By on July 19, 2012

I love my beater 1992 Honda Civic, and living near downtown Denver is great, but the combination of fifth-gen Civic and urban living means that thieves are going to try to steal my street-parked car on a depressingly regular basis. Would-be thieves tore up my steering column less than a year ago, and they did it again a couple of weeks back. Both times, my homebrewed kill-switch system kept the bad guys from starting the car. Both times, I got the car back on the road with cheap junkyard parts.
The first indication I got that something was wrong was the sight of the open glovebox— itself the victim of many break-ins when the previous owner lived in San Francisco and Chicago and repaired with non-color-matching junkyard parts just recently— and the busted steering-column cover on the passenger-side floor. Not again!
After I had an ’87 Civic hatch ripped off in Oakland back in the 1990s, I’ve installed kill switches on every Honda I’ve owned since; this is the fourth time (that I know of) that such a switch has saved one of my cars from theft. The problem with Civics of the 1980s and 1990s is that any random Honda key has a pretty good chance of starting any Honda; most thieves just carry a bunch of keys with them and keep trying keys until one works. This thief went for the old-fashioned break-the-column-lock/pry-the-ignition-switch-off approach, which tears the hell out of everything on the steering column.
I’m not sure exactly what tools are used to do this, but some major leverage must have been used to crack the tough steel of the column-lock collar.
I’d like to share my kill-switch secrets with the world, but I don’t want to make things any easier for the Honda thieves prowling my neighborhood. What I’ve got is a device that doesn’t look like a switch and requires a certain amount of contortion to reach from the driver’s seat, and it’s a double-pole/single-throw switch that cuts power to both the starter solenoid and the fuel pump. Actually, that’s the setup I had, before this incident; now I’ve got the two circuits on separate camouflaged switches. It would take a very patient thief indeed to find both switches, and meth use doesn’t encourage such patience.
One of these days I’m going to master the art of Field Expedient Ignition Key Making, as seen at towed-car auctions: you jam a key blank in the lock, abuse it cruelly with a pliers, and then file away the areas where the lock pins made marks on the blank. For now, I buy a lock cylinder and ignition switch at the junkyard and get a locksmith to make a key; in this case, I found a great deal on eBay for a 5G Civic cylinder/switch assembly with keys already there, so I went that route.
Since the steering-column covers had been torn to bits by the amphetamine-crazed Civic thief, I headed to my favorite self-serve wrecking yard to do some plastic shopping. Someone had already pulled the ignition switch from this ’95 Civic sedan (nearly every 5th-gen Civic in self-service yards has had the ignition switch assembly removed, which tells you something about the prevalence of theft with these cars), and he or she had been kind enough to not destroy the steering column cover pieces. It’s nice to find that the parts you need are removed and conveniently located.
Success! I’m pretty sure my car had been stolen and recovered several times before I bought it, because every lock and latch in the car was already pretty well thrashed; the steering column cover was already beat to hell before the latest thief finished it off. I’ll have to give the car’s previous owner a call and ask him about the car’s theft history.
Removing the old switch is a medium-grade pain in the ass, mostly because the car is so small and it’s hard to get to anything. To get to the shear bolts that hold the switch assembly on the steering column, you need to drop the column down to seat level.
This is the sort of job for which the factory shop manual is a must-have, and Honda has always done a beautiful job with their manuals. I’m a technical writer by trade, and I’ll use Honda factory shop manuals as course materials if I ever teach a tech-writing class (if I ever teach a fiction-writing class it’s going to be Flannery O’Connor all the way).
Right. So, you center-punch and drill out the two shear bolts that hold the lock cylinder assembly on the steering column, and then you unplug the two connectors from the ignition switch harness to the fuse panel.
Here’s the old ignition switch and harness assembly.
You can install the ignition switch/cylinder assembly with regular bolts and it probably wouldn’t matter; any thief who is willing to remove the half-dozen fasteners required to get access to the switch mounting bracket is going to apply his talents to more valuable targets. My switch came with new shear bolts, courtesy of the eBay seller, so I used them.
It doesn’t take much torque to snap off the heads of the shear bolts; one hand on a short 1/4″-drive ratchet was sufficient.
At this point, punching and drilling of the bolt will be needed to remove the assembly.
In a job like this, there’s always some nickel/dime headache that slows things down. In this case, the replacement switch’s wiring harness didn’t have one of the two one-way hold-downs that keep the wires out of the way of nearby moving parts.
I could have drilled a second hole in the bracket and used a zip-tie, but instead I opted to free up one of the hold-downs on the old harness and install it on the new one.
A quick test showed that the new switch worked fine, so I buttoned everything up.
Ready to go!
I’m glad my kill switches have saved my Civic, which has been the best daily-driver/parts-hauling beater I’ve ever owned, but these constant theft attempts are getting old. To prevent such occurrences— which seem inevitable, given that I park a known-to-be-easy-to-steal car with high parts demand in a nice neighborhood adjacent to a sketchy/tweeker-centric ‘hood— in the future, I’m going to take additional steps:
1. I’ve been parking the Civic (which I don’t drive much since I bought a much more VIP daily driver) in a dark parking space where it can’t be seen from my house, mostly so my ’66 Dodge A100 van can be seen from the house. Since I remove the battery from my hot-wireable-in-10-seconds van when it’s parked, and demand for A100 parts isn’t particularly high, it’s probably safe to let the Civic live in the A100’s spot.
2. Car alarms are pointless and annoying, but the cost of a flashing LED and resistor is about 99 cents. There’s a small-but-real chance that the appearance of an alarm will deter potential thieves, so I’ve installed a blinky LED on the dash. I’ve also added a club-style steering wheel lock, because a thief might decide that the added 30 seconds to hacksaw through the steering wheel isn’t worth the risk of getting shot full of holes and/or bludgeoned with a lag-screw-studded 2×4 by an enraged car owner.
3. I’ve added a second kill switch, so now the fuel pump and starter are interrupted by separate switches. Good luck finding both switches, thieves!
4. Long-term (i.e., before I swap my Integra GS-R B18C1 engine in), I plan to install a racing-style quick-release steering wheel in the car and stash the wheel inside the house. Most thieves don’t carry a collection of steering wheels with all the popular quick-release hubs, and using a Vise-Grip as a steering wheel works poorly on a non-power-steering-equipped car.

