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  • Writer's pictureAndy Murphy

How to Deter Car Break-Ins

Keeping thieves out of your car

Vehicle break-ins happen in every community, every day. And I don’t want it to happen to you. So we're going to talk about common ways thieves get into your cars and how we can fight that.

When it comes to protecting your car on your property there are a few things to consider. Most thieves are going to want something in your car under your car, or your car itself. In order for this to happen the thief has to be physically present at the vehicle. This isn’t like hacking someone’s email, it can’t be done from half a world away.

Deny Access

So the first thing that we have to consider is making sure the thieves don’t have access to our car. If you have a garage attached to your home then please park your car in the garage.

If your garage has lots of boxes or it is turned into a game room for your kids, clear all of that out and store your vehicles in your garage as God intended.

If the bad guys can’t get to your car, they can’t break into it.

If you have more vehicles than your garage can hold or you live in an apartment complex, then fully protecting your vehicle isn’t going to be an option. If that’s the situation you need to try to control as many of the elements surrounding your car as you can.

Light it Up

Make sure that you park your car and I will let area. This could be under a street light or parked under a carport light in your driveway. The more light you have the less appealing your car is going to be to a thief.

Remember thieves want to work in silence and peace they don’t want to be seen. - So taking away their advantage of the darkness is key to protecting your vehicle. If your car is parked out front of your house make sure that the light is on on the front porch and that any other exterior lighting is on all night long.

And while we are covering the basics for car security, always make sure that your car doors are locked. Whether you’ve parked your car in the driveway, the grocery store parking lot, or at the garage at your office your doors need to be locked.

Don’t Tempt Thieves

When it comes to valuables inside of your car you may be thinking that thieves target high-end items like cell phones, laptops, and shopping bags from high-end brands. While all of that is accurate, two things you don’t want to keep stored in your car is the remote to your garage door or the keys to that vehicle or another vehicle that you own.

Recently I found out about a car theft in my area where one car was broken into in front of a family‘s home. While the thieves were rummaging through that car they found the keys to the family's other vehicle in the glove compartment. They didn’t have to break into the second car they simply unlocked it and drove away. We have to be mindful of what we keep in our vehicles and how it can be used against us.

To minimize the chance of someone breaking into your car because of what’s inside it, make sure that you bring in all your valuables at the end of the day. This means smart devices, chargers, cash, and any keys or work ID cards.

I suggest you keep a nice bag in your car that you toss everything in and bring that in at the end of the day. This way if you remove all the valuables from your car it’s much less of an appealing target to a thief and the better the chances they’ll just move on to something they know they can get.

Look at Me!

I have a story that’s from a little bit different of a situation I wanted to share this with you because it has to do with what we keep in our cars.

One day I was waiting outside in my car when I looked over at the next vehicle. Hanging from the rearview mirror was a lanyard that said Department of the Treasury with an ID card attached to it. What do you think could have been done with that ID card?

Some federal employee thought it was fun to hang their lanyard on the rearview mirror and they inadvertently advertised that they had a job at the treasury and they literally dangle the key for everyone to see. Think about what you keep in your car because it could be something that a thief uses to gain greater access to your home or your office.

What’s a Catalytic Converter?

A crime that has seen a sharp rise over the past few years is the theft of catalytic converters. If you’re not sure what that is it’s a part that is under your car that helps reduce emissions. Why it’s so valuable is because it contains some very valuable metals. Lots of people know that so they will steal the catalytic converter and take it somewhere to sell it for scrap metal.

This theft can be done in under one minute. Any crack head with a saws-all can cut one of these away and be off your property by the time you ask yourself what that cutting noise is? I’ve even seen videos of people cutting out the catalytic converter in traffic while cars are running.

The good news is that many states now require proof of ownership of all catalytic converters before they can be purchased for scrap metal at reputable dealers. So that cuts down on the demand for catalytic converters. If you’re concerned about this and I think you should still be, there is an alarm system that you can buy for your catalytic converter.

There is a product you can buy called Catstrap that you can install onto your catalytic converter that makes it harder to cut away and also emits an ear-splitting alarm.

I have not used this product myself, but it seems like a good idea for you to check out if your area is experiencing high volumes of catalytic converter theft.

If there’s an increase in car break-ins in your area you might want to consider getting an aftermarket alarm system for your vehicle. The alarm system that comes standard on your car is not as robust as it could be.

One function that I think every car security system should have is a glass break sensor. I think this should be a standard on all cars when they roll off the assembly line but that is just not the case. You can buy a security system from companies like Viper that have glass break sensors and will trigger your car's alarm if someone breaks in through the glass.

High Gear and Hi-Tech

Now let’s talk about some high-tech ways that people can gain entry to your car to steal it. A signal relay attack is an act of finding a signal your key fob emits, duplicating it, and tricking your car into thinking that a thief has your key fob. I have seen a video of this in action and it’s fascinating to watch.

The video I saw was the theft of a high-end car like a Mercedes-Benz or BMW. The car was parked out front of the home and two thieves worked together to steal the car. One thief got close to the home where he thought the key might have been stored.

The signal the key fob emits will pass through the walls of your home. With a high-tech scanner, one thief was able to find the signal copy it, and send it to the second thief who was standing at the car.

The whole process took just a few minutes and the only sound that you heard was the thieves starting the car starting and driving away. While I don’t condone this type of behavior it was a fascinating heist.

To combat a signal relay attack put your car’s key fob into a faraday pouch. This pouch will block all of the signals going to and coming from the key fob. Companies like Silent Pocket make bags for this sort of thing and they work really well. Even if you don’t have a fancy car like a Tesla, this is a good idea with an inexpensive solution.

Another way technology can be used to gain access to your car is through the car manufacturers app that you download to your phone. Many new cars have fully functional apps that will unlock doors, turn on lights, and even start the engine.

Most of these apps will not allow your car to be driven off, they do allow for people to unlock the doors. If someone gained access to your phone, there’s a chance they can also gain access to your vehicle. While a thief may not be able to drive off with your car, they could get inside it to steal something of value that you keep in there.

Of course, you can solve all of your problems with a Trunk Monkey that will attack anyone who is not you and toss them off a bridge. Unfortunately, that will raise your insurance rates.


Andy Murphy

Andy Murphy founded The Secure Dad in 2016 with the aspiration to help families live safer, happier lives. What started as a personal blog about family safety has turned into an award-winning podcast, an Amazon best-selling book, and online courses. He focuses his efforts in the areas of home security, situational awareness, and online safety.


Andy is a husband and father. His interests include coaching youth basketball, hiking, and trying to figure out his 3D printer.

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