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Dummy's guide to preventing car theft

Some common-sense advice to ensure that your automobile remains yours for years

india Updated: Apr 02, 2003 19:59 IST

Till some time back, preventing your car from getting stolen meant keeping it inside a locked garage with an armed guard and Doberman on duty! Or, drive a car that nobody would want to steal. Now, there are some common sense precautions you can use to minimize the risk of your vehicle being stolen or broken into:

Never leave the keys in the ignition, and never leave the engine running while you run into a store or drop something off. You car might not be there when you come back!
Never leave valuables (purses, briefcases, radar detectors, money, portable electronic devices, leather coats, etc.) in plain view. They encourage thieves to break in and help themselves. Either take the valuables with you or lock them out-of-sight in the luggage compartment.

Avoid parking where you have to leave your keys with a valet or parking attendant. It is a simple matter to make a duplicate key and steal your car later. Use self-park facilities where possible.
Park in well-lighted areas, preferably where there are people and/or traffic nearby. This discourages casual thieves from breaking and entering.
If you are installing an expensive stereo system in your vehicle, think hard about getting a "detachable face-plate" unit that can be removed for safe-keeping if you have to park the vehicle outside. Or at least buy a stereo that has a theft-deterrent code that makes it inoperable if somebody rips it out of your dash.
Install an after-market alarm system on your vehicle. There are many different types from which to choose. A loud, annoying alarm may draw attention, but doesn't necessary deter theft (more often than not, it will draw unwanted attention when it goes off accidentally and annoys your neighbours). A good alarm system should trigger if someone breaks into the car (senses the door opening and/or the sound of breaking glass), opens the bonnet or dicky, or attempts to tow the vehicle (motion sensor). What's more, the system should disable the ignition so the would-be thief can't start the engine once he gets inside your vehicle.
Install a locking device (club or bar) on the steering wheel. These are inexpensive and discourage thieves by making it difficult to steer the vehicle. Thieves often get around such devices by sawing or cutting through the steering wheel. But a number of companies are now selling steel shields that install under the bar or club to make this more difficult.
One of the best ways to discourage professional car thieves (but not teenagers who want to steal your car for a joy ride) is to have all your vehicle's glasses marked with your vehicle's registration number.

First Published: Apr 02, 2003 12:04 IST