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73 Comments on “Kill Switch Thwarts Denver Civic Thieves Once Again, Junkyard Parts To the Rescue...”


  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    I think 1990s Hondas always seem to top the “Most Often Stolen Cars” list. Is it a cultural thing? Is car theft in Japan not considered a problem in those days?

    • 0 avatar

      They’re very easy to steal and there’s a big demand for parts due to the fifth-gen Civic’s popularity among drag-racer/tuner types. The 1992-95 Civic is to our era what the ’55 Chevy was to the 1960s and 1970s.

      • 0 avatar
        GoesLikeStink

        I had 2 Hondas stolen while I lived in Oakland in the 90s. An 89 Accord which I had crashed and it was stolen the week I got it back from the body shop with a new front clip on it. Gues what was missing when it was found in West Oakland? And a 95 Civic EX that was found just a few blocks from the house when the thieves got bored. I took the insurance money on the Accord and insurance paid for all of the bodywork to make the Civic look new. So I sold it for 7500. (this was in 99 or so) I got a 89 Corolla wagon instead and was never bothered again.

      • 0 avatar
        hgrunt

        Very true. A couple years ago, my friends and I found a stolen and stripped CRX in the middle of the desert. Anything you could unbolt in about a minute was gone. Seats, Air Spencer, shift knob, AC vents, you name it. We called the local sheriff’s office to report it’s location.

        The only thing it had left of any value was the B18C5 and transmission. We assumed it was because those were actually halfway traceable items, and hard to remove in a meth-fuelled minute.

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        ‘Easy to steal’ is an understatement, really. Breaking /into/ the cars isn’t all that difficult, and the ignition cylinders wear to the point where a Honda key isn’t always even necessary anymore – of a friend’s four fourth-generation Accords, two allowed him to remove the key with the car running.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      Don’t know about car theft in Japan these days, but when these cars were being made motorcycle theft was a huge problem. Seems that when parts companies got small orders for parts, they would contract it out. Said contractors would then ride back a full collection of parts to send to send to the manufacturer…

      See http://www.amazon.com/Speed-Tribes-Nights-Japans-Generation/dp/0060926651

      Also: Isn’t it time for a different model? In any other car that stick shift is likely as good as a kill switch.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Murilee,
    I am shocked by your lack of creativity given your proficiency with electricals.

    1.Leave ignition and column broken and enticing.
    2.Install hidden “real” ignition.
    3.Speed-dialing device gets wired to your dome light. I built one of these for a golf cart that kept getting stolen. It works great.
    http://home.comcast.net/~movistar323/vandals.jpg
    4.M80 armed with a model rocket ignitor gets placed above pedals and wired to fake ignition.

