Catalytic converter theft: what you need to know

Catalytic converter theft from cars isn’t a new crime, but it has increased significantly in recent times.

Police forces around the UK, including those in West Yorkshire, London and Nottinghamshire, are advising owners of any car fitted with a catalytic converter to take precautions.

Any car fitted with a catalytic converter within the exhaust system could be at risk. In the case of Lexus, we are aware that the second-generation Lexus RX 400h models (2005-2008) and the Lexus CT 200h have been a target for thieves.

Below we’ve gathered the best advice for Lexus owners who may be concerned.

What is a catalytic converter? 

The catalytic converter is part of the car’s emissions control system. It cleans up the exhaust gases before they are expelled from the car through the exhaust pipe. Its internal elements react with the gases, breaking them down into less harmful substances and water vapour. All cars sold in Europe since 1993 have had to be fitted with catalytic converter by law.

Why are they a target for thieves?

The police are best placed to offer advice on the motivation behind crimes. But we understand that the recycling value of catalytic converters is the primary attraction to thieves because it contains precious metals such as rhodium, platinum and palladium.

What is Lexus doing to stop its cars being targeted?

In May 2021, Lexus (GB) announced that it would be covertly marking more than 100,000 catalytic converters in order to combat theft. By working with police and Smartwater, catalytic converters can be tagged with an invisible yet traceable marking, meaning that a stolen catalytic converter can be traced to a specific crime, helping police in their attempts to fight the organised gangs responsible. It also raises the risk to all those handling the devices along the criminal chain, from theft to eventual disposal and recycling.

It is free to get the catalytic converter marked, all customers need to do is call their local Toyota or Lexus retailer to arrange a visit.

In addition to this, Lexus has issued 20,000 Smartwater kits to police to support their local anti-catalyst theft initiatives. The company is also working with the AA, Toyota’s roadside partner, so its patrols can point customers to where they can get a free kit.

We have also developed and reduced the price of a ‘Catloc’ device which can deter theft and make it more difficult. Lexus teams in the UK and other countries are urgently exploring new technical possibilities to deter criminals as well.

We are working with the police, as well as talking to government about changes in the law around scrap metal sales that would make it harder for criminals to sell stolen catalysts for cash.

However, these are criminal operations and our scope is therefore limited. A number of police forces are taking action and some forces, such as Nottinghamshire, are also starting awareness campaigns. It is vitally important for anyone who is a victim of this crime to report it to their local police force as quickly as possible.

In the main, it remains older cars that are targeted because advances in efficiency and technology mean the latest generations of Lexus catalytic converters contain vastly lower amounts of precious metals, whilst still doing their job just as well or even better; this means their value for recycling is very low and they are not attractive to thieves.

We’re doing all we can. We’ve shared police guidance with customers, and are seeking technical solutions, although for obvious reasons we would like to refrain from talking about specifics.

We are also working with the police, as well as talking to government about changes in the law around scrap metal sales that would make it harder for criminals to sell stolen catalysts for cash.

However, these are criminal operations and our scope is therefore limited. A number of police forces are taking action and some forces, such as Nottinghamshire, are also starting awareness campaigns. It is vitally important for anyone who is a victim of this crime to report it to their local police force as quickly as possible.

In the main it remains older cars that are targeted because advances in efficiency and technology mean the latest generations of Lexus catalytic converters contain vastly lower amounts of precious metals, whilst still doing their job just as well or even better; this means their value for recycling is very low and they are not attractive to thieves.

How much does it cost to replace a catalytic converter?

Our priority is to do all we can to support Lexus customers who have been the victims of catalytic converter theft.

We have reduced the prices of catalytic converters to a level where Lexus UK does not make any profit from their supply to customers.

Your nearest Lexus centre can advise on exact costs after inspecting your vehicle.

How long will I have to wait for replacement parts?

The rapid rise in this crime is one we could not have envisaged set against many years of low incidence of thefts. It has impacted our ability to source a sufficient quantity of replacement parts, for which we sincerely apologise.

