Having a car stolen is a very unpleasant and often unsettling experience. At best it is a major inconvenience but that vehicle may be needed for urgent work commitments or a family emergency. Thieves neither know nor care about that.
In the past, all crooks needed was a wire coat hanger and the knowledge of how to hot-wire a motor, such was the basic locking mechanism in cars. Fortunately, car makers have made huge strides in vehicle locking systems, but, alas, some thieves have kept pace. All that a car owner can do is take steps to make it as difficult as possible to steal and therefore not worthwhile for villains to make the effort. Here are our suggestions to minimise the threat:
Out And About
It’s not always easy to park and leave a car in such a way that it deters thieves but do try to give it your best shot:
. Park in well-lit areas or car parks; if possible beneath the stern gaze of CCTV.
• Fit a steering wheel lock or wheel clamp. They act as a deterrent in the same way that locking wheel nuts helped reduce the theft of alloy wheels. Professional car thieves may get around them but at least a lock will help to deter the chancer.
• Fit a car alarm or an immobiliser. The latter especially are good. If any assistance is required for fitment, visit your local car servicing garage for help and advice.
• Fit a tracker. These are especially useful for prestige or luxury cars and often insurers will insist upon them. They might not prevent the theft but it will allow the police to swiftly locate the vehicle.
• Hide valuables. Out of sight is out of mind. A lot of vehicles these days have false floors in the boot, but however any contents are hidden, make sure there are no tell-tale signs.
• Don’t leave any documentation in the car. If in doubt take it all with you and of course remember the first principle: Lock the doors.
As always a locked garage is the best defence but, with so many two or more car families around that is not always possible. It is not unknown for thieves to break into a house just to steal car keys so pay attention to home security too. Try these tips:
• Do not leave keys in plain sight at home, say, on a hall table or a dresser near a window. Hide them well, out of sight.
• Use the variety of vehicle defence equipment as outlined above.
• Consider using a parking security post. They are the devices that protect casual parkers from using an authorised space. They are not expensive and properly placed at the end of the drive will be a great deterrent. Thieves cannot afford to hang around.
• Lock the car.
The Worry Of Keyless Entry
As mentioned, car brands have made great strides with car keys and starting devices. Try losing a car key and see how hard it is to replace. Increasingly now, some of the latest motors have keyless entry. Systems vary slightly but generally this entails merely having to have a fob about your person. As the car is approached it unlocks ready go. Great. The snag is, professional car thieves are bang up to date with this technology too.
• If a keyless car is parked at home crooked teams use a ‘relay’ system to unlock and drive away. One will hold up a wireless transmitter outside the house and hope to pick up the fob signal and relay it to the vehicle to unlock. To start up, they repeat the process and drive away, no damage done.
• When leaving car fobs and keys at home keep them in an aluminium box or a purpose-designed key fob pouch that blocks any attempt to relay or clone a signal.
• Fobs lock the car as the driver walks away. A nearby thief can block that fob signal, leaving the car open. They can also take control via the standard fit diagnostic port used for servicing.
• The solution is to ensure that the vehicle is watched by the owner to see the indicators flash, ensuring the locks have been deployed. Carry the key fob in a pouch designed to thwart a signal relay. They are usually cheap and confound the thieves.
Car makers are constantly trying to stay one step ahead of car thieves. By and large the amateur will be deterred by the built-in protection but there is no sense in making the job easier for the professional criminals. Take the steps above to make their job as hard as possible. If in doubt ask your local servicing garage about fitting devices and question your vehicle supplier about the latest in car security.