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  • Writer's pictureAndy Murphy

How to Prevent Your Car From Being Stolen



Tips and Tricks for Protecting Your Car


Stealing cars is nothing new. But here of late, it seems like car break-ins and theft are on the rise. Before we get into how to protect your car from being swiped, let’s first look at how cars are stolen in America.


How Cars Are Stolen: Relay Theft


A popular method on the rise for stealing cars is when car thieves hack the signal of your key fob. This is called relay theft. You see this with a lot of higher-end cars.


Since your smart keys emit an RFID signal to your car to unlock your door or turn the lights on when you approach. It constantly emits a signal because it doesn’t know where you are or your proximity to your vehicle.


With the proper equipment, this can signal can be identified, copied, and used to remotely open and start your car. It can even be done if you have your keys near an exterior wall in your home!

Known Exploits for Car Theft


Another popular car theft method is by using known exploits. Remember the Kia Boys challenge on TikTok last year? Apparently, Kia cars could easily be started with a USB charger after ripping off the steering column. I was able to watch this done over and over again on social media. Sometimes your car is targeted simply because of its make and model.


Then of course there is everyone’s worst nightmare, the carjacking. This is when a thief approaches your car, forces you out, and takes your car. This method of attack has been made popular in the video game series Grand Theft Auto.


Carjacking Nightmares


There have been carjacking sprees in police pursuits in California that look like a scene from that gaming series. A thief will steal car after car to avoid being caught by police. Sometimes a thief will try to get drivers to put their cars in park so the doors automatically unlock and then force drivers out.


Smash and Grab Car Theft


Then there is the classic smash-and-grab. It’s as simple as it sounds and it works, which is why it’s been around forever. The weakest point in your car’s defenses is the windows. These can easily be broken, with thieves using emergency glass break tools or a smashed spark plug to gain access to your car.


Car thieves in San Francisco are using gloves with glass break materials in the palms to quickly gain access to cars. Once inside, a thief can use a variety of time-tested methods to start your car and go. Most commonly joy-riders take cars like this. They only want your car for a short period of time and will usually dump it after they're done. But usually, there’s a significant amount of damage done before it’s recovered.


Grand Theft Auto of Opportunity


And to round it out, there’s the opportunist method. This is when a good-hearted person leaves their car doors unlocked with the car running. This opportunity is just too good to pass up so a thief simply get’s into the driver’s seat and takes off.


So those are just four popular methods for stealing cars, there are more. Now let’s look at ways we can protect our cars from theft.


Preventing Car Theft: Lock Your Doors


This first step is an obvious one and that is to keep your car doors locked, even when you’re driving. But let’s pause for a moment and think about a setting you may have on a newer car.


Many cars made after 2005 have the convenience feature to unlock the doors when you put the car in park or when you turn the engine off. I suggest that if you have this feature to disable it or at least switch it to have the doors automatically unlock when you turn the engine off. You want to control when your doors are locked, not your car.


Don’t Leave Your Keys Behind


Next, don’t leave your keys in the car. I’m shocked at how many people do this. I can’t fathom doing this, but people do. If you leave your doors unlocked, which most cars today won’t allow you to lock the door if the fob is inside, then anyone can walk up, spot the keys, get in, and take off. In short, take your keys with you when you exit the car.


Know Where You’re Going and Parking


A big way you can keep your car safe is by knowing where you’re going and where and when you’ll park. Let’s say you have a nice, high-end car or a weekend car like a 2022 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye. That’s a nice car that’s going to attract some attention.


Let’s say you go downtown to meet friends for dinner, you may want to drive the family sedan instead. Think about the value of your car relative to the environment when you go out. Of course, you always want to avoid dark areas as this gives thieves greater cover to work on stealing your car.


Anti-Theft Devices


Of course, you can always install an anti-theft system or an immobilizer. These aftermarket devices work to dissuade thieves from taking your car if they know they can be tracked or the car can be recovered easily.


A cheap way to track your car is to add an Apple Air Tag to the inside of your car so you can track it. But that won’t be much of a deterrent as you’ll need to hide it for the best results.


The immobilizer shuts off the engine or keeps it from starting if it determines the car has been taken. Some cars come with this feature already.


Stopping A Relay Theft


If you’re concerned about a relay attack like I mentioned before, where the signal from your fob is identified and duplicated, there’s a simple solution. Place your key fob in a faraday bag. Faraday bags and cases block all electronic signals coming in and out.


This way your fob’s signal can’t go out and be duplicated. Just toss the faraday bag in a backpack or purse and you’re good to go.


Stopping Known Exploits


Cars with known exploits like the Kia Boys challenge can use a steering wheel lock. The Club is the most popular brand that I’m sure you’ve seen before. Just be careful when getting one, make sure it has a double hook on it. The older, single-hook devices can be defeated by sawing through the steering wheel.


Turn Off the Engine: Gumbo Edition


Now, let’s talk about leaving your car running when you exit the vehicle. There was a dramatic video from Christmas day in New Orleans when a good-hearted driver hopped out of his car to deliver a gift on someone’s porch. Since the driver knew it was going to be a quick trip, he got out and left his car running in a nice, historic part of the city.

Almost as soon as he got out, another car comes to a fast stop and a man jumps out to steal the running car. The owner rushes back jumps on the hood and throws a pot of Gumbo at the driver.


The owner is even able to climb up the car to the open sunroof and attack the thief. After a struggle, the thief gets out and escapes. The owner is left with his gumbo-covered car.


Now I admire this guy’s gumption to fight for his car, but he could have been hurt really badly. Your life is worth more than your car. Unless your kids are in the car, just let it go.


But the prevention for this is simple: always turn off your engine, take your keys, and lock your doors when you get out. Do this every single time, no matter where you are or how short your trip will be. Even do it in your own driveway.


Carjacking


As we close this out, let’s talk about carjacking. The big thing with carjackings is that cars can be replaced, you can’t. If it comes down to this, give up the car and get away.


The only time I think you need to resist and fight back is when your kids are in the car. If they can’t get out quickly, then you’ll need to try to get away. This is where carrying a defensive tool on you like pepper gel or a firearm will be helpful. But unless you are fighting for your life or the lives of your family, give up the car.


Those are a few ways that we can prevent our cars from being stolen. Most of this boils down to good, secure habits and being proactive. If you do those things, then you’ll not have to worry too much about your car being stolen.


Watch The Podcast on YouTube - How to Prevent Your Car From Being Stolen



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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.

 

TheSecureDad.com

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