I Could steal your car. I just need some time. And some tools. Maybe a jack. Possibly a trailer. Then I could steal your ride.
Even though I won't, somebody else wants to. It doesn't matter what kind of alarm you have, how many kill switches you've got or how much money you've spent on your wheel locks, if somebody wants what you've got bad enough, they'll take it. If they can't drive it away, they can push it away, tow it away.
Over a million cars were stolen in the United States last year. The chances of your car getting jacked are about 1 in 190. This number doesn't even account for the hundreds of thousands that were broken into and vandalized. Those aren't exactly betting odds, but chances are, if you're reading this magazine, you're odds are even worse since modified vehicles make for bigger targets. Quick fact: By the time you finish this paragraph, another vehicle has just been stolen - less than every 30 seconds or so.
There's a whole industry that exists because of auto theft. No, we're not talking about the chop shops and the shady stolen parts biz, but about those who give us what we need to keep the thieves and thugs at bay to begin with. Alarms, tracking devices and immobilizers make up the brunt of it, but there are tons of gadgets, straps, bars and clubs that fill up the aisles of auto parts and hardware stores across the country. Some are expensive; some won't cost you a cent. Read on to find out the 10 most low-cost anti-theft tips you need to know.
I don't steal, but if I did, I'd steal cars from people who leave them running ... without them in them. It would be so easy. You've seen them. The guy with the oversized, lifted, monster truck. The one who takes up two spots, and leaves the engine on so we can all be impressed by the bad-ass, high-compression diesel clack. Or the yuppie with the BMW and the Blackberry stuck to his ear who makes the Starbucks run with the ignition on. We'll cede that they're both really cool guys, but leaving their engine on decreases the coolness factor and increases the chance of their virility symbol being taken from them. It's pretty lame that we even have to tell them to turn off the ignition. It's common sense, bozos: when you're not in your car, shut it off and lock it up, otherwise you deserve to get it stolen.
Wheel locks might not look as cool as some trick lightweight lug nuts you special ordered from Japan, but neither does that set of steelies and hubcaps you'll be rocking when your rims get jacked. One for each wheel: it's a small price to pay to protect what's yours.
A two-dollar toggle switch and relay might be all you need to keep a thief scratching his head, wondering why your ride won't crank over or stay running. Splice the switch into the starter's, ignition's or fuel pump's power wire and hide it. Smart thieves might figure it out, but the chances of them finding where you hid the switch are about as good as them ever living a productive life. On a manual transmission-equipped vehicle though, starter kill might not be the best deterrent since the car can still be push-started.
4.Locking Gas Cap
A locking gas cap alone won't stop some a-hole from jacking your Prelude, but the more things you can do to make his job more difficult, the better. Maybe your car will get left in a Mobil parking lot instead of being pulled to pieces in a warehouse or shipped across the border.
5.Interior Door Knobs
This one might sound kind of weird, especially if you have a newer vehicle, in which case you won't really have to worry about this, but there's something about some mid-'80s cars' interior door knobs. They're big, they're bulky, and they're relatively easy to grab onto and pull up from outside the vehicle with nothing more than a piece of wire or a coat hanger. Replace them with smaller, less thief-friendly pieces and you'll make it that much harder for someone to get inside.
6.Sensor Disconnect And ECU Kill
Although we don't recommend making a habit out of disconnecting sensors under the hood as a means of vehicle theft prevention, it's still a great method as a last resort. Unplug either the mass airflow sensor or the manifold absolute position sensor, depending on the vehicle, and instantly make idling and driving your vehicle an impossibility. Sure, it only takes a couple seconds to pop the hood and plug it back in, but that's because you know what you did; it'll take a smart thief at least a few minutes to figure it out - a lot longer than they're willing to hang around. Also on our list of last-resort measures, unplugging the vehicle's ECU and taking it with you is fool proof. How many thieves carry around a computer stash in their backpacks ... for your car? Try not to get in the habit of doing this, though. ECU plugs and connectors can wear out after being disconnected and reconnected several times, making for a possible loose connection in the future.
Yes, VIN etching is one of those things the dealer tries to stuff you with when you're closing the deal on the new car, but it's a pretty good deterrent. Douchebags who steal cars want parts that can't be traced back to the car they came from. This way they can unload the things they jacked on the Internet and in the classifieds with little recourse from law enforcement. VIN numbers can be chemically etched onto almost any component of the vehicle, making them less desirable.
8.Hide The Valuables
Don't give them a reason to break in in the first place. While there's not much you can do to hide that front-mount intercooler or 18-inch Racing Harts, for crying out loud put the digital camera in your glove box and get whatever it is you just bought from Radio Shack off the back seat and into the trunk.
9.Steering Wheel/Brakes Bars And Clubs
You've seen them. The clubs, crook locks, steering column locks and whatnots. Some of them are worthwhile devices worthy of the small price they cost; some are so complicated and cumbersome they make better weapons to beat a thief over the head with than what they were intended for. But the idea here is novel. Can the average steering wheel or brake lock be bypassed or broken? Sure. Is a thief going to go to those lengths to steal your sub-$50K non-exotic street car? Not likely.
If somebody wants your car bad enough, they'll find a way to take it ... or tow it. And there's a point where there's pretty much nothing you can do about it. But make it as hard as you can for them; buy yourself some time. When parking your vehicle overnight, be sure and point the tires toward a wall or a curb, lock the steering wheel, and engage the emergency brake. This makes it that much more difficult for them to load up and tow off.