    Phone will dial you. You will be able to hear thief get flash-banged while attempting to steal your ride. Subdue theif.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought about rigging up some sort of trap, but I don’t feel like getting sued for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress by some scumbag.

      • 0 avatar
        Crabspirits

        Then substitute explosive device for a speaker for the phone so you can use harsh language, or perhaps have an intervention.

      • 0 avatar
        julkinen

        Murilee: Somewhere, I have an article in a Finnish car magazine where they deliberately left a Datsun 100A near an industrial area and rigged it with microphones and stuff; then the guys slept in a caravan not too close but with the wired car set to wake them up when any hopefuls broke in to steal stuff. They made the speakers and the head unit a bit more difficult to remove, resulting in nice soundbites of swearing thieves. This was in 1984-85.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I’d consider a quick-release steering wheel, so when anyone looks inside, they realize they can’t do anything with the car even if they started it.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I was thinking along similar lines.

      I would avoid anything with a loud bang; perp may have a good lawyer to sue you for ear damage.

      I was thinking along the lines of a smoke bomb and a ceiling mounted die pack.

      • 0 avatar

        ANYTHING that startles or even slightly annoys a thief will get me sued. I am a homeowner, i.e. a device that lowlifes believe is a jackpot-paying device that will enable them to buy more crank, and I don’t need to make it easy for lowlife-enabling lawyers.

        However, I am considering setting up a crappy, undrivable Civic in a bad part of town with a hidden timelapse camera to capture a gallery of car thieves. That would be fun.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        How about a recording of that calm, female voice that you hear in the movies saying “Self-destruct process initiated. Vehicle will self-destruct in 30 seconds. Twenty nine, twenty eight…”

        More seriously, would it be worth having a set of steering column covers cast in metal using a set of the plastic ones as molds?

  • avatar
    dolorean

    You poor bastard. Seems a lot of trouble to go through for a vehicle. Possible thought here and plenty o’ fun for you. How bout donating the car to the local authorities and let them turn it into a bait vehicle? Great tax right-off potential, piece of mind that you’ve done your Civic (pun intended) duty and the general enjoyment of watching tweekers get the throw-down from some disgruntled cop from Arvada.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      How about cutting your losses and get the hell out of that city? I’ve lived in those places and frankly it isn’t worth it. I agree with the poster above – DON’T fix the car steering column and just put your ignition switch somewhere else like in the floor hump under a flap of carpet on the passenger side of the hump in the rear floorboard. All the wiring could be put inside a steel box under the car. When the key is removed the carpet could velcro over the switch.

  • avatar
    p161911

    Another easy anti-theft device for the A-100 is just pull the coil wire or rotor button.

    As stated above, quit using the ignition switch, just leave a hole there. Wire up something else. Knew a guy in college that rewired an old Toyota that required something like turning on the cruise control switch and pushing in the cigarette lighter to start.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve got a kill switch in the van, in addition to storing the battery in the garage (the battery in the A100 is kept in a little box behind the driver’s seat, so it’s very easy to take with you when you park).

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Maybe this is why Honda abandoned the broke car enthusiast market. Not having street racers and import tuner nights wannabes stealing your customers’ cars or shopping for stolen parts is good for your customers’ insurance rates.

  • avatar
    steeringwithmyknees

    wow – that’s a lot of attempts on that civic. I see it’s a 5-spd too (I thought that made it less likely to be a target, but looks like i was wrong) I have a 5th gen accord wagon (5-spd) that i will be leaving on the street here in chicago because i had to make room for a new car in one of our garage spots.

    It’s already got the blinking LED (all my cars do haha). I see a ton of other 5th gen accords driving around here, which given our winter is a testament to either that era honda being well-built or enormous sales of that era honda. or both.

    Do you think i need to worry about this one?

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      There have been 3 S2000’s stolen here in the past month according to local Chicago forums. Does that answer your question? Don’t even think of owning a Type R here.

      • 0 avatar
        steeringwithmyknees

        wow.

        you know anyone that wants to buy a 97 accord wagon? Maybe State Farm is interested?

        Dude at Napa says he’s had 2 integras stolen from him (he’s on his third and says there have been 3 attempts on it so far).

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Integras are always on the most stolen list – they are stolen so the motor can put into yet another stolen Civic!

        Another great kill switch is using the safety interlock on the clutch. Not sure if they added this feature by ’92 or not, I know my ’85 Honda didn’t have it, but pretty sure the wife’s ’93 Civic did. A simple relay between the clutch and another switch will be overlooked by thiefs since most don’t even know what a clutch is.

