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Top 5 Common Ways Thieves Break Into a Car

And How to Prevent Them

Charles Krome
by Charles Krome
July 25, 2014
2 min. Reading Time
broken car window

broken car window

If you want to learn how to break into a car, all it takes is a quick spin around the Internet to come up with plenty of simple methods, from MacGyver-style physical tricks to more sophisticated gadgets designed specifically to defeat today's remote-entry systems. As detailed by Stephen King in Mr. Mercedes, it's no tricky task for a computer-savvy criminal to put together a toy that can intercept and capture the signal from a key fob, then allow the criminal to use it to unlock the vehicle with a press of a button.

On the other hand, someone with a bit more crime-prevention background—Lt. David Scott of the Detroit Police Department at Wayne State University—notes that in the real world: "I have found that thieves are generally lazy people. They don't want to have to work very hard to get what they want."

That means most Autobytel readers don't need to worry as much about criminal masterminds and the like; they should concentrate on foiling the perps who already know how to break into a car in the two easiest ways possible: either opening an unlocked door or smashing a window.

But as Lt. Scott reports, even making sure you lock your vehicle isn't really the key: "A thief has absolutely no problem breaking your car window to get inside to steal your property. It's your window—not his window. Breaking it won't cost the thief anything and is only a very minor inconvenience of just one or two seconds."

Thus, if you don't want someone who knows how to break into a car to break into your car, the most important advice from Lt. Scott is not to provide a reason to do so: "It is physically impossible for a thief to steal something that isn't there. Your goal, therefore, is to leave nothing of value, or that appears to have value, inside your car to pique the interest of a thief. If there is nothing inside your car to steal, the thief will quickly move on."

That's because when they learn how to break into a car, they also learn the following lessons—which drivers can turn around for their own benefit, too.

How to Break into a Car: Stay out of the Light

Law-enforcement personnel say that the absolute No. 1 priority for trying to keep your vehicle safe is parking it in a well-traveled, well-lit area where—even if someone knows how to break into a car—it would be hard to avoid witnesses. Also, if possible, try to park in one of the growing number of parking areas that are under 24-hour video surveillance.


How to Break into a Car: Try the Door

Perps who prefer parked vehicles don't even need to know how to break into a car if you leave your doors unlocked—so don't. True, as Lt. Scott mentioned, a locked door won't stop a determined thief for more than a few seconds, but it is possible those few seconds could make a difference. And as Lt. Scott also mentioned, many of today's thieves aren't really that determined, and a locked door combined with following our other tips actually could be enough to prevent a crime.


How to Break into a Car: Take Advantage of the Tint

Even assuming a thief does know how to break into a car, there's no reason to make things even easier once the criminal is inside—but that's just what heavily tinted windows can do. They "provide extra coverage" that can allow the extra time necessary to steal things like audio and navigation equipment.


How to Break into a Car: Graduate to Grand Theft

In many cases, the criminals who already know how to break into a car will be ready to add a little grand theft auto to the menu, and to prevent that, law-enforcement personnel recommend:

  • Installing an after-market engine kill switch, steering-wheel sleeve and/or "club-type device" that immobilizes a vehicle's steering wheel
  • Etching the VIN (vehicle identification number) into the vehicle's window glass
  • Purchasing an aftermarket GPS-enabled tracking device and/or relying on the increasing number of manufacturer-provided tracking technologies, like GM's OnStar service
  • Never leave keys in an unattended vehicle, for any length of time
  • Reporting vehicle thefts to the police immediately

How to Break into a Car: A Final Reminder

Lazy today's thieves may be, but it bears repeating that they're also very curious. And they'll leverage their knowledge of how to break into a car to look through anything left out in the cabin. And with that in mind, let's sign off with this vital reminder from the Detroit Police Department at Wayne State University: "Keep your car free of ALL items. Clothes, jackets, bags, boxes, sporting equipment and other items frequently left in cars attract a thief's attention."



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