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Most stolen car parts in South Africa

The most stolen car parts in South Africa are airbags, batteries, tailgates, and wheels and tyres.

According to car-tracking company Cartrack, the theft of car components is more prevalent within our borders than the theft of the vehicles themselves as demand for cheap, readily-available parts is very high on the black market and the pieces are far easier to hide and harder to trace than entire cars.

“We’ve heard many stories of vehicles being stolen and then later being found completely stripped,” said Cartrack.

“Chop shops have an estimated trade value of about R442 million, which makes stealing and reselling car parts a lucrative business on the black market, sometimes more lucrative and less traceable than reselling a stolen vehicle. Thieves also see it as an easier way of getting out of the admin of hiding and selling a stolen vehicle because it is barely recognisable.”

Stealing vehicle components is quick and relatively effortless for seasoned thieves. Removing four wheels can be done in five minutes, airbags and tailgates can be taken in two minutes, and it is possible to disconnect a battery in as little as one minute.

A second-hand bakkie tailgate sells from around R2,500 and up on the illicit market, making it highly desirable for criminals. It has gotten to the point where even car mechanics have gotten in on the unlawful practice.

“Dishonest mechanics involved in this will take other parts out of your car while repairing it, then replace those parts with faulty, cheaper ones,” said Cartrack.

The company noted a recent incident where a local motorist who had to get their vehicle’s gearbox repaired was urged by a crooked mechanic to go out and rent the same make and model of their car and then go back to the shop to swop out the transmissions before returning the rental with the faulty part.

“This shows one of multiple ways that car parts can be stolen even without the vehicle itself being stolen,” said the tracking firm.

Toyota RAV4 wheels stolen in Joburg. Source: Honeydew Community Policing Forum

Protecting your car parts

The first step to keeping your parts safe from theft is to keep your car safe.

Cartrack provided the following tips to motorists to make their car less desirable for thieves:

  • Keep your valuables out of sight
  • Park in busy, visible, well-lit areas
  • Double-check that your vehicle is locked
  • Avoid driving in high-risk areas and hijacking hotspots
  • Don’t connect your vehicle to unfamiliar Wi-Fi networks

The company also emphasised that you should be careful not to be lured out of your car for any reason.

“If they can’t force their way into your vehicle, car thieves will find a way to lure you out of it,” said Cartrack.

“Thieves are known for placing various obstacles in the road, such as rocks, spikes, and even boxes, to block your way. This forces you to get out of the car to remove the obstacle, but as soon as you leave, they take the opportunity to jump into your vehicle and drive off.”

Furthermore, it is vital to get a GPS tracker for your car that will help you locate it should it be stolen. This may even be required if you have comprehensive insurance.


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