I wondered if we were going to start seeing this

Catalytic converters are stolen because they contain precious metals – platinum, palladium and rhodium – which can be recycled. The AA says it has seen an increase in thefts since the beginning of the credit crunch in 2008, when prices for precious metals started spiralling.

The catalytic converter was stolen from Jane Green\’s Land Rover Freelander while it was standing in a car park near her workplace in Wolverhampton. She said: \”When I got back to my car, the police had left a note on the windscreen telling me not to turn the car on but to call them as soon as possible. I did and was told a witness had seen a man with a drill around my car.\”

Green\’s catalytic converter had been removed with a saw and drill, causing damage that cost £900 to repair.

I\’m a bit out of touch with the current value but it\’s certainly tens of pounds for the scrap value of something from a larger engined car. Decent set of powered shears and a couple of blokes could make off with a couple of hundred quid in an hour or two from a street or car park of more expensive cars.

I\’m just surprised that this is the first reference I\’ve seen to it of it actually happening.

10 comments on “I wondered if we were going to start seeing this

  1. I am surprised the sort of people who do this are smart enough to work out what a converter is.

    I would have thought anyone bright enough to realise these metals have value is bright enough to get a real job.

  2. It’s more common than you realise. A distribution company in Paignton had most of the cat convertors stolen from their fleet on transits overnight in November. Caused no end of problems.

  3. Weeeell yeees but……
    New Cat system for a Freelander is around the £300 mark, trade. Taken to a scrap dealer you might get £25 for a used one. I foned Kwikfit & they’ll charge £400 fitted.

    Now if I ran a back street garage, had a punter in wanting the cat replaced on his Freelander & knew a couple of likely lads who could source one in Tesco’s carpark I’d give them a hundred for it. Quick spray with silver exhaust paint, pop it on & happy Freelander owner drives away for £300 having saved himself £100.

    What’s being reported is the market in nicked car spares. Always been there. I lost a Merc van, nicked for the engine, a few years back. The shell turned up dumped. The market is always better in times of economic downturns because vehicle owners are trying to save money. Pal of mine, runs a small garage, is doing very well. Lots of work because he undercuts the main agents. Even easier to undercut if you don’t ask where the parts come from…..

    Conversely, £25 for two blokes scrabbling about under a car trying to cut a cat loose? With the risk of being nabbed? And trying to prise the £25 out of the scrapper when he’ll have sussed that the scrap’s moody because that’s the third time our boyos have been in this week? Not worth the trouble.
    Non-story.

  4. How do they recover the metal? Isn’t it applied in compound as a very thin film to a ceramic matrix? All quite stable, given that it is after all a catalyst. I don’t know who makes them now, but they used to be made at the Johnson Matthey refinery in Royston, Herts. The main selection criteria for working there was whether or not you had an allergy to platinum.

    Tim adds: The cat gets sold to a scrappie and moves along the value chain (scrap increases in value per unit the more units of it you have recall) until someone cuts it open and extracts the ceramic brick. The case goes off to be high Ni steel scrap. The ceramic is piled up until there is a tonne of it then sent to the Johnson Matthey refinery in Cheshire. JM pay out on the Pt and Pd (market value, minus processing charges and processing losses) after analysis. If you want the Rh values then you have to wait until processing has been done and then they will credit your account with the ounces they’ve extracted.

  5. It’s such a problem that there are catalytic convertor locks on the market now. Basically high tensile aircraft quality 1/4″ cable wrapped around a box holding the cat and attaching it to the chassis.

  6. You obviously know the process,Tim. One of my previous lives was as a jeweller. Making the stuff not just retailing. JM used to take our floor sweepings & sink traps.
    But as you point out, scrap increases in value the more you have. Our carpark bandits would be below the bottom of the food chain. As a business (construction) I used to sell scrap to a large metal recovery company. Ton at a time. All with covering paperwork ’cause I’m legit. Get top prices. That company wouldn’t touch the boyos with a bargepole. None of them would. They’ll have to wash their spoils through a backstreet collector (or me). That’s half the money gone for a start.
    Also went back to the story & looked at the component drawing for the cat. The ‘drill’ is a cordless wrench to remove the manifold nuts. The saw cuts the joint to the silencer which is usually a toughie. They weren’t just cropping the cat out.
    JC’s story sounds like a primo parts snatch. Loads of identical bits for a common vehicle. Put an ad in the paper saying you’re selling one. Every caller is a lucky buyer.

  7. nonsense on a stick..
    that example is like saying they stole your fender for the value of the steel..
    when they can slap it on for a replacemnt fender and get much more for it..

  8. They are the same sort of people who steal dogs, which is probably more profitable.

    Many are also in the business of simply buying scarp gold jewellery from consumers. I know of two people who started doing that in 2008 – just a team of lackys leafleting door to door and having a stand in the village hall – and are now driving £200k cars having made £millions.

    That’s dropped off in the UK now but there is still money to be made on Germany apparently. An old school mate claims he is making a couple of thousand euros a week doing it in Dusseldorf.

    Another interesting one is that people who got laid off in low paid call centre jobs in 2008/9 and couldn’t find more work seem to have realised they can make a lot more money in Marbella-based boiler room scams stealing peoples life savings.

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