The Truth About Cars » Theft The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:25:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Theft Dealership Wheel Thefts Spotlight Security Risks Tue, 11 Feb 2014 05:10:53 +0000  



In an era where even mundane family cars are shod with 18-inch-plus rims direct from the factory, dealers are prime targets for mass thefts. One Texas Chevy dealer took a big hit on Sunday, when 22 new cars were shorn of their wheels and tires by a gang of thieves.

Houston CBS affiliate KHOU reports that DeMontrond Chevrolet in Texas City suffered the loss sometime late Saturday or early Sunday. 88 tires and wheels went missing, as thieves pulled all the rims off the vehicles they hit. Photos from the scene show cars held up by bricks, jack stands, and other assorted junk. Unfortunately for the dealer, some of these cars fell off their precarious foundations. The resulting frame and body damage will add tens of thousands of dollars to the already steep replacement cost of the wheels. Insurance will probably pick up the tab for the direct financial losses, but the indirect costs of time and storage are likely to be significant.

From the pictures, it appears that new Camaros, Impalas, and a few trucks were targeted by the thieves. It’s easy to see why: a brand new set of Camaro takeoff wheels sells for around two grand  online. Neither the Camaro nor the Impala have wheel locks as standard equipment. GM does offer a set of locking lug nuts for both models as a $90 accessory. Such locks won’t foil the most determined thieves, who can pick or drill out the nuts. Even so, they may deter the street-level thief looking for an easy opportunity, if not the sophisticated dealership bandit.

This wasn’t the first time a Texas dealership targeted for a mass wheel theft. Back in May of last year, Mac Haik Ford in Georgetown lost nearly 200 wheels off of 48 vehicles in another overnight theft. Row after row of shiny new cars and trucks with wheels worth several hundred dollars apiece are an irresistible plum to thieves. Given the trend towards larger, more expensive rims on mass-market vehicles, OEMs owe it to their dealers and their customers to start taking wheel thefts seriously. Standard locking lug nuts will help, but it may be time to start exploring alternative technologies.

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Little Car Lost: When Thieves Come Calling Tue, 07 Jan 2014 13:00:28 +0000 Honda

The joke was that the little Honda was so old and undesirable that it would take a ten dollar bill on the dash and the key in the ignition to attract a thief. With 300K miles on the clock, the little car was old and tired, but my sister Lee and her husband Dave aren’t the kind of people who replace their cars very often. The Chevy Chevette they bought new in 1981 lasted ten long years under their care so the little Civic, purchased used in 1991 from one of my father’s workmates, was on target to last forever. Other cars came and went in the driveways of the other houses up and down the street, but in their driveway the Civic endured, a fixture of solidity and reliability in an ever changing world. And then one day, it was gone.

The little car had aged in the 21 years since it had left the assembly line. On the outside, its body was still in good shape but its rubber pieces had gone grey in places and its bright red paint had had faded from decades under the summer sun. Inside, daily use had made the car’s once plush velour seats worn and threadbare and the touch of human hands had removed the texture from the plastic shift knob, leaving it cue-ball smooth. Those same hands had worked on the steering wheel as well, leaving patches of shiny black plastic where they rested the most while other body parts, a resting elbow here a rubbing knee there, had worn other interior pieces. Below the line of sight, the edges of the pedals were worn smooth from use while the carpets, protected by at least three generations of thick rubber mats, still looked surprisingly good. It was not a luxurious place to sit, perhaps it never had been really, but time and familiarity had made it comfortable.

Photo courtesy of:

Photo courtesy of:

Mechanically, like almost all Hondas, the little Civic was solid. Thanks to regular oil changes and the kind of thorough maintenance routine that only an aerospace engineer like my brother-in-law could abide by, under the hood the car was as good as ever. Sure, things wore out once in a while, but they were supposed to, and when they did they were replaced. The efforts paid off and, despite the decades that had elapsed, the car remained a reliable daily commuter; a testament to its engineers and its owners.

