A report by Today’s Money team last year noted that “according to government statistics, a vehicle is stolen in the U.S. about every 44 seconds.” Regardless of advancements in vehicle security systems and an increase in their affordability, there are still a staggering amount of older vehicles on the roads that have little to no protection at all. So these cars are often easy pickings for thieves who want to make some quick cash at the local chop shop. And even though everyone knows that there is a special level in hell for car thieves, filled with rabid junk yard dogs and timed brake drum maintenance sessions, vehicle theft continues to plague our nation.
But most new car buyers don’t have to worry about this kind of thing, as many modern vehicles come equipped with theft-deterrent mechanisms and alarm systems loud enough to wake the dead. You can’t even steal a stereo these days without realizing it is permanently affixed to the entire dashboard and utterly useless if removed from the car.
This article was written for those of us who are still rocking 1992 Civics, mid-1990s pickups, and classic Volkswagen Rabbits. It has also been crafted for those who own classic cars, or for anyone looking to purchase a “barn find” in the hopes of one day restoring it. Not all cars have to be new to be cool, but one of the inevitable downsides to owning an older model car is that it typically doesn’t come with the level of defensiveness we demand. Aftermarket security systems are expensive, and car alarms are annoying, so what other options do we have?
Fortunately, there are plenty of alternative options out there, and these following cheats are a great way to get creative when protecting your assets. I recommend using at least two of these tips in tandem, because the more hoops a thief has to jump through, the more likely they are to give up in the hunt for easier prey. Meanwhile, the media keeps telling us that they have a solution to the problem and that their “big anti-theft tips” about not leaving keys in the ignition, and remembering to lock the doors will keep thieves at bay. Hate to tell you guys, but, if a thief really wants your car, a locked door and an absence of a key aren’t going to slow their thought process. But maybe a few creative DIY anti-theft devices will…
1. The old baby monitor trick
It may sound like a silly idea, but putting a wireless video baby monitor on your dash or in your garage might be one of the greatest ideas ever. These video monitors are inexpensive ( I got mine on Amazon for under $100), they come with night vision and audio, and the best part is they are completely portable unlike a security camera. Battery “charge-packs” are available for anyone wanting to put the monitor remotely within the car, and the sight of a baby monitor both is cause for alarm and confusion for most thieves. Just be sure to turn the volume up on the receiver end so you can hear the sound of a window getting smashed-in.
2. The quick-release police
It may seem like a gimmicky mod from the Fast & Furious franchise, but without a steering wheel a car becomes pretty tough to steal. A quality quick-release steering hub is a great way to make any thief think twice before smashing that window, and many models offer a unique locking ring that keeps thieves from slapping on just any aftermarket steering wheel and driving off. Just be careful not to accidentally detach the steering wheel while flying down the interstate.
3. Time to pull the plug!
For those of us who are on a budget, and don’t want our precious classic stolen, a quick tug on a spark plug wire is often all that is needed. This cheat is great for those of us who park in urban areas, where thieves don’t have the luxury of having the time to peer under the hood to see what is the matter. No spark on a cylinder means the car will refuse to start, thus deterring any thief wanting to hotwire an older vehicle. I personally will take an entire spark plug wire with me sometimes, thus guaranteeing that thieves can’t just pop the hood and snap the tube back into place before driving off. Fair warning, though: Modern cars usually have coil plugs, and that means breaking out the tool kit, which is neither convenient nor enjoyable. So look toward other cheats on this list if you have coils on your car.
4. Kill switch engage!
For those of us with some electrical wiring skills (or a friend who does) successfully installing a set of hidden kill switches is a fantastic option for anyone wanting to add an extra James Bond level of security to their car. This mod will keep the thieves guessing because it is hidden from sight, and if there is more than one kill switch hidden in the car the thieves are going to be pulling their hair out trying to figure out why the car won’t start. Hooking the kill switch system up to a sequential pattern is also a great idea because if someone doesn’t know which order to flick switches the entire vehicle will lock up on the carjacker, thus rendering the vehicle useless. I don’t recommend using this cheat on unless you are 100% confident in your ability to navigate a car’s electrical computer system.
5. Put that car on lockdown
For those of us who think that a series of kill switches is just not enough there is this next solution, which works much like a locking briefcase or a bike lock, where a series of spinning numbers must be aligned properly before power can be sent to the car’s computer. Want to take it a step further? Throw a hidden kill switch into the starting line somewhere, adding further confusion to the mix. For anyone wanting to do something different you can see about using a spinning safe lock to deter thieves and look uniquely old school in the process.
6. Das boot!
This may sound preposterous, but throwing a boot on your car is a great way to keep thieves from considering it, and it carries the added perk of warding off meter maids since the sight of a boot on a car typically means someone is far beyond ticketing. Just buy a boot like this one by Denver Wheel Boot Locks, toss it in the trunk of your car, and when parking in a shady neighborhood just slap it on the car, lock it up, and go about your business. Be careful when attaching it, though; these claws are notorious for marring alloy wheels.
7. Location, location, location
My final cheat for the day comes to you courtesy of the words: common sense. If parking in a well-lit parking space is safe, then parking in a locked garage is even safer. Want to make things really tough for thieves? Get a friend or family member to block you in, this way there is nowhere for the car to go even if it gets hotwired. When parking on a street, I suggest snuggling up close to a lamp post or a barrier with the wheels facing the curb, thus making it quite difficult for a thief to push the car once they realize it won’t start.
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