However, we are taking urgent action with our suppliers to secure increased supplies, which we hope will allow us to effectively tackle the supply issue and repair customers’ cars more quickly.

Who can I contact if I’m worried about my Lexus?

If you are worried about potential catalytic converter theft from your Lexus, we recommend you use our locator tool to find your nearest Lexus centre and contact them to discuss the best way to protect your car.

This article was last updated on 14 May 2021, so some of the responses to reader comments below have been superseded by more recent information.

537 comments

    1. Hello Wayne C,
      Thank you for your comment.
      Over time, we have reduced the precious metal content of our catalytic converters, therefore making these less attractive to thieves.
      However, any vehicle containing a catalytic converter is in theory at risk of theft, but these tend to be our older hybrid models due to the higher concentration of precious metals contained within their catalytic converters.
      In the case of Lexus, we are aware that the second-generation Lexus RX 400h models (2005-2008) and the Lexus CT 200h have been a target for thieves.
      Thanks.

  1. I had my cc stolen in 90seconds from my CT200h, also had the grill damaged to cut the wires connected to the horns. This all took place on my drive.

    After the car had been repaired I took my car to Lexus to have a catloc fitted but nothing was mentioned about having a mesh fitted to protect the grill, wires and horns. Can Lexus tell me why?

    I’ve just found out about the grill mesh while reading through all the comments here.

    Anyway, as lovely as my car has been over the years I have had it, it makes sense to sell it as it is causing me a lot of stress – the thugs will be back and will damage the grill etc only to find out I have catloc fitted.

    1. Hi Sabrina,

      We are very sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by criminals. From a Lexus centre, a Catloc, marking kit, tilt sensor and bolt welding is available.

      Thanks

  2. I have had my Catalytic Convertor Stolen this morning from my 2013 CT. Tilt sensors are not supplied by my local lexus and the bill is £1175. It is ridiculous manufacturers do not design cars in such a way that theives can steal them in minutes. Especially when the parts cost £3-400 maximum in Cost. The rest is labour, so the comment “supplied at cost” is a lie. In reality Manufacturers and Theives feed each other. Innocent customers get their CatConvertors stolen by Theives and Manufacturers profit from the labour cost of fitting the device.

    Can you confirm Lexus that fitting is free? So its not cost is it. You still make money from the servicing and fitting it.

    Thats why they dont design them better. A Catlock takes longer the local lexus garage said but by no means prevents the theft.

    So i can pay £1175. And then get it stolen tomorrow. Again. Of course customers are made of money.

    Manufacturer Greed and Lazy Design is how thieves can do this.

    1. Hello Asab,
      Thank you for contacting us. We are really sorry to hear that you have been affected by this crime.
      The price of the catalytic converter can only be advised by a Lexus Centre as it depends on the extent of the damage and the labour required to fix this. The difference in price for repairs is due to the way thieves steal the catalytic converter, they can cause more damage to other parts of the car as they forcibly remove it. Lexus UK does not make any profit from supplying catalytic converters to customers.
      Furthermore, criminals are using high-grade power tools to remove the catalytic converter, so in reality they are as easy to remove from any vehicle. The design is not so relevant.
      Ultimately, this is a criminal issue and we’ve been working with and supporting the Police, both publicly and behind the scenes to help put a stop to this awful crime.
      Once again, we are sorry that your vehicle has been targeted by thieves and for the distress that this has caused.
      We hope you are back on the road again soon.
      Thanks.

  3. I have just had my second CC stolen from outside of my property at 12:45am. I saw the 3 men stealing it and my attempts to stop them by shouting out of my bedroom window at the top of my voice didn’t deter them and neither did the fact that car alarm horn was blaring and I was on the phone to the police.! There is a council camera on the road and also an MOT garage camera which showed the full theft the last time but the police could do nothing as the images were not clear enough.
    I had my car serviced at Lexus 2 weeks ago and did mention the CC theft so would like to think that they at least applied the watermark which I have just found out about but they didn’t mention it. I will. Heck in the morning.
    Will a Catloc stop a future theft as if not I cannot risk this happening again so will need to look at purchasing a different car as not only is this inconvenient and costly but I now do not feel safe? I am genuinely shocked that these 3 men continued to steal my car while I watched and I was not able to do anything. Thankfully I didn’t confront them face to face as clearly these types have no morals and they could well have been carrying a weapon.