The theft of the little Civic hit my sister’s family hard. Like anyone who is a victim of theft, they took the loss of the car personally. They may have joked that the old car was undesirable and toyed with the notion that not even a thief would want it, but that didn’t mean the vehicle was unloved. Losing it was like losing a member of the family and anger welled up inside. Within minutes of noting the car’s loss they were on the phone to the police.

Salt Lake City isn’t a hot bed of criminal activity. It’s a safe, clean city filled with upstanding, honest people who take pride in their community. Even so, the theft of the Honda wasn’t front page news and, although the police took the report and promised to get right on the case, the return of the car in useable condition wasn’t likely. Most “vintage” cars, my sister and her husband were told, end up in chop shops and even a simple joyride could end in a crash or vandalism. Chances were, the police informed them, if the car wasn’t already in pieces, it soon would be – one way or another. They steeled themselves for the worst.

Photo Courtesy of   Photo Credit: Brett Neilson

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Credit: Brett Neilson

Sometimes, however, there are happy endings and just two days after the police were made aware of the car’s theft, the little Honda turned up abandoned downtown, the flotsam and jetsam of a night’s worth of petty criminal activity, and a bag of half-eaten gummy worms, left scattered around the interior. There was no real damage, no bashed in body panels and no sliced up seats. In fact, the worst thing the thief, or thieves, had done was to shake up a can of Red Bull and spray it all over the headliner. Overall, the damage was light and with a little elbow grease the cars was soon restored to its former glory.

Today, the little Honda is back where it belongs and everything is, once again, as it should be. Other cars come and go from the driveways of the other houses up and down the street, but in my sister’s driveway the Civic endures, a fixture of solidity and reliability in an ever changing world. There are no more jokes about leaving the keys in the car and a ten dollar bill on the dash. The car is old but it’s not undesirable. It’s family.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Cops Nab Electric Leaf Owner Before He Can Ride Free On Your Nickel Wed, 04 Dec 2013 15:56:25 +0000 2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The owner of a Nissan Leaf was arrested in Georgia last week for stealing 5 cents worth of electricity after he plugged his car into the exterior outlet at a local middle school while his son was playing tennis.


According to Atlanta’s NBC affiliate, 11 Alive, the car had only been plugged in for a few minutes when a police officer arrived and informed the man that he was committing theft and directed him to unplug the car. Later, after verifying the school had not given the man permission to use the outlet, the officer pursued an arrest warrant. The man was arrested by two deputies who appeared at his home 11 days later and spent more than 15 hours in the DeKalb County Jail before making bail.

Advocates of electric vehicles will decry this as police over reach and argue that amount of energy involved was negligible. The police, on the other hand, have taken a tough, no nonsense approach and, in their opinion, theft is theft no matter how little was stolen. I’m left asking is this what our society has come to? What kind of dumbass figures that he can charge his car for free wherever he stops? On the other hand, what kind of cop is petty enough to chase a guy down for a nickel? I wonder, would the cops have rolled in on this guy if he had “stolen” water from the drinking fountain at the side of the school to fill a leaky radiator? Clearly, the only ones who are going to win this battle will be the lawyers.

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Gone In 10 Seconds: Tailgate Thefts Soar Wed, 27 Nov 2013 05:50:03 +0000 Pickup truck tailgates recovered by the Garland, TX police department.

Pickup truck tailgates recovered by the Garland, TX police department.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau says the theft of pickup truck tailgates is soaring in the U.S, aided by the ease of removal and a ready market on the internet. Most of those thefts go unreported because the replacement cost is often less than truck owners’ insurance deductibles. Still, the number of thefts reported to insurance companies have gone from just 3 in 2008 to more than 500 last year. An experienced thief can remove an unlocked tailgate in as little as 10 seconds.

“Those are just insurance claims. We know that number is woefully under-representative. The problem is much, much larger,” said Frank Scafidi, NICB public affairs director. “There’s a huge market, and that feeds the monster.”

Chrysler, which started making remote locking system for tailgates standard on 2013 Ram trucks that come with a remote key fob. The company blames the thefts in part on how easy automakers have made it to remove their tailgates. The remote system also locks RamBox storage compartments on trucks equipped with them.

