by Mike Stewart

Make sure your car is locked and your windows wound up. This sounds ridiculously obvious but make sure you secure your car carefully wherever you are parked. Research shows loads of people leave their doors unlocked and/or their windows open a large proportion of the time.

Check all your entry points are secure – are all the doors locked, the trunk locked and the sunroof locked? If not a thief will be quick to take advantage of the opportunity.

Make sure your windows are wound all the way up. Even if you leave a small gap a thief can easily force it down to either access the door lock or break the window.

Keep your keys safe – even when you are at home. Today with factory and after market alarms getting smarter it is becoming harder for a thief to quickly and easily hotwire your car. That has led to a surge in home break-ins purely so thieves can steal the car keys. Then they simply come back later and drive off with the car.

So, while you’re at home keep your keys safe. Don’t leave them in the car, in your handbag, or sitting on an entrance table or bench in the house. Secure them in a drawer or somewhere safe that is out of sight.

Don’t ever leave the keys in the car. It sounds simple enough but is still a common mistake people make. Never leave your keys in the car, even if you’re only leaving the car for a few seconds. It takes even less than that for a thief to grab the opportunity and drive off with the car.

Here’s a few scenarios that catch people out:

Don’t leave your keys in the car while you pay for your petrol at the garage. This used to be the cause of a huge number of thefts and even with modern day alarms that immobilize your car (this was a big reason immobilization became important) if you leave the keys in there the alarm can’t do anything to protect your car.

Don’t leave your keys in the car when you’re not at home (or even when you’re at home.) If a thief breaks into your house and your car is nicely sitting there all open with the keys in the ignition you’ve just given them the best Christmas present – a way to take as much of your stuff as they can fit in the car AND the car itself.

Don’t go back into the house during winter while you let the car warm up. Yes, we understand it is freezing cold but thieves take advantage of this time of the year. And don’t leave the car running but lock it with the spare key – a thief is most certainly going to forgo the cost of replacing the window to smash it when they’ll have possession of your car. Put your coat, gloves and scarf on and stay with the car!

Be careful where you choose to park – even if you have an alarm. Always make the choice to park in a secured area whenever possible – it’s worth the extra money – both for your own personal safety as well as your car’s.

Another tip – take your parking ticket with you when you leave the car. That way, even if a thief gains entry into your car if they have to front up for a lost ticket they’ll be getting themselves noticed even if they do have the cash (which they probably won’t).

If you have to park on the street make sure you park in the most well lit, busy area possible.

Be particularly careful if you are attending an event such as a football match or concert because lines of cars outside an arena is a dead giveaway to thieves that you’re going to be away from your car for a set period of time. Never leave ticket or event information in the car that would indicate to a thief how long you’ll be gone.

And if you do have an alarm fitted it doesn’t mean you can park down a dark alley on a deserted street in the middle of nowhere and expect your car to still be there when you get back. All an alarm can do is make a noise if a thief attacks it – which still means someone needs to be there to hear it. And while an alarm will slow a thief down, given time and isolation they’ll either take the car, tow it, or strip all the good bits off.

And if you don’t have a garage make sure you park with awareness at home – whenever possible park off the road and under a porch or house light that is left on (or comes on when movement is triggered.) If you have a high risk car try and park it closer to the house than a less valuable vehicle – that way a thief will have to try and get the other cars out of the driveway first if he wants the one closest to the house.

Some alarms today have a programmable feature that will turn the interior light of the car on when the alarm is disarmed – that way you can check that the cabin of the car is safe before nearing the vehicle. Ask your alarm retailer about what models are available that will do this.

Don’t leave ANYTHING visible in the car – even with an alarm So many more cars are broken into rather than stolen (especially with the good factory and after market immobilizer alarms available now) and that’s because people continue to leave items in the car. Simply DO NOT leave ANYTHING visible in the car.

