Why your car’s catalytic converter might be stolen 

Thursday January 14 2021
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A catalytic converter is located in a box on the exhaust pipe under a car.

By Roland D. Nasasira

Among the cars awaiting service at Peter Amadi’s garage in Bunga are three saloons. Among them is a Subaru Legacy and two others, whose catalytic converter boxes have been damaged. 
The contents, a powder, commonly known as cement by mechanics, weighs between 500 grammes to more than one kilogramme for different cars. For these three cars, these boxes were taken out and this, according to Amadi, did not only change the sound of the car but also increased its fuel consumption. 

Although the catalytic converter box powder plays a number of roles, the most important is preventing toxic pollutants or burnt fumes from the engine from being emitted into the environment through the exhaust pipe. The powder works as a toxins-filtering agent.
Manina Mutwalib Gudoi, a mechanic, says on average, he receives approximately five cars per week whose powder was mysteriously extracted. Gudoi argues that some vehicles have a flexible exhaust pipe just next to the catalytic converter box that can be pricked even by a nail from where the powder is extracted. 

The unfortunate bit is that you will never know when, how, where, why and who removed the powder immediately after driving off if your vehicle does not show early signs. You will only notice the change in car exhaust sound and fuel consumption, quite worse than normal.   
“When the powder has been removed, it appears as if the car has no silencer on the exhaust. It sounds like a rally car. After removing the powder, the exhaust is welded back that it becomes very hard and sometimes impossible for you to know unless your car has been inspected by a mechanic,” Amadi says. 

“Be careful where you park your car. If your car sound changes after visiting a garage, washing bay or a public parking space, see a mechanic. The effect of removing the catalytic converter powder is that it significantly increases fuel consumption. It will sound as if the car has a through pipe and you will feel the noise through the exhaust at the muffler,” Amadi advises. 

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Catalytic converters contain platinum-group metals that are expensive, making it a premium item for purchase by recycling companies.

Cost of fixing
The catalytic converter is the first silencer box you see after the engine. It is located immediately after the engine cylinder head. When damaged, Amadi says, the cheapest you will get a used exhaust pipe complete with a catalytic converter box with its powder is between Shs800,000 to Shs1m. 


Importing it will cost you between Shs3m to Shs4m. However, Gudoi observes that dealers are discovering that exhaust pipes with intact catalytic converter boxes are becoming lucrative, that those selling them are hiking their prices daily. This means the price will not be constant. 

Leaving car at garage
According to Amadi, if you leave your car at the garage for service for days, chances of the box being cut become high. Gudoi and Amadi say the best thing to do is to drive to the garage and watch on as your car is being serviced. This way, you learn how certain things are done but also eliminate chances of being cheated. They add that you should desist from calling your mechanic to pick the car from your workplace for repairs and then bring it back. 

“In your absence, a mechanic might pretend to repair something but remove the catalytic converter. In most cases, if you did not see this happen, the mechanic will deny any wrongdoing even when the car starts developing issues,” Amadi explains. 

Apart from garages, be cautious of where you wash your car from, who you share it with and where you park while at work. Also, moving from one garage to another could expose you to unknown dangers such as damage of your catalytic converter box. 

“Find one trusted mechanic and stick with them. This allows your mechanic to know the history of your car and it becomes hard for them to tamper with anything because they know they will be answerable for anything that goes wrong,” Gudoi advises.