“Tailgates can be taken with no effort at all. There’s no bolt. There’s no tools. I don’t know a single manufacturer that makes a tailgate that doesn’t pop right off,” says Chrysler spokesman Nick Cappa. “The incentive for some sort of locking system is pretty high.”

Another reason given is that tailgates get damaged and need to be replaced, creating a ready market for replacements.

“It’s the Number One theft item on a pickup,” said Bob Hegbloom, Ram brand director. “Typically, the thing that’s damaged first on a pickup is the tailgate. People are always replacing these things.”

They also aren’t stamped with serial numbers, making it difficult to trace them.

Ford and GM tailgates can be locked, but they are manual locks and not many drivers will walk back to the back of their trucks to secure the tailgate.

Chrysler says that they discovered the problem while doing consumer research for the 2009 Ram pickups, hearing from a number of Ram owners that they’d like a locking tailgate.

Another thing that’s made the tailgates worth stealing is the proliferation of backup cameras, nearly tripling the replacement costs if there is a camera or other electronics in the tailgate.

The most tailgate thefts take place in the number 1 market for pickup trucks, Texas, and the most common tailgate stolen unsurprisingly is from the Ford F-150, the most popular pickup truck sold.

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Dodge Charger Rentals Facing Rash Of Thefts In Hawaii Tue, 16 Oct 2012 15:34:51 +0000

An interesting story out of Hawaii, where Dodge Charger rental cars are being targeted by thieves due to the ease of which they can be broken into – and officials are aware of the matter, with little action being taken.

The Honolulu Civil Beat has reported on the matter, claiming that thieves can break into the Charger by inserting a flat-head screwdriver into the door lock. The Civil Beat even interviewed one tourism official who copped to knowing about the matter

“VASH (Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii) president Jessica Rich is well aware of the Dodge Charger issue and has already met with the Car and Truck Renting and Leasing Association (CATRALA) and HPD to brainstorm how they can partner up with rental car agencies to get the word out to tourists.

“Most of the car break-ins we see with our visitors do involve Dodge Chargers,” Rich said. “We’ve been aware of this problem for several years now…We’re very concerned. It’s a serious problem. We’re working on it.”

Despite being “aware of this problem now for several years”, nothing has been done about it, and countless thefts have occurred. The Charger’s lack of theft security is compounded by its popularity as a rental. There is a growing push to warn tourists against renting Chargers, and having them decline the vehicles at the counter.

Thanks to reader Jeff Lesperance for the tip

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German Paper: “China Steals Volkswagen Patents” Fri, 27 Jul 2012 13:56:23 +0000

A few months ago, Volkswagen extended its joint venture contract with Chinese partner FAW for another 25 years, with appropriate pomp and circumstance: Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and German Chancellor Angela Merkel witnessed the signature. Now, Volkswagen takes the unusual step of going semi-public with the theft of intellectual property. According to reports in German media, FAW has “systematically and repeatedly” stolen designs of important components such as engines and transmissions. Volkswagen’s hands are tied.

Volkswagen managers caught partner FAW stealing designs for the Volkswagen transmission MQ 200, writes Germany’s Handelsblatt in a long article which names several (albeit anonymous) Volkswagen managers as sources. “It’s a catastrophe,” a VW exec told the paper.

According to the report, this is not the first case or purloined patents. Two years ago, Volkswagen blueprints were used to copy the EA 111 engine.  Volkswagen’s Winterkorn complained  to FAW boss Xu Jianyi. Xu apologized, said it was an oversight by an overeager engineer who had been “severely criticized.”

“In the meantime, FAW built a factory in Changchun for the copied engine,” says the report.

Volkswagen had shared construction details with its joint venture FAW-Volkswagen, which builds the engine under license. It did not share the plans with FAW. “The plans should not have gotten to the outside,” a Volkswagen manager told the paper. ”This is no way to cooperate, trust is being violated.”

It is doubtful that Volkswagen will openly fight against the copy. Bigger things are at stake. China already is Volkswagen’s most important market. For 2018, Volkswagen has budgeted four million units for China. Even if Volkswagen would want to take action against the copy, their “hands are tied” until 2013, said a VW executive. That’s when the purloined powertrain will hit the market.

