Nothing quite puts a damper on the winter months like a break-in – but this time of year, when cars are most likely to be filled with money and valuables, is a peak time for thieves.

To help our customers avoid falling victim to crime this year, we spoke to an expert to find car security tips that really work. Michael Fraser, best-known for co-presenting BBC’s Beat the Burglar, turned away from a life of crime and now spends his time helping others do the same.

He was kind enough to give us his best tips for avoiding vehicle crime this winter, based on the things thieves usually look out for and common mistakes motorists make.

Top tips to beat the burglars

  • Put away phone and sat nav mounts. It’s also a good idea to wipe away any visible suction marks from the windows. These signal to thieves that you may be carrying hi-tech valuables in your car.

  • Keep your car tidy. Believe it or not, a tidy car is a deterrent to criminals. Mr Fraser explains it like this: “If the car is untidy or there’s paperwork lying around, it generally shows the person is scatty and may have left something in the car to be taken.”

Thieves may also think there’s more chance you’ve forgotten to lock your door or set your alarm if you don’t take pride in your car’s appearance – so there’s another good reason keep your car neat and tidy.

  • Don’t leave animals in your car. Not all thieves are scared off by a dog – and in fact, a pet in the car signals that a window may have been left open and the alarm off, which will give them easier access.

  • Get worn-looking locks fixed. You might not spend much time looking at your locks, but you can bet a criminal will. If the door locks have signs of damage or wear, they might be a big target for those trying to get in.

  • Turn the wheels sharply toward the curb when you park. This is known as “preventive parking” and makes your car much harder to move, stopping thieves from simply towing your car away. It also helps to prevent wheel theft.

  • When parking in shopping centres, park as close to the entrance as you can. If you’re doing a spot of sales shopping, remember high-traffic areas (the entrance or exit to the car park) are the least appealing to thieves, as people will be coming and going constantly.

  • Replace your cigarette lighter/charger cap after use. Think like a thief: if the cigarette lighter cap is off, the owner probably uses it to charge a phone or laptop, which may still be in the vehicle.

  • Put any bags and boxes in the boot, not the back seat. Another good shopping habit to get into. This means your valuables are both out of sight, and safe from broken window thefts.

Finally, Michael Fraser advises: “Look at your own vehicle. If you lost your keys, how would you get into it? The burglar is an opportunist, they will know what to do.”

You can never completely secure your car from burglars – but you can make yours a much less appealing target so they’ll move on to another. Follow these tips and make sure you don’t give criminals anything extra in their stocking this year!