If you leave your radar detector attached to the windscreen, your cellphone in the front console, or your handbag on the seat then do not expect sympathy when it gets stolen. An alarm will not, ever, protect from a smash and grab. It takes a thief 5 seconds to smash the glass, grab the item, and be around the corner. Even with your alarm sounding he’s gone.

And it’s not just valuable items – don’t leave empty gearbags, shoeboxes, shopping bags or anything in the vehicle. If your stereo has a removable faceplate get yourself into the habit of taking it off every time you leave the car. If a thief sees there might be something in there chances are he’ll take the risk and leave you with the cost and hassle of replacing window glass and door locks.

If you have a garage – use it and secure it. If you have a garage to park in, that’s great. But make sure you’re following all the other steps:

– Lock the car and arm the alarm if you have one, even when you’re at home.

– Never leave the keys in the car, even when you’re at home.

– Keep the keys in a safe, hidden place, even when you’re at home.

– Keep the garage locked and secure.

– If you have an electric garage door it can be a good idea to remove the emergency pull handle and hide it away. Thieves will often use a coat hanger contraption to pull this and open the garage.

Fit an alarm with immobilizers. Today there are so many excellent alarms on the market that will give you loads of handy features (such as central locking from the remote) as well as protecting the car. Always choose an alarm with a minimum of a single immobilizer so the car cannot be started until the alarm is disarmed via the remote.

If you already have an alarm and want to try fitting it yourself you can download our How to Install Your Car Alarm ebook for only $19.95 by visiting www.carsecuritytips.com.

Be aware of what might tempt a thief and secure it. You can add all sorts of additional security features to alarms today including GPS tracking, pager systems and additional sensors and sirens.

And don’t forget the easy stuff. If you have wheels fit a tilt sensor and get a set of lock nuts. Get a steering wheel lock as well as an alarm – it gives the thief a clear visual warning that there are security measures in place.

Make your car look protected. A huge part of the job an alarm does is to give a visual warning to a thief that the car has security measures. Make sure you put the alarm warning stickers on the window and the LED warning light in the dash is fitted. (And if you don’t want to get an alarm you can buy these little extras separately.) Use a steering wheel lock. Don’t leave anything visible in the car. Take your stereo plate with you. Have your vehicle rego number or the VIN number etched onto the windows. Mark your stereo and anything else in the vehicle with the number as well. None of these measures on their own will protect your car if a thief takes a shine to it. But if they’re just strolling along a line of cars looking for a bit of fun or something to sell if your car looks secure and empty they’re much more likely to go to the next one and leave yours alone.

Don’t register your car to your home address. In many countries car registration details are easily accessed by the public. If a thief likes the look of your car all they have to do is take the registration number, find out where you live and come shopping. This I especially important if you a female living alone. Don’t make it easy for the freaks to find you!

Don’t leave your keys in an obvious place. Do you walk in the front door and throw your keys on the side table? Alarms and immobilizers are so good now thieves will often break into your house to get the keys and remote rather than try to bypass the system. Don’t leave them somewhere they can be spotted from outside or where someone can open a door or window and grab them.

Look after spare remotes. Rolling code remotes will get out of sequence if the button is pushed too many times while out o range of the car. Make sure spare remotes are not in a draw full of junk where the button can be held down or it may not work when you need it.

Lost your remote? Delete it! If you have lost a remote of had it stolen make sure you delete it from the alarms memory otherwise anyone can use it to access your car. If you don’t know how take the car to your local installer.

Always have a spare remote. Some alarm system will not let you easily learn a new remote in with a working remote. It may have to be sent back to the manufacturer to be reset and a remote learnt in which will not only be expensive but you may be without your alarm for up to a week. If you lose a remote replace it immediately.

Bought a used car with an alarm in it? Get it checked and serviced. If you buy a car with an alarm already fitted there are several things to be aware of: 1. Did you receive all keys, remotes and override keys? If not the old owner can access your car anytime they want. 2. Book the car in with your local dealer/installer for the type of alarm in the car. Have them check everything is working, delete all old remotes (and add a spare if you don’t have one) and reset the PIN override code so you know you’ll be secure. Make sure you have override keys for the battery backup siren if fitted.

