6 Anti-Theft Devices for Your Car

To better protect your ride, it's time to up your security game.

Thief looks in car at nightShutterstock

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The rate of car theft in the U.S. has fallen dramatically since the early 1990s, when it neared 650 cases for every 100,000 people. These days, reported thefts number in the around 250 per 100,000 people, but even so, we've seen an uptick in the past few years. If you worry that your vehicle may fall into a stranger's hands, there is a variety of anti-theft devices on the market that can help soothe your concerns. Here are some common options.

Steering-Wheel Locks

A steering-wheel lock is a simple yet effective way to help discourage thieves from driving off with your vehicle. A rod-type lock, like the classic Club, hooks to the inside of the steering wheel and extends out so that when you try to rotate the helm, the rod will encounter an immovable object (e.g., the windshield, center console, driver's legs) and prevent the turn. People found workarounds to this, including sawing through the steering wheel to remove the lock, but a thief would have to be particularly motivated to go to such efforts.

Pedal Locks

If you can't push the accelerator pedal, the vehicle can't go anywhere. That's the thought behind a pedal lock. Some designs slip around the neck of the brake or accelerator and brace against the floor, while others, like this one from Tevlaphee, hook around a pedal and cinch up to the steering wheel to prevent travel.

Wheel Clamps

The vehicle-stopping method of choice for many parking authorities, wheel clamps and boots say to the world, “This car isn't going anywhere.” If you try to drive off with one in place, the metal arm extending from the device should keep the wheel from rotating freely and may damage your bodywork in the process. This is made from heavy-gauge steel and covers the lug nuts, so you can't circumvent the issue by removing the wheel. If you think that's excessive, consider a less bulky (and less expensive) clamp that hooks around the wheel and tire into one of the spoke spaces.

Electronic Immobilizers

If you'd rather not deal with physical locks and clamps every time you park, you can go high tech with an electronic device that tells the car not to start unless certain conditions are met. Many vehicles already have immobilizers, but if yours doesn't, you can turn to an aftermarket battery-disconnect or ignition-kill switch, some of which may require expert installation.

Faraday Bags

Sophisticated thieves working outside of your home may use specialized electronic equipment like a signal amplifier and transmitter to boost and steal your key fob's signal. Once they have it, they can unlock the doors, start the vehicle, and drive off as if they had the actual key. A Faraday bag, however, makes these so-called relay attacks almost impossible. Simply place your fob inside the pouch when not in use and its signal is safe from intruders.

Digital Car Keys

If you sometimes forget to lock your vehicle (or simply worry whether you did), a digital car key in the form of a remote-locking app might be just the answer for you. Your car manufacturer may already provide an app that gives you this ability. If not, you can install a simple device to make this a reality. MoboKey, for instance, works with 95% of vehicles on the market and automatically locks the car when the driver moves out of range.

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Mark Hacking
Mark Hacking is an award-winning writer with more than 20 years experience covering the automotive scene for some of the world's most popular publications. Mark holds an FIA International Race license and has his sights set on competing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the future. He was the first automotive journalist to race in the Ferrari Challenge series (in 2013) and the Jaguar I-PACE eTrophy series (in 2019).