Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Preventing auto theft

Best tips for preventing auto theft

In 1991 auto theft reached its peak of 1,661,738 stolen vehicles. Then law enforcement cracked down on chop shops and car makers began installing anti-theft devices. Most of these anti-theft or “immobilizer” devices worked by preventing the car from starting. In addition to immobilizer systems car makers also began installing contents theft protection. These system sounded the vehicle’s horn when the door or hood was opened without the key or by the remote key fob.

However, auto theft is now growing. According to the Insurance Information Institute, auto theft rose to 707,758 vehicle in 2015 in the U.S., up 3.1% from 2014.

What’s driving the increase? Several things. First, car thieves are getting smarter. They know that can’t hot-wire modern cars equipped with factory immobilizer systems, so they’ve adapted to the technology and figured out how to bypass the system with smart keys. They’ve also learned how to switch vehicle identification numbers (VIN) on the vehicle and in the vehicle’s computer, making the car far more valuable for sale in overseas markets. In addition, thieves are using stolen identities to purchase expensive luxury cars and then ship them to other markets.

The high degree of sophistication in late model cars also drives auto theft. Car thieves can rake in a bundle by stealing a car, driving to a dark alley and removing all the valuable components. The entire job takes less than 20-mins. and can net the thieves about $1,000 by selling the parts on the black market.

Car thieves conduct auto theft because they want the high value components

Here are the most commonly stolen auto parts:

Air bags – black market price $50-$200 depending on make stolen air bagand model and whether it’s steering wheel, passenger side, side curtain or seat bolster.

HID and Xenon headlight assemblies – black market price $75 – $100 each.

HID headlights






Catalytic converter – recyclers pay about $75 each.  stolen catalytic converters

GPS, DVD, and high end factory sound systems – black market price $50 each

Factory alloy wheels – black market price $70 each

stolen alloy wheels


Car battery – $15

Space saver spare tire from luxury vehicle – $30

Top cities/areas for auto theft

1 Modesto, CA

2 Albuquerque, NM

3 Bakersfield, CA

4 Salinas, CA

5 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

6 Stockton-Lodi, CA

7 Pueblo, CO

8 Merced, CA

9 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA

10 Vallejo-Fairfield, CA

Auto theft by model (2015)

Here are the most commonly stolen cars (in order)

Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Ford Pickup (Full Size), Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size), Toyota Camry, Dodge Pickup (Full Size), Toyota Corolla, Nissan Altima, Dodge Caravan and Chevrolet Impala

Avoid auto theft X ways

• Light up your driveway to prevent auto theft

Lights, lights and more lights. Car thieves work in the dark. Leave your car driveway lightin a dark spot and it’s automatically a target—even in your own driveway. Forget about motion sensor lights on your garage or house. They’re worthless. Crooks know you won’t notice because you’ll be sleeping at 2:00am., and they’ll be long gone by the time the police arrive, especially if the crook is using a smart key and you’ve left the car doors unlocked. Insert key. Start car. Drive away. Bye, bye car.

Install dusk-to-dawn LED lights on your home and garage. LED lights only consume about 15-watts per night, so your total cost to light up your driveway runs about .60/month—a small price to pay.

If you’re in a shopping mall lot, park under a bright light.

• Trim back vegetation around your home and car to prevent auto theft

Remember that part about car thieves preferring to work in the dark? trim shrubs to prevent auto theftWell, even if you light up the entire neighborhood, but have tall trees and shrubs, you’ve made yourself a target. Don’t give thieves a protected place to work. Cut the damn bushes!

Park in well-lit areas on streets and parking lots. Park under a street or parking lot light even if it means you have to walk a bit more to the mall or to your home.

• Lock your car

Did I really have to say this? I guess so because a LARGE number car door lock buttonof auto thefts are enabled by drivers who don’t lock their doors, close their windows and shut the sunroof. Once they’re in your car, they can steal the contents or use their smart key to drive it away. If it’s locked, you’ve provided one more barrier and created more work.

• NEVER leave your keys in the car or leave it running and unattended.

I didn’t have to warn you about this—you already knew you shouldn’t leave your car keys in the car or leave it running while unattended. So if you’re going to do that, at least practice what you’ll tell the police. It goes like this: “Officer, I know I shouldn’t have left the keys in my car, but no one ever steals anything around here.” Or try this one: “What do you mean you won’t pay for my stolen car because I left it running with the keys inside? What did you call that? Negligence? No, I was just warming it up.”

• Install a car alarm system (real or fake)

Yes, your car has factory theft protection. But now you know that car thieves have smart keys. What they don’t have is a clue whether that flashing red light on your dash is a secondary alarm system or a fake. Just like an alarm sign on your front lawn, a flashing red light on your dash says, “Steal a different car, this one’s too risky.”

• Etch your VIN number on all windows and apply warning stickers.

Buy a VIN etching kit online (about $25) and follow vin etchingthe instructions to etch your VIN number into all the windows. That won’t deter ordinary break-ins, but it is a deterrent for car thieves who plan to take your car to a chop shop. will deter car thieves. Car doors sell for around $250 each depending on the make and model. But if the glass is VIN etched, the value drops to about $50 because the chop shop has to break out the glass and sell it as is.

• Don’t leave ANY valuables in your car.

Once again we’re having a failure to communicate. What part of money in car and auto theftnot leaving valuables in your car don’t you get? Police interviews with thieves prove that they’ll break into a car to steal a .85 in loose change. Get it? Things of value in plain sight equals temptation. Gonna leave valuables in your car? Fine. Prepare yourself to find broken glass and missing contents when you return.

Most stolen vehicles (in order of popularity): Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Ford Pickup (Full Size), Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size),  Toyota Camry, Dodge Pickup (Full Size), Toyota Corolla, Nissan Altima, Dodge Caravan and Chevrolet Impala

• Buy a steering wheel lock.

Yes, they look stupid and they’re a pain. But that means they’re prevent auto theft with the cluba pain for the crooks too. Sure, they can simply break your steering wheel, but that makes the car harder to drive. We’re talking deterrent here. If you live in a crime prone neighborhood, at least make it as hard as possible for the bad guys.

©, 2016 Rick Muscoplat



Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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