Imagine this scenario: It’s a perfect spring day, so you opt to drive your classic car on a series of local errands. Lunch out is part of the plan, but exiting the restaurant, your car isn’t where you remember parking it. Assuming a mental lapse, you check nearby spots, but soon reality – laced with a bit of panic – sinks in. Your car has been stolen, but what could you have done differently to prevent this?
First, let’s establish one absolute: If a motivated professional car thief wants your particular car or truck, there’s very little you can do about it. Using a flatbed wrecker, snatching a car takes just a minute or two, and alarms aren’t much of a deterrent these days (particularly in urban areas or large parking lots, where car alarms are just part of the background noise). What we can do, however, is make our car as unattractive to thieves as possible, and below are five things by Hayman, LTD.
- Always be situationally aware. If a situation doesn’t “feel right,” listen to that inner voice that’s raising the red flag. Maybe that flatbed truck cruising the parking lot is looking to help a stranded motorist – but why doesn’t it have a local business name and telephone number on the cab? Ditto for the car or truck slowly cruising the lot, passing ample open parking spaces; maybe they’re just waiting for someone to come out of a store. Or maybe they’re not. Most car thefts occur at night, so always park in a well-lit area, preferably one with visible security cameras and high foot traffic. At a hotel, it may be reassuring to park where your car is visible outside the room, even if this means a longer walk to the lobby or elevators.
- Consider a hidden kill switch, or at the very least, a battery disconnect. As with all things electrical, it’s best to work with a shop that knows what they’re doing, and have a hidden switch professionally installed (this is particularly important on cars equipped with air bags, as picking the wrong wire could potentially trigger them). A kill switch that cuts the ignition will prevent the car from being started, and one that cuts power to the fuel pump (assuming this is electric) will limit how far it can be driven. The cheapest and easiest method is to install a simple battery disconnect, which can be unscrewed or otherwise removed when the car is parked. On more modern cars, this is likely to play hell with radio and clock settings, but some disconnects feature a battery backup to power these systems (but not the vehicle’s starter). Keep in mind that these won’t do a thing to prevent your car from being towed, but they may be enough to prevent joy riders from swiping your car.
- Make it as inconvenient as possible for thieves to choose your car. A visible aftermarket steering wheel lock can be defeated by a professional thief, but doing so takes time. If his choice is your car, equipped with such a device, or another car without, which is the easier target? There’s no end to the security options here, up to and including clamp locks for the wheels which prevent the car from being moved, pedal locks, etc. The key is striking a tolerable balance between your convenience and a potential thief’s inconvenience.
- Consider installing a vehicle tracker. Years ago, Lojack was the primary option for recovering a stolen vehicle, but today inexpensive GPS tracking systems can be purchased online. It pays to do some research here, to determine for yourself which system best suits your needs, expectations and budget. Should your car be stolen, never attempt to recover it on your own, but instead provide police with as much detail as possible. It’s hard to top a real-time location.
- Beware where you keep your keys. Storing a vehicle in your garage with the keys in the ignition, or above the visor, may help in the event of an emergency (such as a garage fire), but it’s also an open invitation to thieves. The same holds true for a visible key rack at home, which is likely the first place a thief will look.Spare keys should be kept in a home safe, or at the very least a locking box. To minimize the danger from a garage fire, park cars with the wheels pointing out the garage door, and keep a slotted screwdriver handy to override an automatic transmission lock. Even without a key, many console shifters can be placed in neutral using a slotted screwdriver, allowing the vehicle to be rolled out of a burning garage (check your owner’s manual to verify if this applies to your particular make and model).Here’s a warning to owners of new cars with proximity keys: The radio signal from your key can be cloned by thieves, allowing them to steal a car from your driveway without a key. If you own such a vehicle, keeping the key in an RFID-proof container when not in use can help prevent such thefts.
We hope you’ve never fallen victim to car thieves, but if you have, feel free to share your stories below. What could you have done differently to prevent the theft from occurring? What changes have you made since?