        My favorite hidden switches are those that must be pushed in, but then pop back out (spring activated, like hood/door pins), this way they automatically “arm” themselves. For example: when you start the car the clutch must be IN and this hidden switch must be depressed – since most people put their right foot on the brake or the gas while starting locating such a switch in/under the dead pedal works great. Depending on the location you can even heel / toe this switch with just your left clutch foot, but almost nobody else will be able to.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        I avoid the kill switch designs that prevent the car from cranking. It just makes the thief look harder for a kill switch. I prefer to have it kill the fuel pump or the ignition module so it’ll crank but not start. Or – run two kill switches. The easier kill switch to find kills the starter and the second kill switch kills the ignition/fuel. And the little blinky-blinky LEDs are good.

        Worthwhile might be a siren that sounds if both kill switches aren’t satisfied and someone tries to start the car. Would not randomly sound like a car alarm that is triggered by the wind or a loud motorcycle.

        I’ve seen hand brake handles with combination or key locks built into them. I have kill switches and a locking shifter on my old Beetle. Am adding all the above to my Westfalia when I start driving that again.

  • avatar
    KYChris

    KY husband and wife arrested in theft of at least 82 Hondas

    http://privateofficerbreakingnews.blogspot.com/2012/02/ky-husband-and-wife-arrested-in-theft.html

    Crazy…

  • avatar
    Crosley

    I feel sorry for people that have to live in an area where getting their car stolen is a normal part of life. It’s sickening.

    If I owned a car that was such a tantalizing target, I would probably look at putting a very conspicuous wheel boot on it when I parked it on the street (like the city does for unpaid parking tickets)

    • 0 avatar

      I feel sorry for people who live in boring suburbia. To each his own.

      • 0 avatar
        Crosley

        I wouldn’t exactly call Denver the Big Apple.

        Phoenix is a MUCH bigger city, yet this kind of nonsense is hardly a way of life.

      • 0 avatar
        steeringwithmyknees

        Me too, Murilee. Poor bastards.

        i dont feel sorry for myself – my thief bait is on the street only because my garage spots are full of nicer cars.

        plus it’s not like cars dont get stolen in suburbia or crime doesnt happen there. The main temptation the burbs offer me is possibly better schools. However, “better” is really subjective. I want my kids to know (and not fear) cultures different than their own.

      • 0 avatar
        steeringwithmyknees

        phoenix is much bigger, but it is still like a giant suburb. Uber-Naperville of the Southwest. Which isolated strand of 20+ story buildings is “downtown” exactly? How many mountain ranges are within city limits? Denver isnt huge, but it definitely has a downtown.

      • 0 avatar
        Crosley

        Phoenix has a very large downtown. I’m very familiar with Denver, and it’s hardly NYC, Chicago, Philadelphia, etc.

        I wasn’t trying to make some city vs suburb jab, I was saying it’s unfortunate that law enforcement has failed in this way. I have several good friends in Denver, and for whatever reason, that city just can’t seem to get crime under control. I can’t tell you how many times their house or car have been broken into despite living in an affluent area.

        Everyone has run ins with crime, but having your car REGULARLY broken into where you have a whole routine on how to fix it after the fact is unacceptable. And this is not coming from someone who lives in some isolated area of North Dakota, so spare me the “oh your life must be so boring”

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        In 2011, out of 366 metropolitan areas, the Phoenix MSA was ranked 60th for the highest rate of car theft in the US. The Denver MSA was ranked below it, coming in 70th.

        https://www.nicb.org/newsroom/nicb_campaigns/hot_spots/hot-spots-2011

        I know that some folks around here refuse to allow facts to ever get in the way of a good argument, so please feel free to ignore the data if it makes you feel better.

      • 0 avatar

        Crosley: Sorry, I got used to Jalopnik commenters writing stuff like “u r retard why u live in city idiot i got 4 car garage lol moran” every time I mentioned living in an urban area in a post, and so I assume this was the TTAC (i.e., literate) version of the same sentiment. Carry on.

      • 0 avatar
        steeringwithmyknees

        sorry Crosley. I guess i am trigger happy on this topic. My friends who have kids all moved to the burbs and think im crazy for staying.

