All You Need to Know About Car Security | Keep Your Car Safe
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Car Security: Everything You Need to Know

According to recent figures, car theft is on the increase. However, over the long term, cars are getting safer. This has been mainly due to a significant increase in security measures when the car is manufactured. However, new threats are constantly emerging as digital technology advances. ‘Keyless theft’, for example uses relay transmitters to hack into the access code for remote opening cars, and trick them into thinking the legitimate key is nearby.

As well as helping to deter criminals, investing in additional car security can also be a money saving exercise when it comes to insurance costs and re-sale value.

Some simple car security steps

1. The most effective security measures cost nothing. Almost half of all recorded thefts in 2017 were simply due to doors being left unlocked – so it’s common sense to suggest that the first and most important security step you can take is to lock all car doors.

2. Similarly, around 40% of car break-ins involve the theft of a mobile phone. By taking simple precautions such as removing your bag and phone and not having tell-tale sat-nav suction marks visible on your windscreen, you can reduce the chances of an opportunistic smash-and-grab theft attempt.

3. Keep your keys safe and out of sight, whether you’re at home or outside; and never leave the engine running on your drive or while you’re paying for petrol, for example.

Standard car security features

1. Alarms and immobilisers

Even if you opt for a lower-trim car, an alarm and immobiliser are features you would expect to see on virtually all new models bought today. If you have an older vehicle with neither on board, or if it’s a low-spec version, it’s worth considering retro-fitting an upgrade.

The effectiveness of alarm systems is independently rated by the Motor Insurance Repair and Research Centre (otherwise known as Thatcham Research). The highest category alarm system is ‘Thatcham Category 1’, featuring perimeter and ignition detection as well as movement, glass break, and tilt sensors. It must be passively set, meaning you don’t need to press an alarm button to activate it, and the siren battery should be independently powered.

This represents the industry standard comprehensive alarm system, designed to react to any intrusion attempt or physical interference. You can check on the Thatcham website whether your particular model meets these standards.

Although immobiliser mechanisms vary between models, it is essentially an electronic security feature that stops the engine from running unless the right key is present. A passively-set immobiliser is required for your car to meet Thatcham Category 1 status.

2. Steering wheel lock

‘Smart’ electronic immobilisers can sometimes be bypassed by clued-up criminals. Perhaps the best deterrent to theft is a simple steering wheel or gear stick lock. A simple lockable bar, this type of device can be bought for £30 or less, and provides a very visible sign to intruders that a theft attempt is not going to be easy.

3. Wheel clamp

Working on the same principle as a physical steering lock, these attach to the car wheel to immobilise it. Some models cover the wheel completely and others lock through the wheel gaps. Again, wheel clamps are relatively inexpensive and simple to fit. These are worth special consideration where your vehicle is going to be lying idle for long periods.

4. VIN Etching

Each car has a unique, 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) assigned to it, which can be etched onto all glass surfaces of your car. As well as helping to identify and recover a stolen vehicle, these visible etchings help deter thieves by signalling that any attempt to steal and then disguise the identity of the vehicle would require changing each of the glass panes.

5. Satellite tracker

This type of post-theft recovery system uses GPS to track the whereabouts of a stolen car, and report it to a central control room. Some systems can even immobilise the car by remotely disabling certain functions. These systems tend to be expensive, but are worth considering for higher-end vehicles.

6. Kill switch

A kill switch will cut the flow of electricity to your battery and means that if a thief does gain access to your car they will not be able to start it. It is hard to fit yourself and is best done by a mechanic.

Remote access security measures

Most modern cars can be unlocked without physically inserting the key in the door. But manually locking the doors with your key means thieves will be unable to clone the key’s wireless signal.

If your car can be controlled with a smartphone app, you must change the default password and never keep the wireless access codes in the car.

For for safety equipment tips, visit our vehicle and equipment advice pages.