How do I protect my car from thieves?
February 19, 2004 8:05 PM   Subscribe

How do I protect my car from thieves? I headed out to work this morning and was confronted by this. (that would be all four tires and wheels - $750 worth) I have a Clifford alarm system, I always park in highly visible areas, I stay out of "bad areas", there is a police academy 100 yards from where this picture was taken. What do I do to make this never happen again? [more inside]

The alarm never went off. Which I find surprising. No one saw anything. The apartment complex has a roving security guard. I had regular lugs on the wheels, but I've switched to the lock type now. I'm willing to spend some money to secure the car and it's tires. Obviously spending $750 over and over should be able to buy some serious security.

Unfortunately I don't know how to spend that money wisely. What works? What is hype? I like the car and don't want to trade it in for an old Pinto with junkyard rims. I also like San Diego and don't want to move to some rural wasteland.

Please advise.
posted by y6y6y6 to Grab Bag (29 answers total)
 
Whoa; that is really not cool. Wish I had a savvy suggestion; could you put ugly stickers or something on the wheels, to discourage thieves from targetting your car, over another's?
posted by Marquis at 8:24 PM on February 19, 2004


Is that an Si?

Locking lugs are a good first step, but they won't stop a really committed thief. Getting a very sensitive alarm is also a solution, but your neighbors will hate you.

I would also suggest not paying a whole lot of money for fancy wheels. Unless you track the car, better wheels are largely cosmetic, and you could possibly find better ways to spend the money (on the car, even).
posted by trharlan at 8:28 PM on February 19, 2004


Well, they were the stock wheels. And they were old, stained, and beat up. The tires were well worn also. I certainly don't care about fancy wheels. And yes, it's an SI. Which is why I put the Clifford system in it a few days after it rolled off the lot four years ago. I was thinking about etching the rims with my name and phone number and a message that the wheels were stolen if they ever appeared off a car. The alarm is pretty sensitive. It won't go off if a Harley goes by, but close thunder or a sharp shove will set it off.

Also note that it's parked under te main light for the parking lot. No one saw anything. Any way to alarm the wheels?
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:41 PM on February 19, 2004


I know some students who wrote a manual on "how to steal a car." I'll post the link here tomorrow and you can check it out for prevention tips.

I suppose you could run current through the wheels, or set up a motion sensor/webcam arrangement to notify you if something funky is going on.

Or aim a red laser pointer at the car, illuminating a sticker that says, "My glock with laser sight is aimed at your head".

Did they disable your alarm?

I had a friend who would put little doodads on his dashboard that indicated he belonged to a very dangerous group of people.

I guess you could go for double alarms. They disable the first, and the second is rigged to tell you when the car has been raised six inches or more, something that can't happen with a casual bumping.

Then some sort of Tesla-ish lightning rod thingy rises up out of the roof and begins sending out 10 ft. arcs of white crackling fire while subsonic animal screams emanate from your woofer, filling them with unidentifiable dread. At this point a radio signal is sent to the blank .223 shells that are wired together with 2 second fuses on the roof, and they begin to hear gunshots. The whole time a remote flash is going off inside the car, so it appears as if pictures are being taken.

Next, the grizzly-strength pepper spray with orange dye shoots out and covers them. While they are writhing in pain on the ground, the gravel cutting into their skin, stereo thumping, shots being fired, artificial lightning raising their hair straight up, you rush to their home and date their sister, eventually marrying and having several children, then mysteriously leave her one day with no warning, breaking her heart.

The secondary motion switch might work, anyway.
posted by mecran01 at 8:47 PM on February 19, 2004 [1 favorite]


No, they didn't go for the alarm at all. But in replacing the whells I noticed that those screw type jacks will lift a car in a very smooth manner. If you were careful I'm sure you could fool the alarm.

And it turns out it's illegal to electrify the car.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:57 PM on February 19, 2004


Locking lug nuts would at least slow them down, but some question their worth.

Can you chalk this up as an unfortunate but possibly unavoidable cost of owning an SI?
posted by Coffeemate at 8:57 PM on February 19, 2004


If somebody wants your wheels badly enough, they will take them no matter what you do (short of taking them inside the house with you every time you leave the car, which is hardly practical). Locking nuts will deter the amateur thief, though and this is most likely who you are dealing with, given that they stole standard issue wheels.