        Phoenix is definitely huge. I lived in Tucson for 4 years and visited friends in LA or SF probably an average of once a month. It never ceased to amaze me how long it took to drive through the phoenix area.

        as far as Phoenix vs Denver, i feel a very different vibe in these two cities and think it’s as tough to compare them as either of them to Chicago

        i think car thieving speaks more to the state of our society/culture than that of law enforcement (which itself is a reflection on the society). Aint no Sheriff Joe in Denver, is there? Definitely not in Chicago – our cops torture before the clink where phoenix tortures after the clink

    • 0 avatar
      Crosley

      Pch101,

      When I was comparing Phoenix, I was just showing my frame of reference (that I didn’t live in an isolated area) not that Phoenix is crime free. Phoenix definitely has issues (but in terms of anecdotes, I’ve never had any of my friends experience as much crime as my friends in Denver)

      But of course Phoenix is going to have more vehicle theft than Denver, it’s about 3 times the size. It’s also close to the border.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “But of course Phoenix is going to have more vehicle theft than Denver”

        Er, the ranking is based upon the RATE of car theft. It’s adjusted for population.

        Try reading the link prior to commenting on it. Phoenix still wins…er, loses.

      • 0 avatar
        Crosley

        Pch 101

        Again, you’re arguing a ridiculous point I was never trying to make

        Total “Phoenix” car thefts 13,132
        Total “Denver” car thefts 7,593

        Population of Phoenix 1,469,000
        Population of Denver 619,968

        Phoenix has over twice the population, but not twice the rate of theft. So I’m not sure how they derive a “ranking.”

        Also, those statistics include with Phoenix several other VERY large cities: Mesa and Glendale, which are completely separate. Both of those additional cities alone have more people than Denver, so it’s going to skew the statistics.

        So how about trolling on another topic?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “you’re arguing a ridiculous point I was never trying to make”

        As usual, your “point” was lame. You’re trying to claim that the metro area with the higher crime rate has a lower crime rate.

        The theft rate compares the number of thefts to the population. Again, if you’d bother to read the link, you’d know that.

        But you have a tendency to not allow facts to get in the way of one of your arguments. It isn’t a matter of “trolling” to point out that you blew it on the facts, yet again. Both of these areas have their fair share of crime, and your anecdotes don’t prove anything.

      • 0 avatar
        Crosley

        PCH 101,

        How do you account for the fact that the ranking is including two large cities that aren’t part of Phoenix?

        Also, certain cities have certain pockets that are worse than others.

        I’m not sure why you’re so sensitive about Denver crime stats, I’ll be the first to admit Phoenix can be a cesspool.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “How do you account for the fact that the ranking is including two large cities that aren’t part of Phoenix?”

        Go look up what a Metropolitan Statistical Area is.

        “I’m not sure why you’re so sensitive about Denver crime stats”

        I’m sensitive to misinformation on the internet.

        You’re trying to claim that Phoenix is better than Denver. The statistical reality is that Phoenix is roughly the same (and slightly worse) than Denver. Your gut feelings and conversations with acquaintances don’t provide reliable rebuttals to that.

        It sounds as if Mr. Martin may live in a marginal area of his community, or close enough to one that it provides a convenient shopping mall for thieves. Or, he may represent a statistical fluke and be incredibly unlucky. But without knowing more about his situation, one shouldn’t assume too much.

        The fact that he owns a model that is popular among thieves doesn’t help. Since there may be a pattern here, I would also suggest the use of a steering wheel lock or two, which should help to deter at least some of the would-be thieves.

      • 0 avatar
        Crosley

        PCH 101

        It still means the stats you’re providing are bunk if we’re comparing apples to apples. “Metropolitan area” is not a city, Mesa and Glendale are two VERY large and different cities that have separate mayors, city councils, police departments, etc. Why not go ahead and include Tijuana since it’s nearby?

        It’s a dumb argument you started over nothing, my point was only “I live in a big city also, but my car isn’t regularly broken into. That’s too bad you have to deal with that.” Not some Denver vs PHX nonsense.

        But you’ve also beclowned yourself by starting some stupid argument that you then go on to lose. pathetic.

        But I’ve already violated my own rule : Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Look, I get that facts just ain’t your thing, but since you refuse to know what an MSA is, here are the most recent FBI stats that break it down by city:

        http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/data/table_08.html

        If you crunch the numbers, you will notice that the rate of car theft in Phoenix was about 5% higher than it was in Denver. Rates in both cities were above the national average.

        I’m sorry that your gut feelings don’t conform to reality. But in these situations, the problem is with your gut feelings, not with reality.

    • 0 avatar
      Crosley

      Murilee,

      No worries, I wasn’t slamming your living choices in the least.
      Keep up the great articles.

