Protecting your car from damage and theft.29 July 2021
In a world where you can't have nice things and people leave them be, the automotive industry has developed some clever solutions for keeping your car safe when you're not around.
Vehicle security has advanced over the years, from the days of an old school crook lock to the more advanced disc locks and the current generation of dash cameras are constantly monitoring the surroundings, whilst in a power-saving sleep mode, ready to spring into life and record. The manufacturers have also including these similar technologies into their vehicles designs.
Tesla for example has built sentry mode into the car operating system, using the 360 cameras to keep an eye for people getting too close or leaning on the car, to going into an alarm state when a window is trying to be broken, sounding the alarm, and turning the music up to full volume in the cabin. Whilst the car is taking care of the situation, it's recording any footage to a USB Drive the driver has to insert into the car before enabling the mode. The driver also receives a warning on their smartphone via the Tesla app of what's happening.
As not everyone drives a Tesla, we've put together a small list in the vast sea of aftermarket security devices in an attempt to thwart any chances of your vehicle being stolen or damaged. As this list doesn't scratch the surface of options available, do your research for your vehicle and intended application but we hope this gives you a few ideas.
Manual Security Devices.
Adding a third layer of manual security to vehicles has been the defacto advice given out for years, building on the door locks and immobiliser/alarm fitted as standard.
Disk or Steering wheel locks
These devices stop the steering wheel from being turned or any form of tampering when the steering wheel. Generally, a Thatcham approved security device but can be a little fiddly to fit, because it's clamping the steering wheel you need to be careful on fitting and removal, not to leave any marks.
- Does impede the vehicle and stop it from being driven away
- Visual deterrent to vehicle theft, will not stop the car from being broken into for contents.
- Insurance approved
- Bulky in design and storing when driving the car.
- Heavy and can be awkward to fit
- Small chance of damaging trim and or steering wheel.
A security post or posts if the exit is wide enough is a reinforced steel post which either folds flat or retracts into the ground, blocking the vehicles exit route.
Naturally with all things, there are different types, styles and prices ranges but for ease of comparison we'll cover the two most common
These posts are easy to fit, with minimal permanent changes to your property, held in place with four bolts that use a resin bond to secure the fixing bolts in the ground.
Some of the downsides to these posts are the nut or head of the bolt is visible and can be tampered with, the bolts also need a solid fixing they don’t work great in block paving, resin drives or paved areas. If you have a low car or the post is installed on uneven ground the post when folded flat can catch the underside of low vehicles.
These retract flat to the ground, by sinking the bulk of the mechanism into the ground surrounded by concrete, not only are they more secure but stronger against tempering, the overall look is more aesthetically pleasing with just a small-cap and handle visible in the ground.
Not many downsides to these posts, best to be installed by a professional if you're not the most confident DIY'er and routine maintenance of the lock mechanism with a WD40 like spray will keep them functioning for decades.
Electronic Security Device
We've covered a couple of the manual and visual deterrents, now we can look at the electronic ones. Most cars these days are supplied with an immobiliser and/or alarm to protect the vehicle.
With every part of the design and manufacturing of a car, there is a payoff between function and reliability, just look how much power can be released from engines with a simple remap, it's the compromised manufacturers work to.
The Alarm and Immobiliser function to a level to stop most attempts of theft of the vehicle, but it equally has to be reliable not to leave the owner stranded and easy to use they'll set/lock the car, so the car is protected.
With this in mind, they'll always be people a couple of steps ahead of the manufacturer system, items such as trackers, aftermarket or ghost alarms add another level of protection.
A little box is installed in the car, newer ones have a GPS and GSM (mobile) link allowing them to communicate to the provider actively, to alert both the owner and tracker provider the vehicle has been moved or an attempt to move has happened. Older devices needed the vehicle owner to noticed it has gone missing then the police would be alerted and start looking for it, using special equipment in the patrol cars.
In the grand scheme of things relatively cheap to install, annual subscription-based monitoring, can become very expensive if you own the car for a long time and nothing happens, but like all insurance policies we pray we never have to use them, sometimes a piece of mind costs money.
Gone are the days of poorly fitted aftermarket alarms of the 90s where they'll randomly go off in the middle of the night. This area of the automotive world has silently been upping its game for years, the control brains are a lot smaller now, and packed with technology.
The alarms can now offer a lot of extra stealth features whilst giving the factory installed alarm an extra superpower, from a microwave protective bubble that chirps a siren if someone stays in the bubble for too long. Pager systems working either over GSM or short length radio waves to alert the owner there is activity around the vehicle, tilt sensors with sound the alarm siren if the vehicle is being jacked up to have the wheels stolen, or being up lifted on the back of a low loader.
Aftermarket alarm will add a Thatcham 1 approved immobiliser keeping the vehicle safe, on top of the factory install security.
These alarms tie deeply into the vehicle electronics on the CAN bus network, which is the central nervous system of your car.
The alarms stop vehicle theft by key cloning of keyless systems or relay key cloning where some scallywag uses a radio repeater to pick up and boost your keys signal inside your home, whilst a partner is crime (literally) holds a second repeater close to the car, allowing it to be unlocked and started, this can be prevented to some degree by placing your keys in a special signal blocking box/pouch at night, but it’s down to you remember all the time whereas the alarm activates when you lock the car.
This type of alarm also stops any attempt of key matching via the On-Board Diagnostics port, this is how the dealer would create you a new replacement key, those scallywags are entering vehicles and now doing this too.
You can get OBD port locks which block access and need a key to remove it, just don’t forget when it goes into the garage for service or repairs, the technician won't be impressed.
You think of these as only protecting you whilst on the move, or at least when the engine is running, but a new crop of cameras now goes into a light sleep when the engine is off, listening and feeling for loud bangs or knocks over a certain G force. Great for carpark monitoring if someone swings a door into yours or reverses into you and nudges the bumper.
Whilst some systems host a front and rear camera set up, they don’t have the coverage like we mentioned on Teslas with its 360-degree cameras, but they can cover the front and back of the car just in case. Leaving these cameras on for longer periods could drain the vehicles starting battery be mindful of that.
That’s pretty much a quick overview and the basics of protecting the car by adding devices to it, and we understand everyone’s cars and circumstances are different. This is where owners’ clubs and forums will have a vast wealth of knowledge on how to protect your vehicle, but there are some preventative actions you can take to take extra care of your pride and joy.
- Remove your belongings from the car, take sat nav's off the window, clean the little sucker mark off the window, its shows there has been a sat nav used, place items in storage bins and gloveboxes out of sight.
- Be mindful where you park your car, parking it in a garage with tools on display or unlocked toolboxes/cabinets is giving the thieft all the equipment they need whilst being relatively unseen and knowing the UK in the dry too.
- If you don’t want door dints or damage to the car, don’t park in the shopping centre carpark right near the shops, park away from the hussle and bustle that extra couple of minutes’ walk might just save some damage to your car
- Where are your car keys now? Take extra care over your car keys especially if you have a keyless system, fishing keys via the letter box is still a thing so don't leave them near the front door, have a spot that’s away from the car to help prevent both types of attack.
We hope this helps you protect your car, we're always looking for new ideas and tips, follow us on social media and let us know how you protect your car. If you're new to leasing our guides section has all you need to know, and our weekly newsletter covers all types of motoring news.