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Preventing Car Theft

Maybe you left your car running while you ran into a store to buy a gallon of milk. Or perhaps your door locks were no match for an experienced car thief. Whatever the scenario, you've experienced something that every car owner dreads--your car was stolen. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to make your car less inviting to car thieves and prevent it from happening again.

Install an antitheft device

Installing an antitheft device is one of the best ways to prevent car theft. Many new cars come with such devices already installed. Devices range from the relatively inexpensive and low tech to those that are more costly and high tech, and include:

  • Car alarms: Alarms that go off when the doors, hood, or trunk of a car is opened
  • Steering-wheel locks: Locks that are visible to thieves and prevent the steering wheel from being turned
  • Tire or wheel locks: Locks that prevent your car from being moved
  • Immobilizers: Devices that interrupt the car's ignition system and prevent it from starting if a different key or no key is used to start your car
  • Glass sensors: Small microphones inconspicuously installed to detect the sound of breaking glass, at which point an alarm will go off
  • Pagers: Devices that let you know when your car alarm is going off
  • Ignition-kill switches: Hidden switches that prevent the engine from starting
  • Fuel-kill switches: Hidden switches that stop fuel supply
  • Radio receivers/transmitters: Small radio receivers/transmitters that are activated when you report your car as stolen, and allow police to locate your car

If you purchase an antitheft device, you'll want to make sure that it is installed properly. Improper installation can not only jeopardize the functionality of the device but also damage your car. If you're unsure of how to install your antitheft device, you should enlist the services of a professional.

Other precautions

In addition to installing an antitheft device, there are other precautions you can take to lessen your chances of being a victim of car theft. Though some are more obvious than others, all can help prevent your car from being stolen. For instance:

  • Keep your car door locked at all times
  • Never leave your car running, even for a quick errand in a safe neighborhood
  • Never leave your car keys in the ignition when your car is unattended
  • Install motion detector lights or alarms in and around your driveway
  • If you have a garage, park your car inside and lock the garage door
  • At night, park your car in a well-lit and well-traveled area
  • To make it difficult for a thief to tow your car, turn your wheels toward the curb, use the emergency brake, and try to park between other cars
  • Have your vehicle identification number (VIN) etched into the windows and major parts of your car, making it less attractive to a thief who wants to resell it
  • Don't store packages in plain sight of passersby--put them in the trunk or cover them with a blanket
  • If possible, try not to park your car in a long-term parking lot
  • If you have a removable CD player or other electronic device in your car, take it out when you're not in the car

What to do if your car is stolen

If your car has been stolen, your first step should be to contact the police. Acting quickly may help in the recovery of your car. In addition, you'll want to supply the police with your license plate number and VIN, so keep this information handy at all times. Next, you'll want to notify your insurance company of the theft. Typically, an insurance company has 30 days to settle a claim for a stolen car.