Is there an alarm system that will detect the car being raised, as opposed to being tilted? If not, can you somehow modify a sensor so that it does this?
posted by dg at 9:28 PM on February 19, 2004


Pretty much everyone I know who owns an SI has been targeted by theives. Repeatedly.

If possible, instead of investing in a better alarm system, invest in a garage to park your car in. Better for the paint to not be out in the rain, anyway.
posted by SpecialK at 9:34 PM on February 19, 2004


I remember that sight. I had a black '99 Si that looked remarkably like that in the Seatac airport garage after the 4th of July weekend in 2000. My love affair with the care ended at that moment in time. It cost my insurance company almost $3k at the time for rims and tires. Fortunately the rims are cheaper now. I do recommend getting the Dunlop SP-9000 as a replacement tire, though.

As far as preventing such things in the future, locking lugs help but aren't a sure thing. Good luck, though. I currently have a 2002 Si which isn't quite as quick but seems to be less popular with the thievery crowd.
posted by shagoth at 9:38 PM on February 19, 2004


AskMeFi: Exactly what kind of car is an SI?
posted by jmd82 at 10:29 PM on February 19, 2004


AskMeFi: Exactly what kind of car is an SI?
An unusually speedy Honda Civic.
posted by kickingtheground at 11:01 PM on February 19, 2004


I'm pretty sure clifford alarm systems have a mercury switch (jon, did yours?). Basically the alarm will sound if the car pitches more than a few degrees suddenly, as the mercury switch is basically a bubble like you see on a level, only it's hooked into the system. This is why you often hear car alarms going off on towed cars, as soon as the towing guy starts raising it, it'll start blaring.

Theives could have raised the car smoothly front and back in order to not pitch the car alarm switch, but if they went to all that trouble for stock wheels and worn tires, they're morons. Replace the wheels with something not too flashy, use locking nuts and hope for the best.

It's really weird that they stole wheels like that. The only other friend that has recently gotten wheels stolen had a flashy bmw with chrome 19" wheels that kind of screamed to be noticed (and taken).
posted by mathowie at 11:07 PM on February 19, 2004


Locking lug nuts are a rip -- the keyed sockets tend to strip, rendering them impossible to get off, and they're very easily defeated with a socket of the right size and a sledgehammer.

If you're wanting to spend money to secure your wheels, look for a set of seven-sided lug nuts from a company called Kyokugen. They're pricy, but, IMO, a bit more reliable then locking nuts.

t's really weird that they stole wheels like that. The only other friend that has recently gotten wheels stolen had a flashy bmw with chrome 19" wheels that kind of screamed to be noticed (and taken).

Not really. Stock wheels from popular up-trim sporty models are popular theft items, especially if the car is more than a couple years old, making parts a little bit harder to find.
posted by jammer at 11:49 PM on February 19, 2004


You own one of the most popular cars in Southern California.

Replace the stolen wheels with a set of ugly steel wheels and they wont be stolen again. Throw some nice tires on there and you wont be able to tell the difference.
posted by gen at 3:06 AM on February 20, 2004


Thanks all.

I'm aware the car itself is a thief magnet. And indeed, thieves have tried to steal it twice (that I know of) unsuccessfully. I was sort of hoping that since I was able to keep the car from being stolen, I was just missing something obvious for the tires. I don't think the system has a mercury switch. I'll look into that.
posted by y6y6y6 at 5:33 AM on February 20, 2004


Car alarm! You expected the car alarm to do anything? Even if it went off? Weird. I thought car alarms were just another money-making scheme by the insurance companies, which own most of the car-alarm manufacturers. I didn't think anything was supposed to happen when they went off. They're just for amusement, like those tinkly-dinging-rattling baby mobiles hung above baby cribs. What was supposed to happen? All your neighbors supposed to rush out and fight off the hooligans? Or the thieves are supposed to go, Wow! A loud noise! Let's get out of here! This is sure to get us in trouble! I'm scared!

Car alarms = huge waste of money, source of false security, sign of a sucker. And yes, I know, there are millions of people have them. Millions of suckers.

(Nothing personal, mind, but until those things are outlawed as peace-disturbing, fraudulent, and useless, that's how I'll feel. Get LoJack.)
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:45 AM on February 20, 2004 [1 favorite]


"What was supposed to happen?"

The car was parked less than 100 feet from my apartment. If it had gone off I'd still have my tires.