    1. Hello Nicola,
      We are sorry to hear that you have been affected by this crime.
      CatLocs are available for vehicles considered most at risk, but criminals are using high-grade power tools that are difficult for any manufacturer to completely protect against.
      Regarding Smartwater Marking, this is free to get the catalytic converter marked, all you need to do is contact your nearest Lexus Centre to arrange a fitting.
      Fundamentally, this is a criminal issue and we’ve been working with and supporting the Police to help put a stop to this awful crime.
      We are really sorry about the distress this has caused and we hope you are back on the road soon.
      Thanks.

    2. Hi Nicola,
      Had exactly the same experience with my RX back in April, so I know how you feel. Had a catloc fitted for £400 at the local Lexus dealer – Lexus should do this for free (I will remember when I buy my next car). But this will only take the low-life a bit longer. I’ve made the point that in these circumstances this is robbery, not theft from a motor vehicle.

      1. I contacted my local Lexus centre yesterday to be told the ‘Catloc’ would be £420 fitted, no mention of Smartwater marking was made. A local exhaust place had 3 customers last week have CC’s stolen 2 of them were Mercedes Diesel Sprinters!! The other was a Prius. Catloc will only slow the organised scum down a couple of minutes at most and may result in more damage. It will however act as some deterrent against the opportunist. At £480 + Vat + around £200 fitting a replacement CC is an expense many of us just can’t afford. On top of that the wait time is around 6-7 weeks, a long time to be without your wheels. Then there is the cost of repairing any additional damage that has been caused by the removal. I have read that a lot of these stolen CC’s are heading abroad so not sure how effective any Smartwater marking will be.

        1. Hello Barry,
          Even with a Catloc fitted, there is little that can be done to stop determined and brazen organised criminals using power tools to take what they want.
          We have taken action over time to reduce the precious metal content of the catalytic converters of our newer hybrids by up to 84%.
          Furthermore, we are working with the Police to help put a stop to this horrible crime.
          Thanks.

          1. Thank you for your reply, does that mean that replacement ones for the RX400h now contain less precious metals and are less desirable to these low life’s? Or are we replacing like for like and so it goes on?

          2. Hello Barry,
            The replacement part will be the same, we would not alter the internal materials.
            Thanks.

  4. My Lexus dealer has emailed me stating the Smart water marking is only free for the first two years. After that there will be a fee?

    1. Hello Charles,
      Thank you for contacting us.
      Currently, we do not have any information on this.
      We would recommend contacting your Lexus Centre for more information.
      Thanks.

  5. Aug 2020 I had CC stolen from my Auris. The same car became a target again in Oct 2020.
    I have a CT too which I thought was safe…. lo and behold last week (probably the same 3 people) stole that too.
    Not only that they cut the wires, took badge damaged the grill and the air con unit….
    CCTV images, police etc couldn’t do anything all 3 times
    Disappointed 😞

    1. Hello PJ, thanks for your comment.

      We’re very sorry to hear that you have been a victim of this crime. Please get in touch with your local Lexus Centre, the team there will be able to source a replacement and forensically mark the part.

      Thanks.

  6. I had two central cc’s stolen a week ago from my older GS450h in London – gone in minutes. The car had its annual service a week previously at a cost of £2,000. Same Lexus garage quoted £2,700 for repair and had nothing else to say – very poor service. Trying to source the parts in the UK has been impossible so far – Kwik-Fit told me they could not find any replacements in the UK due to volume of thefts and had to source from Europe at a cost of £3,000. My local non-Lexus garage told me they have many Toyota and Lexus owners who have had multiple replacements due to repeated thefts, and that increasingly insurers are excluding cc theft from cover. The thieves have been spotted coming to check my car to see if the cc’s have been replaced yet (to schedule a repeat visit). I assumed cc theft were from Prius and other Toyota models, not Lexus and certainly not older Lexus. Not so. Very very disappointed that my Lexus garage never suggested a cage at any time – it should at least be standard procedure to offer. The “official” Lexus line above does not match reality (to put it mildly). Car is now undriveable and not sure when I will be able to source replacement parts. May now ditch it and get another make, as I am clearly on a “target” list for repeat visits.

