Your vehicle is probably the high cost personal item your own. It is critical for your survival since it is used to get you to work, stores, doctors, etc. Yet, more many people, it sets on the street, in parking lot, or in your driveway, in public view, and with public access. You keep all your other valuables hidden and protected and yet you most valuable item is completed exposed. However, there are some things you can do to protect your vehicle.
VIN: Since 1969, the United States federal government has required manufacturers to engrave a unique number, the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), on all passenger cars in one visible and several hidden locations. One VIN is engraved on a metal plate on the dashboard near the windshield. When a car is reported stolen, police send its VIN to the FBI's computerized National Crime Information Center.
Passive and Active Anti-Theft Systems: Passive devices automatically arm themselves when the vehicle is turned off, the ignition key removed, or a door is shut. No additional driver action is required. Active devices require some independent physical action before they are set, such as pushing a button, or placing a “lock” over a vehicle component part. This physical action must be repeated every time the anti-theft device is set or it will not function.
Layers of protection
1st Layer: common sense.
- Remove keys. Always remove your keys when exiting your vehicle, even for a few seconds. Do not make it easy for thieves. When pumping gas, take your keys with you.
- Lock vehicle. Always lock your vehicle.
- Garage. Keeping your vehicle locked inside an enclosed garage protects it from all but the most determined thieves. It is not open to public view, so it is not a temptation.
- Parking. Park in the best-lighted area possible. Avoid leaving your vehicle in unattended parking lots for long periods of time.
2nd Layer: warning devices that provide a visible or audible alert to thieves that your vehicle is protected.
- Alarms. Every vehicle should have one. However, since most vehicles have one and they constantly give false alarms, the public tends to ignore the alarms. Determined thieves will not be deterred.
- Steering wheel /steering wheel/brake pedal/brake pedal locks. Time and effort are a car thief's enemies. Steering wheel locks such as the highly visible Club or the Billy Bat provide a strong visual deterrent to potential thieves. While a determined professional car thief can easily work around them (such as by cutting the steering wheel), they much more likely to secure a vehicle that lacks a steering wheel locking device. If you lose your key to the device, you will be prevented from using the vehicle and it may be expensive to remove the device.
- Window etching. Etching your VIN into all windows is one of the most simple and most effective ways to deter vehicle thieves. The etching is visible to thieves and warning stickers further alert them to the etching. VIN etching makes a vehicle less attractive to thieves because police can accurately identify a stolen vehicle more easily and all of the vehicle's windows would have to be replaced before a thief could attempt to sell the vehicle or its parts. vehicle that have been VIN etched have a 64 percent lower theft rate that non-etched vehicles and VIN etched vehicles have a more than an 85 percent chance of recovery if stolen. VIN etching is so effective that many insurance companies will offer discounts on premiums for VIN etching a vehicle. Car dealers charge up to $250 to etch a vehicle but do-it-yourself kits are just as effective and cost less than $25.
- Laminate windows. Windows may be coated with a security laminate such as Window Armor that will resist most any type of breaking.
- Theft deterrent decals or identification marks. Theft deterrent decals may deter thieves, even if the decals are fake and the devices they warn about are not installed. Owners may also make their own identification marks in various visible or hidden areas. Drop your business card into the doors through the window slots to identify the vehicle as yours.
- Wheel locks. Wheel locks not only help prevent the removal of wheel and tires, they are a visible deterrent.
3rd Layer: electronic immobilizing devices that prevent thieves from bypassing the ignition and hot wiring the vehicle.
- Factory installed. Some vehicles are manufactured with devices that disable the ignition if the proper key is not used.
- Disablers. Devices such as BackJax, ProtectaPost, and Jimmi' Jammer disable the vehicle so the engine will not start. Devices may require a switch or button be activated, may use fuse cut-offs, or may use starter or fuel disablers.
4th Layer: tracking systems that emit a signal to police or monitoring service when the vehicle is reported stolen.
- GPS (Global Positioning System)/GPS-cellular based systems. Systems such as Lojack and OnStar use GPS signals that allow the vehicle to be tracked and recovered by authorities. These systems operate via the network of GPS satellites, which was designed primarily as navigation tool and not as a vehicle recovery solution. Satellite signals are vulnerable to being blocked and receiving antennas are visible and easily disabled.
- Cellular based systems. Systems such as use cellular telecommunication networks to provide a broader geographical scope than any other tracking system. These systems can successfully locate stolen vehicles located in underground parking lots and shipping containers, which GPS and GPS-cellular systems cannot do. They can locate a vehicle within 3 feet of its actual location, often within an hour.
Ways to steal a vehicle, and how to defend against them
- Bump against the car to check for an alarm. Since too many false alarms have conditioned people to tune them out, use an alarm that has a pager that will notify you as soon as your alarm is activated.
- Break the window or jimmy the lock to gain entry into a locked car. Do not tempt car thieves. Take valuables with you or store them in the trunk. If you have a stereo with a removable faceplate, take it with you.
- Cut the steering wheel itself if there is a steering wheel lock. When using a steering wheellock, also use a disabler device..
- Look for exposed wiring that may be cut or for the central unit of the car alarm to deactivate it. Have alarms professional installed in an inaccessible location.
- Look for car alarm decals to figure out which method to use to eliminate the alarm. Never display stickers that advertise what sort of car alarm or audio system you have. Consider using a hood lock cable so the thief cannot get to your battery or car alarm mechanism.
- Jump into an unattended running car while the owner is at the ATM, dropping off videos, etc. Never leave your keys in the ignition even for a quick errand.
- Look for the car's title, registration or anything with a home address on it. Keep your registration and insurance information with you and never leave personal information in your car.
- Stake out sporting events, movie theaters, and shopping center parking lots for the car of your choice since they offer the largest variety of cars in one area. Whenever possible, park in lots and garages that have security and/or parking lot attendants. If not, do not park in the farthest corner of the lot but rather near the entrance of these facilities to insure the most foot traffic (and the most potential witnesses). Also, opt for paying the extra couple of dollars for the monitored parking lot instead of using the free parking on the less-trafficked side streets.
- Find the second set of keys the owner "hid" in the car. Do not leave spare keys in your car or in a magnetic box attached to the underside of your car. Thieves know where all the "hiding places" are.