And the alarm stopped the car from being stolen on two other occasions. I have it because it has, and will, save my car.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:56 AM on February 20, 2004


I fell your pain. I had a 91 Si here in Boston which was continually getting broken into and had several attempted thefts. Nothing fancy, all stock, and in great shape even at 10+ years old. They are just popular with the street racing crowd. I eventually gave up and got a new car which has had no problems. Oddly enough my g/f would park here Miata (also 91) in the same area as my Civic and she never had any problems despite not even locking it!!!
posted by evilelf at 7:12 AM on February 20, 2004


I heard an anecdote on cartalk recently. Ray or Tom had an old crappy battery stolen out of their car when they moved to a bad neighborhood. They couldn't figure out why someone would steal an old batery, and then they realized that they were going to come back for the new one when it was replaced.
posted by mecran01 at 7:30 AM on February 20, 2004


I had a mercury switch/Clifford alarm on my previous car, a 97 Mustang. I began noticing fingerprints on the glass, odd little minor marks on the car. It kind of freaked me out given the area I was living at the time (darker quiet side street, dead end). On the advice of my brother's friend who did auto security in the area, I had him tweak the alarm set so it was ridiculously sensitive. Leaning up against the car would set it off. I can remember one time specifically hearing it go off, looked out the window and seen teenagers running away from it. Never really had an issue after that.

Like people have mentioned, they may be coming back for the new tires/rims. That almost seems likely since the tires you had on the car were balding and the rims were old, stained and beat.

I recently had a discussion with someone in the home security business. He told me that while an alarm will deter potential thieves, they are usually stopped before they even try to get into the house, simply because of the signage around the house. Signage alone ("This house alarmed by" or "Beware of Dog") has proven to be almost as effective as an actual alarm in his experience. Something additional to ponder I guess. The locking lugnuts will slow them down, but a sensitive alarm may deter them and signage (I had two of those "Clifford Alarm" stickers on the small back windows of my old car as well as a small blinking red light on the dash) will give them pause.

Did anyone else in your complex report any cases of theft or vandalism? You may want to ask around. This could prompt your complex to examine their current security, increase it or perhaps install cameras. And I hope I don't sound condescending, but definitely report it to the police and your complex administrators if you haven't.

Good luck.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:06 AM on February 20, 2004


"This car protected by sniper."
posted by callmejay at 8:18 AM on February 20, 2004


On the bright side, since Si's are so popular with street racing crowds, they are ridiculously easy to sell. Put it in the popular spots (recycler, craigslist, auto trader) at the bluebook asking price or higher, and eventually you'll get a racing kid showing up at your door with cash in hand ready to take the car sight unseen.

That's how I sold my Honda CRX Si anyway. Just ignore the scammers that call trying to get it for 1/4 the price and wait for the auto enthusiasts that really want that car.
posted by mathowie at 9:11 AM on February 20, 2004


And indeed, thieves have tried to steal it twice (that I know of) unsuccessfully.

Sorry for your loss. Won't help your rims & tires, suggest if not already installed, adding a "kill switch". It is a hidden switch that until switched will allow the car to start. It is the only prevention that I've witnessed that may fully stop a thief from hotwiring a car. The switch does have a valet mode and is usually a switch within a switch, car headlamps "on".
posted by thomcatspike at 10:17 AM on February 20, 2004


I have that. Works great. But the thieves may still trash the car figuring that out.

What I'm learning is that this is the price for owning nice things.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:58 AM on February 20, 2004


There are plenty of nice things that aren't magnets for thieves. Pick one of those.
posted by me3dia at 2:04 PM on February 20, 2004


We one bought a Delta 88 from a bad neighbourhood.

We wondered what the hell was going on, the steel hubcaps weren't coming off.

Then we found out: They were welded on.

Took a lot effort to remove them, I have to tell you. Probably more than a theif would want to spend.

Something to think about...
posted by shepd at 2:15 PM on February 20, 2004


Something to think about... until you get a flat.
posted by kindall at 2:20 PM on February 20, 2004


welding would mean normal maintenance like rotating tires or changing a flat would be, well, "difficult".

I, personally, have wheels that require a special chuck to get off, since the bolts are recessed pretty far into the wheels themselves and are not reachable by regular tools. I don't know if that merely slows theives down as well, but it's something at least.
posted by Hackworth at 2:32 PM on February 20, 2004


Well I now have two types of lugs on the whells. Neither of them standard. And I'm going to look into a mercury switch.
posted by y6y6y6 at 7:15 PM on February 20, 2004


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