    • 0 avatar

      Last week, I moved much farther out from Detroit. My wife’s XJ Cherokee was stolen last Winter. As a car enthusiast, the ultra-high-property-crime thing was just extremely stressful. I feel great now. I don’t even set the kill switch on my RX-7 anymore.

      And our car insurance went down by $35 per month.

      Goddamn, I hate car thieves. I wish the worst possible upon them.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Another fix is to swap the Civic for a 10 year old Taurus. I’ve had mine on the street for 7 years without incident. I theorize that the Taurus body shape may trigger some kind of flight response in car thieves. They look at it and run away!

  • avatar
    quiksilver180

    Is this the same Civic that you drove and compared to the Audi R8 review for Jalopnik?!

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Almost bought one with 113k today at a small dealer only auction for $1700. Automatic though and a smidgen of rust on the rear wheel wells.

    Ended up getting a 2000 Silverado instead…

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Whilst living in a particularly sh*tty part of a sh*tty city in Britain, my 1990 Ford Fiesta was broken into on 4 occasions. Every time they bent the top of the passenger side door down, but every time the car wasn’t stolen because I ALWAYS put on a steering lock AND a parking brake/gearstick lock. It may be a pain to remove when you’re in a rush, but they are almost impossible to remove without lots of time and power tools.

  • avatar
    18726543

    Just an FYI for next week…when you do this procedure again…it’s much easier to use a hammer and chisel to remove the old shear bolts. Just slide the chisel up to the right side of the shear bolt’s domed head and tap it with the hammer until it begins to spin counter-clockwise. After a few taps you can back it out by hand. Makes far less mess than drilling and also doesn’t require you to drop the wheel to your lap.

    I did many ignition switch recalls on late 90’s CL’s and with this method we could at the very least break even on the job.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    Kill switch for the save (can’t really call it a ‘win’ when your car gets trashed)!

    I’ve changed a few Honda ignition switch assemblies in my day, and you don’t have to punch and drill out the old bolts – just take a cold chisel at an angle into the edge of the bolt head, such that you are turning it counterclockwise – a few quick hammer taps and the bolt will loosen up in most cases.

    I installed a kill switch on a friend’s 1987 Cutlass Supreme before he took it to St. Louis (20 years ago), and it saved his car from getting taken three times. It was a beautiful setup too, with a hidden momentary switch underneath the carpeting that one had to depress in order to start the car – even your passenger wouldn’t know that you were operating it.

  • avatar
    jaje

    So ever think of adding a hidden camera in the car to video the thieves and have it turn on when someone sits in the driver seat have it on a 20-30 minute loop so you don’t have to change. Each time it’s broken into you can provide the video to police and hopefully catch some of them. Make your own bait car blog.

  • avatar
    gsw0

    Years ago I had a somewhat similar experience when I owned a 92 Integra GSR. I went thru a 6 month period where it got broken into twice. The 1st time I only suffered a broken passenger side window and there was nothing of value inside it so nothing was taken (cheapie OEM radio aside). The 2nd time it was broken into, when I came outside that morning I noticed the hood was slightly open, then I found the drivers door unlocked. After my 1st theft incident I was even more vigilant about keeping my car carefully locked up each night. This time around they jimmed the door open somehow but they tore the ignition switch area all to pieces.
    Why didn’t weren’t they successful stealing it? The night before about 7pm I jumped in the Integra for the 1st time all weekend and the battery was dead as a door nail. I had planned on take my spouse to work in her car, then get a new battery and install it in mine and be late for work. This car was in demand at that time by numerous crooks in our area so I had constant pressure to watch it and guard my car. Talk about a fantastic theft deterrent, no battery, no car. Who would have thunk it? A happy ending no stolen car and a goal line stand (the defense was no battery.)

    Wait it gets better. After the 2nd theft attempt I took to parking the car in the garage taking no chances. Well after a couple of months of this, I simply was too tired 1 night to park in our garage and left it parked in our driveway. About 4 am in our hood all heck broke lose and there were police cars everywhere, helicopter flying around fun stuff. 5am I get a knock in the door, I am very wary and it is a deputy sheriff announcing his presence. Seems they had a police dog catch a guy who was hitting our neighborhood hard breaking into dozens of cars over a 6month period. As it turns out, he was seen trying to break into my car for what would have been the 3rd time but he tried to run away and the police were already close by investigating other break ins he did that night. He did confess to multiple breakins and our theft issues went away – turns out he was a 1 man crime spree and eventually served a few years in the pokey.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      I used to live a place like that and the constant worry it causes really wore me out. I always had to be on my guard. I chose to drive cars that were not desirable at all nor particularly common.

