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.

620 comments

  1. I had the misfortune of having my CC stolen from my 2007 RX400h. I visited a garage who replaced it for £150, but only because they they happened to have an after market one lying around. I also bought a 2014 RX450h last year from a Lexus Dealership who informed me when I asked for the catlock to be installed that these vehicles were not susceptible to the theft. I didn’t quite believe it then, and I am less convinced now.

    The thing I will say is that Lexus should be offering at at least 50% new catlocks to show they want to assist customers, considering I have now been quoted £400 for parts and labour to fit one.

    1. Hello Ishfaq,
      Thank you for contacting us. We’re sorry to hear that you have been affected by this awful crime.
      Any vehicle containing a catalytic converter is in theory at risk of theft due to the precious metals these contain.
      CatLocs are available for both of these vehicles, and they can be ordered through your nearest Lexus Centre. These are produced at zero profit to Lexus UK.
      Smartwater marking is also available, and this can be carried out free of charge at your Lexus Centre.
      If you would like to make a formal complaint, you can do so with our Customer Relations team here: https://www.lexus.co.uk/concierge-tool/contact-us/.
      Once again, we’re so sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by thieves. We hope you’re back on the road soon.
      Thanks.

    1. Hello KAM UPPAL,
      Thank you for contacting us.
      Please can you provide us with your registration? We can then look into this for you.
      Thanks.

    1. Hello Bhavin,
      Thank you for contacting us.
      There is no official Lexus CatLoc available for the IS300h.
      However, Smartwater marking is available for all vehicles. This involves tagging catalytic converters 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. This can be carried out for free at your nearest Lexus Centre.
      Thanks.

  2. my catalytic converter got stolen, however my horn doesn’t work now and i had to order all the parts myself costing me almost 560 with fitting. i have been told by my garage yesterday that i was missing the O2 sensor which i have to order.
    My questiion is, that is the O2 sensor linked to the horn or not?

    1. Hello Maria,
      Thank you for contacting us. We’re so sorry to hear that your vehicle has been targeted by these brazen thieves.
      Could you please provide us with your reg? We can then try and look into this for you.
      Thanks.

  3. your article says

    ‘ In the main it remains older cars that are targeted’

    How old is ‘older’? – what is the cutoff date for when the ‘ latest generations of Lexus catalytic converters contain vastly lower amounts of precious metals’ came in ? – I really think your article needed to contain this info

    I have a 2009 RX450h – is this an ‘older’ car that is a target?

    If I change my car to a newer RX450h model when did the latest generation of cats come in that have ‘vastly lower amounts of precious metals’ ?

    Regards
    Paul

    1. Hello Paul, thank you for your comment.

      The main target group for the Lexus RX is those produced between 2005 and 2009 and we provide Catloc protection devices for those models.
      All vehicles can also be forensically marked with SmartWater which can be done free of charge at your local Lexus Centre.

      Thanks

        1. Hello Paul, thanks for your comment.

          The Catloc should cost in the region of £250, but you local Lexus Centre will be able to confirm this.

          Thanks

    1. Hi,

      Technically, any vehicle fitted with a catalytic converter is at risk of theft. Saying that, criminals tend to target older hybrid models. Non-hybrid models aren’t considered to be high risk, but there’s no guarantee that they won’t be targeted.

      Thanks

  4. My husband has a Lexus RX 450 hybrid 2006 . How can he ensure that his catalytic converter does not get stolen

    1. Hi Lorna,

      Thanks for getting in touch. Technically, any vehicle fitted with a catalytic converter is at risk of theft. It is impossible to stop organised criminal gangs who physically threaten vehicle owners and use power tools to take the catalytic converter. As an automotive manufacturer we are limited in terms of what we can do to stop crime, but we have developed a Catloc, which can act as a deterrent to thieves. We are also working with the Police to distribute Smartwater marking kits to our centres. Please contact your nearest centre for more information on the steps you can take.

      Thanks

  5. Hi all these comments on Cat Converter theft are really worrying me a lot now. I have just bought 2017 CT200h. Do you have a Catlock for this model? If so, How can I get that done and how much will it cost me?

  6. Hi
    I’ve just bought rx450h 2012 premier and I’m wondering do I need to put any sort of protection for my CC . I spoke one of my local garages and they informed me that for this generation you don’t need to put any protection is that right please advise me

    Thanks.

    1. Hi,

      There is a Catloc available for your vehicle. We recommend contacting your nearest Lexus centre to get one ordered and fitted.

      Thanks

    1. Hello Preston,
      Thank you for contacting us.
      The Lexus CT200h is considered to be a high risk vehicle.
      A CatLoc is available from your nearest Lexus Centre. Other theft deterrent devices are also available, such as a tilt sensor and bolt caps.
      You can also take advantage of our Smartwater marking scheme, which involves tagging catalytic converters with an invisible yet traceable marking. Your nearest Lexus Centre will be able to provide further information.
      Thanks.

      1. Hi so I have get in touched with a few Lexus centres and they quoted me a different price which I thought there will be no profit involved in the process? It costs
        £239 in London Sidcup while in Plymouth quoted me £281.
        They told me there is a labour fee difference but how is London even cheaper?

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