Your catalytic converter sometimes simply called a 'Cat' helps to clean your car’s exhaust fumes, but they are made from precious metals and thefts are increasing...
A catalytic converter - or “cat” - is now found on virtually every car on the road. They use chemical reactions to clean harmful substances from your car’s emissions. Unless it breaks or somebody tries to steal it, there’s not much to worry about.
Cats convert harmful substances from exhaust gasses into less harmful substances. Inside is a honeycomb structure with a coating that contains a catalyst. Precious metals such as palladium, rhodium or platinum are used as the catalyst – their intrinsic value means they’re worth salvaging when the car is scrapped. Unfortunately, these same precious metals make cats attractive to thieves.
There are different types of cat. A simple cat turns carbon monoxide (CO) to carbon dioxide (CO2). It turns hydrocarbons to carbon dioxide and water. More advanced cats on modern cars also reduce emissions of nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
Diesel cars have special cats to cope with the emissions from their engines. Diesel Oxidation Catalyst units are paired with exhaust treatment technologies like exhaust gas recirculation, Diesel Particulate Filters and Selective Catalytic Reduction.
Cat thefts from cars increased in 2019 with a total 10 times higher than in 2018. That growth can be attributed to supply issues which made it harder for dealers to get replacement cats. Historically, the greatest driver of thefts has been the precious metals inside. Replacing a cat can cost as much as - £3,000, a figure inflated by the damage thieves do to the car to remove the unit.
Cats were invented in the 19th century by Frenchman Eugene Houdry who moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s and founded a company which fitted cats to industrial chimneys. By the 1950s he had begun to research cats for cars and patented his design in 1956.
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