      I moved away (job change) and it took years for that very useful paranoia to wear off – mostly. To this day I worry about stuff that I get teased about by more naive friends. On the other hand I’ve never been broken into since I moved and several of my friends have. Just isn’t worth it.

      Around here (smallish town) we have had to worry about the poorest and the unemployed (by choice or chance) b/c they’ll steal stuff not welded to the floor in certain parts of town. All this picked up with the recession in 2008. Still not bad in our neighborhood but the newspaper has plenty of stories about petty theft. One neighbor had his ZTR mower stolen from his driveway. Another lost a bush hog deck. And our police officer neighbor had his utility trailer stolen. Everything outside, All over the course of three years. None of it locked up very well.

  • avatar
    dbcoop

    The other way around this type of theft is to buy a car built after 2000. Most of them use transponders in the key that make theft much more difficult. Determined thieves can always swap in another ECU or tow your vehicle away but the days of punching an ignition cylinder and driving away 60 seconds later are numbered.

    • 0 avatar
      Mzdaspd304

      There is more to it than that as I have been finding out by legitimately tuning my 04 mazda 3. You can’t even swap in an ECU anymore. I had bought an ECU of a junked car for my mazda 3. Come to find out there are multiple ECU’s for the exact model and transmission and year for the car. A thief would have have to scope out your VIN then somehow find a ECU that would matach that VIN. Then take it to a dealership and have the VIN of the car you are trying to steal programmed into it. Now, you have an ECU that you can put in the car, which in some cars is not very easy to do, even for tweekin theifs. Next you have the problem of starting it. Which you’ll never do (traditionally) you’d have to buy a set of keys from the dealer, then cut (which you can’t do because you dont a key template), then, as you mentioned the transponder now has to be programmed into the ECU as well which…..you can’t even do with out having the car there at the dealership.

      Honestly stealing a newer car these days short of towing it or robbing the person of their keys is nearly impossible

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      “…the days of punching an ignition cylinder and driving away 60 second later are numbered.”

      I’m sure those days went away a long time ago, but car thieves are no doubt, getting tech savy and probably specialize in specific models too.

      Yeah, they need a lot more than basic hand tools, but the information and locksmith tools are out there.

      Either way, I still can’t imagine tow trucks being used in more than a tiny fraction of GTAs. How often do ‘bait cars’ get snatched by tow trucks?

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        You just call the tow truck company and tell them your car won’t start and you have to go to work. Then have it delivered to a shop where you break into it at your own pace. Just an idea.

        As far as a key is concerned, I watched an 18 year old “locksmith” make a key for a Eagle Concorde once. He was done in ten minutes or so. he needed a blank key and a hand file. Didn’t look like a good thing to do to a car that you’d keep long term though.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Kill switches are best defence, but I wanted something more advanced, but just as deadly. I bought a remote/key FOB controlled relay box from the parts store, used for controlling custom light sticks or accessories. I then removed the glove box and found a spot I could mount it, way up under the dash and intercepted the fuel pump leads off the nearby factory fuel cut-off switch.

    Mine is an F-150 and it did come with a blinking LED, but every car has different logistics and for most cars, the trunk or under the back seat would be the most logistical place to mount a box the size of a pack of cigarettes and also where fuel pump leads are easily identified.

    Even a Ford tech would have a problem finding what keeps it from starting as I wrapped all my wires in electrical tape like the factory does.

    I also added a switch next to the box that brings it back to ‘stock’ in case the battery in the key FOB dies or I’m dropping it off to get serviced.

    I purposely left the starter active so that thieves might think it’s got problems not related to an alarm.

    One of its best features is it sets itself automatically when I shut off the truck. I never have to wonder if I remembered to activate it, or if I lent the truck to someone, if they remembered.

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    When I worked at an engine warehouse, my boss believed in giving people second chances, so I always had interesting coworkers. While staring at a front half-cut of a Civic, imported from Japan, my coworker pointed out the numerous ways one could easily steal a Civic or Integra. It looks like those same techniques were applied to your car. 80s-90s Toyotas are even easier, since a key is not always required.

    Always did wonder why Japanese companies never seemed to care about physically protecting cars from break-in…

    • 0 avatar
      poltergeist

      In the case of Honda, they did do quite a lot to combat theft when they introduced the “Immobilizer” key fob transponder starting around 1997 (in the Prelude, now on every model). At the dealership I’ve worked at since 1992, we rarely see theft recovery cars anymore. Used to see 2-3 a week at least.

