now molten catalytic converter, was blasted out of the exhaust when he put is foot down to get up a hill.

Other enigne malfunctions, can cause slower, more insidious damage to the converter.

Some fuel additives used to boost octane rating, etc. contain metals; the metals have a cleaning effect on the engine, and improve combustion. However, they don't burn, and instead create powdery ash. These have been banned in the UK for a long time, and all fuel additives (added at the refinery) used in the UK must be absolutely ash-less. The reason this is a problem is because the catalytic converter is basically a metal sponge, with tiny pores through which the exhaust flows and comes into contact with the previous metal. Any ash produced from the fuel can lodge and clog up the catalyst.

Similarly, engine oils do leak gradually into the combustion chambers during use, and the additives in the oils will produce ash. A large part of the reason that there are so many different oil specifications, is different ash levels. The latest engine oils must leave only trace amounts of ash behind, whereas for or generic oils, ash wasn't a relevant specification.

The same issue applies to any aftermarket fuel/oil additives, e.g. injector cleaner solutions. There are also issues with contaminated fuels (e.g. leaded petrol robbed from an aerodrome will kill catalysts, as the lead contaminates the surface of the precious metal)

In general, cats aren't as bad as DPFs. The pores in a DPF are by necessity much smaller in a DPF, than in a cat (which isn't designed to filter solid stuff). The problem is that if a DPF plugs with soot (as it is intended to do), the soot can be burned off by heating the DPF. If the DPF is clogged with ash (from the wrong engine oil or poor quality fuel) then it has to be replaced.

I always find it interesting reading posts on fora on topics that I know about. It always makes me weary of reading topics that I don't know about :)

Cat converters aren't basically metal sponges, they're much more complex than that. And in petrol cat converters the exhaust gas flows over the catalyst, not through it.

DPFs have bigger pores than 3 way catalysts, not smaller and are one of the most complex pieces of technology on the car. Diesel exhaust systems are starting to get really complicated as you need a diesel oxidation catalyst, a selective catalytic reduction catalyst, a DPF and an ammonia slip catalyst. Fitting 4 bricks in a truck is fine, but when you try fitting all of that into a VW polo you start to run into issues. We're not far off the point (in fact it has been reached for some models) where damaging the exhaust in a diesel is enough to write the car off.

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They should do, but can be damaged if engine problems are ignored, or if poor quality fuel or the incorrect engine oil are used.

I think a minor misfire on my car, which I ignored for a long time, when I should have replaced the coil-pack, led to a problem with the catalytic converter.

Was told it was a twin-cat system (?). It developed a really loud rattle. Not sure if I've done the right thing, as I didn't want to spend the money (£250 ish for the cat-part full exhaust thing), but my mechanic opened up a section, and removed a white cylindrical monolith, then welded it back up. That's all that was in there. Find out if it passes at next MOT or not, but as I now think that monolith acts as a filter, guess it's unlikely it will pass. Unless there's another monolith higher up with other cat-part.

Wish they'd bashed in the metal casing a bit now, or squeezed it with some sort of clamp, to just wedge the monolith back in position, to prevent it rattling.

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I think a minor misfire on my car, which I ignored for a long time, when I should have replaced the coil-pack, led to a problem with the catalytic converter.

Was told it was a twin-cat system (?). It developed a really loud rattle. Not sure if I've done the right thing, as I didn't want to spend the money (£250 ish for the cat-part full exhaust thing), but my mechanic opened up a section, and removed a white cylindrical monolith, then welded it back up. That's all that was in there. Find out if it passes at next MOT or not, but as I now think that monolith acts as a filter, guess it's unlikely it will pass. Unless there's another monolith higher up with other cat-part.

Wish they'd bashed in the metal casing a bit now, or squeezed it with some sort of clamp, to just wedge the monolith back in position, to prevent it rattling.

Diesel or petrol?

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Diesel or petrol?

Do diesels have coil packs?

Genuine Q by the way. I had assumed coilpack would mean petrol but maybe glow plugs got funky. Please tell me modern diesels still have glow plugs.

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Do diesels have coil packs?

Genuine Q by the way. I had assumed coilpack would mean petrol but maybe glow plugs got funky. Please tell me modern diesels still have glow plugs.

I don't think diesels do have coil packs, but petrol engines don't usually have more than one cat and as yet (to the best of my knowledge at least) don't have partculate filters. Catalysts and filters are not the same thing, no one has yet (again to the best of my knowledge) commercialised a catalytic filter, although with the issues of space I mentioned above all the major cat manufacturers will be beavering away trying to develop one.

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I don't think diesels do have coil packs, but petrol engines don't usually have more than one cat and as yet (to the best of my knowledge at least) don't have partculate filters. Catalysts and filters are not the same thing, no one has yet (again to the best of my knowledge) commercialised a catalytic filter, although with the issues of space I mentioned above all the major cat manufacturers will be beavering away trying to develop one.

I am ignorant of the technical details but yes I have heard systems described as having 2 cats. The accessible item Venger refers to probably isn't the actual main cat in that case. I believe my (different) car is similar I'm this respect.

I imagine whatever was removed won't cause mot failure on emissions alone. Heard it done before.

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I am ignorant of the technical details but yes I have heard systems described as having 2 cats. The accessible item Venger refers to probably isn't the actual main cat in that case. I believe my (different) car is similar I'm this respect.

I imagine whatever was removed won't cause mot failure on emissions alone. Heard it done before.

I know that my car has 4 cats, a pair on each side of the engine. There's a main cat on each exhaust manifold, right up by the engine, and then a second brick in each exhaust mid pipe.

I think the car will complain if you remove one of the main ones, as there is a sensor after them to check that they are working correctly. There don't appear to be any sensors on the secondary ones, but I don't know how important they are for emissions compliance.

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I know that my car has 4 cats, a pair on each side of the engine. There's a main cat on each exhaust manifold, right up by the engine, and then a second brick in each exhaust mid pipe.

I think the car will complain if you remove one of the main ones, as there is a sensor after them to check that they are working correctly. There don't appear to be any sensors on the secondary ones, but I don't know how important they are for emissions compliance.

What car is it, if you don't mind me asking?

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What car is it, if you don't mind me asking?

Lexus IS250.

Appears to be pretty much the same powertrain sold in the US as in Europe. Perhaps it's something that the yanks demand.

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Lexus IS250.

Appears to be pretty much the same powertrain sold in the US as in Europe. Perhaps it's something that the yanks demand.

The Mk3 MR2 had two cat system, one near the exhaust and one further away, which sounds like half of your setup given the V6 layout of yours naturally leading to the replication on each cylinder bank. This was specifically to meet Californian emissions regs at the time so I suspect you are spot on with your guess.

The downside of the older precat system in the MR2 was that the matrix in the precat nearest the exhaust often broke up and shards could be sucked into the cylinders, and ruin the engine. Many UK owners looking to solve the problem removed the precat either by swapping in a new piece of pipework or by removing the existing one, smashing up the matrix and removibg it via a hammer/screwdriver, and refitting the empty casing. Loads of pics etc on Google "MR2 precat". I guess the tech has matured by now for your car.

edit:

http://www.midshiprunabout.org/mk3/precat-removal/

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