1 May 2005

Anti-Theft Measures: What Our Hobby Survey Revealed

You’ve dreamed of it, saved for it and carried a picture of it in your wallet, now you finally own it…so how are you going to protect it? Unfortunately, if your dream car was that enticing to you, it’s probably just as enticing to thieves. But with so many theft-prevention devices on the market, how do you choose? Take the advice of more than 10,000 fellow enthusiasts who participated in the 2004 Hagerty Protection Network Hobby Survey. Here’s how they keep their prized possessions safe:

  • Immobilizing Device – Fifty-five percent of respondents use some type of immobilizing device. Battery shutoffs are used by 35 percent of those who took the survey, followed by engine shutoffs (about 12 percent) and fuel shutoffs (9 percent). Immobilizers work via a coded key that sends a message to wiring integrated in the car’s ignition system. Without the special key, the car will not start. The best immobilizers cut three vital circuits, such as the starter, ignition, and fuel supply, but even a model that cuts just one offers an added level of protection.
  • The Club – The Club is a lock mechanism that attaches to the steering wheel and prevents it from turning, and almost 13 percent of respondents use this or a similar product. Its special steel construction resists sawing, prying, hammering and freon attacks, making it difficult for thieves to defeat. An added bonus is that it’s visible – thieves can just look in your window (instead of breaking it) to realize that they’d rather pick an easier target. (It’s also vinyl-covered, so it shouldn’t scratch a steering wheel.)
  • Audible Alarm – Thieves don’t welcome attention, and nothing draws it like a screeching car alarm. Alarms can be triggered to sound if the car is jarred or a window is broken, and 11 percent of respondents use this type of protection. However, due to the large number of false alarms, a lot of people have learned to tune them out and help doesn’t always arrive as quickly as needed.
  • Wheel Locks – These work to prevent the theft of expensive aluminum and alloy wheels and their tires, and about 7 percent of those surveyed use them. Wheel locks look and act like regular lug nuts, except they require a special tool for removal and installation.
  • VIN Etching Kit – About two percent of respondents have etched their vehicle’s identification number (VIN) onto the windshield and all other windows. This works to deter theft by making a stolen vehicle much harder to sell, because a thief would have to replace all the glass in order to alter the VIN. This is often too costly to justify the theft.
  • LoJack – About one percent of those who took the survey use LoJack or a similar recovery device. These devices do not protect your vehicle from being stolen, but they employ a radio frequency transmitter hidden in your car that emits a trackable signal when activated, so your car can be recovered. This can be helpful, as Hagerty Insurance’s data shows that most stolen collector cars are never found.

Though a few hobbyists use some other interesting anti-theft devices – such as a Rhodesian Ridgeback and a Great Dane, a 6’4” owner, removing key engine parts and chaining a car to an anchor in a cement floor – it’s wise to use the layered approach and combine several methods to protect your ride as much as you can.

Still, some of the best and easiest ways to protect your car is to keep it locked at all times;parked in safe, well-lit areas when you’re away from home; and in a locked garage when you’re at home.

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