Factory remotes and immobiliser keys. Most late model cars come with a transponder immobilizer built into the key. This I like an electronic pass key which confirms the key is valid before allowing the car to so start. These are great as they make it much harder to copy a key and steal the car as even a key cut the same will not start the car unless a new transponder is learned into the system. The are however some points to be aware of: Some make have a master and slave keys for each car. If you lose the slave key, no problem just take the car and master key into your dealer and have a new key learns in for a couple of hundred bucks. If however you lose the master key you will sometimes need to replace the cars computer, think thousands of $$$$$. Read your manual or check with your dealer as it is not widely publicized.

Fit after market dead locks. Much the same as the security film above, dead locks are a great compliment to a good alarm system. The idea is once activated the locks cannot be unlocked from the inside of the car or by forcing the key barrel. Some cars come standard now with deadlocking, if yours does make sure you know how to activate it.

After market deadlocks will usually replace the lock barrel in the door. The dead lock barrel has a high security rounded key to prevent the lock being forced and the backing plate is much stronger meaning the lock can’t be pulled out. We always recommend using epoxy to secure the backing plate to the inside of the door. That way it will not come out!

If a thief breaks a window they will not be able to unlock the door to gain easy access. Making by passing the alarm system or hotwiring you car even harder.

Tips and tricks for the more serious:

The more serious you get about car security and car alarms you will often be trading convenience for security. Some of these tricks can cause some inconvenience if something goes wrong (like you lose a remote or the battery goes flat) but all will help keep your car safe.

Fit two hood switches. -Low Risk Fitting two hood switches makes it harder for a thief to use a credit card to hold down the hood switch or cut the switch wires. Some cars can be pretty easy to get under the hood by removing the front grill or a side light and pulling the release cable. Once they are under there they can disable the siren before entering the cabin.

Move hood release lever. -Low Risk Another hood trick is to move the hood release lever from it’s normal location so if some one breaks in they can’t easily pop the hood to disable the siren.

Remove door lock rods. -High Risk of lock out By removing the linkage between the key barrel on the door and the latch you take away one of the cars security weaknesses. Lock barrels are an easy access point to the car as a screw driver forced into the lock and twisted will often unlock the door.

As you will be relying on the car alarm to lock and unlock the door it is VERY important you take some safety precautions to avoid being locked out.

First, make sure you always have a spare remote for your alarm in case you lose one. If the remote starts playing up at all, replace it immediately.

Second, ensure there is another way into the vehicle, maybe you can open the trunk and fold the seat back from inside the trunk? Remember a thief can also use this access method so think carefully about how obvious it is. Or run an emergency power wire from the battery to somewhere you can access it from outside. If your battery goes flat and the alarm cannot unlock the door you won’t be able to get under the hood to jump the battery. With an emergency wire you can hook another battery up to give enough juice to unlock the car.

A further step with this trick is to completely remove the lock barrel and have the hole welded up and repainted. Gives a super smooth look!

Fit latch protection plates -High risk of lock out To remove yet another weakness in some door lock systems make up a cover to stop a “slim jim” being slipped down the inside of the door popping the latch.

If you take off the interior door panel you will see how easy it is to pop the lock mechanism on the door latch, unlocking the door. By making up a protection plate covering the latch from the top the car thief won’t be able to slim jim the lock. Just remember, if you lose your keys or remote or get a flat battery the AAA won’t be able to either!

About the Author

Mike Stewart has been in the car security industry for over 12 years owning several very successful alarm companies and employing many alarm installers over the years. His web site www.carsecuritytips.com and ebook How To Install Your Own Car Alarm are designed to help the beginner learn all the tricks and secrets professional car alarm installers have known for years.