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When returning to your car after running an errand, do you ever stop and walk around it to check for any damages or other suspicious things? Probably not. But if you do conduct a quick walkaround of your vehicle and happen to spot a water bottle wedged into one of the wheel wells, according to some internet lore, you might be in danger. However, here is the truth behind that myth.

Why is a water bottle in your car’s wheel well so important?

A water bottle is stuck in the wheel well of a Honda S2000.
A water bottle is stuck in the wheel well of a Honda S2000. | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

This might be old news; however, there have been rumors circulating around the Internet for a while about a trick that some car thieves around the world are using. The trick is pretty simple and is set up like this:

  • The car thieves place an empty water bottle on one of the tires on the passenger side of your car
  • You don’t notice the water bottle upon entering the driver’s side of the car
  • As you begin to move the car, you hear an unexpected crunching noise from the other side of your car caused by the water bottle
  • You stop the car and get out to see where the noise is coming from
  • During that time, the car thief gets into your car (which is presumably still running) and drives off with it. If it’s not running, then they will grab whatever personal items they can from your car and run off

Basically, it’s a way for any would-be car thieves to misdirect your attention and steal your car.

What should you do if you see a water bottle wedged in the wheel well?

While this trick doesn’t seem to be super common, there’s still a possibility that it can happen at any moment. The folks at WCRZ, in addition to other sources, suggest conducting a quick walkaround of your car and calling 911 if you do see a bottle. That way, if anything does happen, you’ll already be on the phone with the police to report it.

Another tip is to do a quick walkaround of the car every time you return to it — like when you take a trip to the grocery store or the mall – and keep the car locked while you do it. That way, if the car thieves have targeted your car, they likely won’t attempt anything if the car is still locked.

How often does this type of car theft happen?

A man checks the wheel wells of a car.
A man checks the wheel wells of a car. | Dmitry RogulinTASS via Getty Images

From what we have gathered, this water bottle scam seems to be an urban myth that’s been circulating around the Internet for a few years. However, we thought it would still be a good idea to warn drivers about it just in case. After all, someone thought of it, and it seems like a viable ploy that could work on unsuspecting victims.

However, the whole idea is a bit flawed. As That’s Nonsense points out, the water bottle trick relies on the assumption that the driver will get out and check on the mysterious noise, which isn’t a guarantee. Additionally, the trick is also heavily weighted on the idea that the car thief will be willing to wait as long as they need to for the unsuspecting victim to return to their car, which could take hours.

Realistically speaking, that probably won’t happen. However, you can never be too careful these days, so do yourself a favor and check your car in public places as much as possible. Whether it’s an urban myth or not, you could be the next victim of the water bottle car theft trick.


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