Maximise your security and minimise the chances of vehicle theft

Lock it or lose itBuilt-in vehicle security is massively more advanced now than in the past, however, car crime and vehicle theft are regrettably a part of modern-day life. Although in general, incidences of vehicle theft are actually not as common as the daily papers would lead you to believe, it remains an issue. Nevertheless, although nothing is ever 100% guaranteed, there are some simple safeguards that will protect you as much as possible. Taking basic precautions may also ensure you avoid problems in the event of an insurance claim, as some insurers will refuse to pay out if there is evidence to suggest you might have been negligent.

Don't make it easy for thieves

Although some thefts are 'ingenious' or involve complex electronic devices, it remains the unfortunate fact that the vast majority of vehicle thefts are the direct result of the thief simply getting hold of the vehicle key or remote. There are a few well-known tricks in this regard and it is worth mentioning the obvious, because we all sometimes forget things or get into bad habits.

First and foremost, always remember to take the keys out of the ignition when you get out of your car. Petrol stations are a prime hunting ground for casual vehicle thieves and people often make it far too easy. When you put petrol in the car, make it a habit to always take the keys with you. Also, when you go to pay, remember to lock the car to prevent theft of items from the car if you are on your own. Take the same precautions always. If you go to get something out of the boot, or put something in the back seat, take the keys with you. Make it a simple rule: unless you are in the driver's seat, the keys should not be in the ignition.

Equally as important, do not ever leave your keys anywhere near the front door when you get home. Many people still leave their keys or remote on a table in the hall, but this really is an open invitation for the unscrupulous. There are many ways to pick up keys by 'fishing' through the letterbox. Moreover, if you have a break-in at home, what better way for the thieves to get away than by using your car? If possible, keep keys in a drawer somewhere, or put a key rack inside a cupboard. Make life harder for thieves, not easier.

If possible, keep keys separate from other things and always keep them on your person when you are out. If you can, keep keys in an inside pocket, rather than in a case or handbag. A handbag or briefcase theft is a nightmare at the best of times, but if you keep everything in it, then the thief will not only most likely have your address, but also the keys to get in to your home and/or steal your car.

Be aware of electronics

Although it remains relatively rare, there are ways for thieves to use advanced technology to steal a car. Many of these rely on blocking or 'reading' the radio signal used to lock and unlock the vehicle using your remote. Modern remotes are sophisticated and many change the 'code' they send and receive every time the vehicle is locked. However, thieves can block or partially block the locking signal, meaning the car is not actually locked. Once you have walked away, they can simply open the door, then connect a software device to the car's systems in order to reprogram the car to work with their own key. It is extremely straightforward to foil this by simply visually checking that the car is actually locked before you leave it.

Other more complex devices work with some types of vehicle remotes, and 'read' the radio-frequency codes when you lock or unlock the car. They then re-send the code, unlocking the vehicle. This is relatively uncommon and there is little that can be done to combat it. However, take a quick look around you when you lock your car. Is there anyone watching you? They will need to be reasonably close for the device to work. Consider adding visible physical security (see the 'take extra precautions section below). Nothing is foolproof, of course, but a thief will always take the 'easiest option' wherever possible. Unless your car is absolutely unique, they will just move on to one that is simpler to steal.

Take extra precautions

It might seem a lot of fuss and bother, but it is worth considering buying a simple, visible locking device. This is especially advisable if you frequently leave your car parked for extended periods, such as in a station or airport car park. There are many devices around that attach to the steering wheel and physically prevent it being turned. They can be bought for under £30 and are a highly visible deterrent. Although not 100% secure, a thief would rather not take the extra time needed to break an additional lock, so is likely to move on. Similarly, it is highly advisable to buy a wheel clamp for any trailer, caravan or similar parked on your drive. These have a substantial second-hand value and are very easy for a thief to sell on.

Never leave your car park ticket in the car. If someone does steal a vehicle from a station or airport car park, they will obviously need a ticket to get out. They certainly will not want to go to any kiosk or similar to get a replacement, as these are frequently monitored and recorded. Once again, don't make it easy.

When using long-term car parks, bear in mind that many now have CCTV covering most areas. Whenever possible, leave your car close to any lighting and as near to any visible cameras as possible. In general, thieves try to avoid publicity!

Take care with old keys and remotes

It is very important to be careful when disposing of broken keys or non-working remotes. A thief can easily have a new key cut from the broken parts of an old one and a non-working remote can often be 'read' electronically to provide its security codes. If you have a broken standard metal type of key, dispose of the pieces separately. In the case of a broken or non-functioning remote, physically destroy it using force (you can make yourself feel better about the cost of a replacement by taking it out on the old one with a hammer!). This will make it impossible for anyone to 'read' the codes.

Similarly, if you lose a vehicle remote or remote key it could be found by someone, or worse, might actually have been deliberately taken. Please contact us. We can quickly and simply reprogram the vehicle and any existing remotes so the the old one will no longer work.

Keep paperwork separate

Unless you are driving abroad, where it is a requirement in some countries, then for obvious reasons, never leave your vehicle's registration document, sales invoice, MOT or similar in the glovebox. You should obviously keep a note of your insurer and their contact details in case of a traffic accident, together with details of any breakdown cover you may have. However, there is no requirement or need to keep the MOT certificate or your actual insurance documents in the car; and definitely not the registration document. Any paperwork that could help a thief sell a stolen vehicle, or easily provide them with your name and address, makes life easier for them.

Some vehicles (notably Vauxhall, but others too) have a card that is supplied with the documents from new. This includes various security codes and similar. It should never be left with the vehicle, but kept somewhere safe at home.

Remove temptation

Thefts from vehicles are far more likely and common than thefts of vehicles. Make it a rule to never leave anything of value visible inside your car. Always take mobile phones, portable music players, cameras, etc. with you when you leave your car. Don't leave blankets or similar spread over a seat, as this makes it look as though there is possibly something underneath. If you have a hatchback and there is nothing in the boot, roll back the parcel shelf or luggage cover if it is the flexible style.

If you have a satellite navigation device that is not built in, then obviously remove it from the windscreen. However, please don't make the mistake of putting it in the glovebox but leaving the bracket still on display. This is a very obvious giveaway!

And don't worry unnecessarily!

Although cars and commercial vehicles do get stolen and broken into, it is by no means a common occurrence and modern security systems are comprehensive and generally reliable. Take simple and basic precautions, and you will be extremely unlikely to ever have a problem.

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