    1. Hello,
      Thank you for contacting Lexus. We are really sorry to hear about this.
      All vehicles fitted with a catalytic converter are technically at risk of theft. This is because they contain precious metals that can be attractive to thieves, regardless of manufacturer or age.
      However, targeted Lexus vehicles are almost always older hybrid models we no longer make. This is because previous generations of catalytic converter for our hybrid vehicles had much larger quantities of precious metals in them, to help reduce vehicle emissions.
      Ultimately, this is a criminal issue and we’ve been working with and supporting the Police, both publicly and behind the scenes to help put a stop to this awful crime, as well as producing a Catloc, which was developed specifically for targeted vehicles and is provided to customers at zero profit to Lexus UK.
      Once again, we are sorry that your vehicle has been targeted by thieves and for the distress that this crime has caused.
      If you would like to raise your situation further, we would recommend contacting our Customer Relations team directly.
      You can do so here: https://fal.cn/3hJ9G
      Please let us know if there is anything else we can do to help.
      Thanks.

  7. My catalyst convertor is stolen on 22 August 2021, I am shell shocked and gobsmacked that Lexus is manufacturing some parts that can attract thieves , allow them to steal it in minutes, costs a lot of money, if I new the vulnerability of Lexus cars parts, I won’t buy it from the beginning, what a shame.
    Mustafa

    1. Hello Mustafa,
      Thank you for contacting Lexus. We are very sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by thieves.
      Technically any car fitted with a catalytic converter is at risk of theft, but organised criminal gangs have been targeting some of our older hybrid models due to the higher amount of precious metals within the catalytic converter. These materials were fitted to make the catalytic converter more efficient at removing harmful emissions, making the car cleaner.
      There was no way we could have envisaged the value of these materials rising so high in the last few years.
      As our hybrid systems have become more efficient, our newer models have much reduced precious metal content in the catalytic converter, making them less attractive to thieves.
      Ultimately, this is a criminal issue, and we are working with the Police to try to put a stop to it.
      Again, we are very sorry that this has happened to you and hope you are back on the road soon.
      Please let us know if there is anything else we can do to help.
      Thanks.

  8. I am unable to get a definitive answer from my local Lexus garages about whether or not a 2019 IS300h is at risk of cat theft. One told me that the cat is too inaccessible to be stolen, the other one just said that there wasn’t a lock available for that model.
    What is the fact of the matter please?

    1. Hello Anthony,
      Thank you for contacting Lexus.
      As your IS300h is a low risk vehicle, there is no CATLOC available.
      Please let us know if you have any other questions.
      Thanks.

  9. I had my CC (Lexus RX400h 2008} stolen at 00.50 Tuesday 15 September 2021. The car was in my drive and I actually saw the thieves in action. Although I shouted at the top of my voice they were not bothered. They were gone in about 15 seconds, I didn’t even have time to put my dressing gown on. My car is now at the local dealership awaiting repair, but I am now very concerned that when it is returned that the whole thing will happen again. This is extremely stressfull for my wife and myself, both in our late 70’s.
    I don’t want a repeat of this incident and I believe that the manufacturer should withdraw these extremely vulnerable cars and compensate the owners. They won’t do it if we don’t protest.

    1. Hello Robin,
      Thank you for contacting Lexus.
      We are really sorry to hear that you’ve been affected by this crime.
      We have tried to make sure that as many customers as possible have been informed through publishing police advice about the crime online as soon as it was received, writing to our dealer network to inform customers and writing directly to vehicle owners where details have been available to do so.
      A CatLoc is available for your vehicle. If you wish to have this fitted. Please discuss this with your Lexus Centre.
      Once again, we are sorry that your vehicle has been targeted by thieves and for the distress that this crime has caused.
      Thanks.

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