FOR sometimes now catalytic converter theft has been in the news in Nigeria. Most vehicle owners cared less about their catalytic converter removal in the past so long as their cars were starting and moving.
They also felt less concerned, especially when the removal did not cause an increase in fuel consumption. But the trend is beginning to change as more people are becoming aware of the dangers of missing catalytic converters in their automobiles.
In the developed world, the issue of catalytic converters has been around since 1974, when car makers started introducing them to the exhaust part of automobiles.
Even at the moment, people insure their catalytic converters against theft to the tune of $500 to $3000. They go as far as etching their licence plate numbers or VIN on the catalytic converters so that the scrap buyer can contact them in case they are approached to buy stolen ones.
But the theft of catalytic converters differs in the developed world and in Nigeria. In the developed world, catalytic converter theft occurs usually when the car is parked where it is not watched over, while in Nigeria, catalytic converters are stolen at roadside mechanic workshops without the knowledge of the automobile owner. It can thus be prevented in Nigeria by ensuring that the vehicle is maintained by one workshop so that you can hold them responsible if it is stolen.
In the developed world, the concentration is on SUVs, pickups, and hybrid vehicles for two reasons: Due to the fact that SUVs have high ground clearance, it is easier for thieves to go under the car and remove it quickly using modern tools, while that of hybrid vehicles is made easier because the engine is usually not very hot. So it is easier to remove when parked on the road because the engine is usually not very hot.
For clarity’s sake, catalytic converters are designed to act as a line of defence against harmful exhaust emissions by converting pollutants into harmless gases. The technology used in these emission control devices includes precious metals like platinum and palladium, making them valuable items for greedy thieves to steal.
Most of the people who remove the catalytic converter in Nigeria do not know that its primary importance is to prevent the release of harmful gases into the environment. They look at the financial gain of selling it; hence, the trade has started to boom tremendously. But thanks to the China-made catalytic converter, which comes cheap but burns out fast. As a result of the China-made converter, people can replace it without breaking the bank.
A friend in Enugu told me last week about how he took the entire staff of a mechanic workshop to the police for stealing his Toyota Highlander catalytic converter. He ended up not recovering it, and the car is now without a catalytic converter.
The difficulty of ending the catalytic converter problem in Nigeria is that because it is located underneath the car, you can hardly tell when it is removed by looking at the car. But if you are an experienced driver, there are certain things that could alert you when it has been stolen. These include a roaring engine, smokier and smellier exhaust, poor engine performance, and an engine warning light.
Though engine warnings could be the result of many other factors, they are one of the major suspects.
The loud noise may be one of the earlier signs. Everything may look fine with the vehicle, but the unfamiliar noise could be quite disturbing. Go for a diagnosis to confirm or get a mechanic out to where you maintain your car to check.
The engine warning sign ‘’check engine’’ might indicate a missing catalytic converter, which will trigger an oxygen sensor in your exhaust. Don’t ignore the ‘’check engine sign”; it could lead to more serious problems.
Without a catalytic converter, your car releases a lot of nasty carbon monoxide. The odour can lead to symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness, or nausea. Bring down your glasses and avoid inhaling the dangerous gas. Among other problems, the car computer won’t be able to calculate the proper fuel injection rate, thereby leading to obvious sluggishness and sputtering of the engine.