      Of course some customers cry like hell when they’re told they have to bring their car in to have a new key programmed to the car, and how much it costs, but it’s much better than the alternative.

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    I hear ya. When I bought my ’00 GS-R back in 2005 I immediately put covers over leather seats, put different wheels on it, rerouted hood release and removed the silly DOHC VTEC badge. On top of this I would religiously remove the aftermarket stereo’s faceplate. In 6.5 years of ownership the car got broken into just once, right under my apartment window. The alarm scared the thief away before he took anything.

    It’s unfortunate that thieves cannot be shot immediately in some states. I think physical damage of any sort should be permitted just to deter future attempts.

  • avatar
    poltergeist

    In my experience, the scumbag criminal just uses one good hit with a hammer to break the column covers and the ignition switch off the column (often this tweaks the column tube as well). Then a couple of screws to remove the electrical switch to start the car with a screw driver and they’re off. My 1st gen Integra had a kill switch as well, but I luckily never had it tested. My cousin had her ’92 Civic stolen from in front of her house overnight. She got a call from the police the next morning wanting to know why her car was abandoned in the middle of an intersection. The stupid criminal had allowed the back of the switch to ground-out, blowing the main fuse and shutting the car down. Probably saved it from being stripped clean like a Thanksgiving turkey carcass.

    BTW Murilee. A good automatic centerpuch applied off center to the breakoff bolts will back them out without having to drop the column. We used to repair 2-3 of these a week at a Honda dealer in the greater LA area.

    F’in dirtbag drug addicts, they swarm like cockroaches around these cars when you leave them unattended.

  • avatar

    Gods rot.. what part of Denver do you live in. I am all the way up in Westminster off 72’nd and so far it has not been too bad. Though a block over it looks a bit sketchy. Hope Peugeot 505 theft rates are low, that is what I am running around in here. :P

    • 0 avatar
      tiredoldmechanic

      No disrespect intended, but I’m thinking you’re probably safe. Somehow the image of Beevis or Butthead showing up at the local chop shop in a Peugeot 505 just doesn’t compute.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    My last Honda, the last of the Accord hatchbacks, had also been broken into before I bought it. The previous owner left the steering column cover off, and relocated the ignition switch to the ash tray. The ash tray cover dropped down to expose the switch and served as a tray for his keys when the Honda key was in the ignition.

    He also had a kill switch built into the dome light, but he told me his best method of avoiding a break in was that he left the broken steering column cover on the front passenger floor, and advised me to do the same. With the broken cover on the floor and the ignition switch missing, it looked already broken-into, but un-startable.

    I parked it on the street for two years in the same place where my ’80 Buick Regal had been stolen, and it was untouched until an elderly Caddy driver plowed into it and totaled it.

  • avatar
    NewsLynne

    Someone broke into my 95 Buick Regal last year. Because everyone wants the parts off W-Bodies, you know.

    No damage done…were probably looking for iPods…but…idiots.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    A coworkers catalytic converter was stolen from the parking lot at work in Anaheim 92804…2000 honda accord SE…we saw the tape…the thieves came in a car like Murilee’s, and had that bad boy chopped out and gone in under 4 minutes.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Car alarms are pointless? Do thieves stick around in the presence of sirens and blinking lights in your area?

    If nothing else, they’re great for putting keyless entry on old cars!

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      In urban areas, people have learned to tune car alarms out.

      In areas busy enough that people have to park out of sight (or earshot) of their cars, they are almost pointless. Available parking places also tend to be in front of places where people don’t live. In this very common situation, a thief would have several minutes to ransack the car or disable an sounding alarm.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Keyless entry is great, but don’t expect your alarm to secure your car better than a kill switch or even a simple Club.

      Unless your driver’s window is laminated, it just takes a tiny well placed scratch and it’ll crumble. Thieves will slowly reach in and pop your hood without setting off your alarm. Then they cut the wires to your alarm’s siren, factory horn and disconnect the battery. This move will bypass cheaper alarms. Once the ignition is defeated and the battery is reconnected, the alarm is off and they drive off.

      If the alarm wasn’t defeated, the parking lights will be flashing, but your alarm’s clicking flasher relay will give away its location. Then it’s just a matter of cutting a couple of wires and they’re off. Car alarms are always tucked under the dash on the driver’s side anyways. All the wires that installers needs to splice into are right there in one central location.

      All I’m saying is that car alarms give folks a false sense of security.


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