Well, maybe it was a Chinese revenge anyway. The official PR picture with Winterkorn shaking Xu’s hand after the signing of the contract has “Volkswagen/ SAIC” as the backdrop. VW’s other Chinese joint venture partner SAIC is regarded as a bitter rival by FAW, and the improper backdrop is a major loss of the all-important face.

Tip of the hat to the man in the mountains. Demand denied



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Would-Be Civic Thief Thwarted By Hidden Kill Switch, $21 In Junkyard Parts Fixes Damage Sat, 13 Aug 2011 14:00:57 +0000 Having spent most of my driving years in car-theft-prone neighborhoods in California and preferring the please-steal-me Honda Civic as my daily driver of choice, I learned many years ago that a secret starter and/or fuel-pump cutoff switch is a must-have. Such kill switches have prevented theft of my past Civics on three occasions that I know about. Last week, the maddeningly hard-to-find kill switch I installed in my 18.2-second quarter-miler 1992 Civic left a Denver Honda thief empty-handed.
I’m not going to give away the type and location of the kill switch in my ’92, other than to say that it cuts power to both the starter solenoid and the fuel pump and it doesn’t look like an electrical switch. The first Civic kill switch I installed (in an ’85 hatchback that was stolen out of the Oakland Coliseum parking lot and then recovered a couple months later when other thieves stole its license plates while parked near 98th and Edes, attracting police attention) was pretty crude: a spring-type clothespin ziptied into the underdash wiring harness, with electrical contacts in the jaws; I would stick a guitar pick between its jaws to interrupt the power to the starter circuit and remove the pick to enable starting— crude but effective, and just about impossible to identify at a glance. My current setup is much more sophisticated as well as more invisible; the thief used a key to get into the car and turn the ignition switch (Hondas of the 1980s and early 1990s had a depressingly small number of possible key configurations, so a thief need only carry a few dozen in order to have a good chance of starting any random Honda of the era; try your Honda key on junkyard car locks to see what I mean), but the starter wouldn’t crank for him. So, he removed the steering-column cover— busting the wiper switch in the process— and tried to jump wires to fire the starter. No dice. On to the next 1992-95 Civic!
Nothing other than the wiper switch was broken and nothing was stolen from the car (not even my snazzy five-cell red-anodized MagLite), so I got off light. Still, I needed wipers, so off came the shattered switch. Next stop: junkyard!
The fifth-generation Civic has become something like the ’55 Chevy of the 21st Century, with huge demand for parts (no doubt the motivation behind the scrote who tried to steal mine). This means that they’re quite rare in self-service junkyards. I found this switch in good condition on a junked ’94, but there was a problem.
My car, a one-notch-up-from-the-bottom DX model, has a rear wiper/washer, and this CX does not. The switch would physically bolt up, but the rear wiper couldn’t be actuated. The lever on my car’s switch was pretty well busted, so I couldn’t buy this switch and swap levers. Sorry about the blurry cell-phone photos here; I was in such a hurry to fix the car that I forgot to grab a real camera.
The only other 1992-95 Civic at the yard was a ’93 hatch that had had its interior completely torn apart. It did have the correct wiper switch (buried beneath greasy suspension parts on the back seat), but its case was cracked and internal components were missing.
Still, I had enough components between the two junkyard switches, plus the one from my car, to make one good one.
The lever and wiring harness from the broken ’93 switch joined the guts of the ’94 switch. I had to swap the grease-coated electrical-contact sliders to make the lever actuators work correctly, but such is the nature of finicky automotive electrical components.
Honda was thoughtful enough to enable wiper switch replacement with the steering wheel installed (in stark contrast to many Detroit cars, which tend to be all about ease/cheapness of initial assembly, to hell with everything else), so installing the Frankensteined wiper switch was a three-minute task.
All fixed! I’m sure glad the thief didn’t have a tow truck.

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Gone In 14 Seconds: Why The Cadillac Escalade Is America’s Most-Stolen Vehicle Fri, 29 Oct 2010 18:45:28 +0000

We’ve known that the Cadillac Escalade was America’s most-stolen vehicle, but we never asked why. The answer: GM didn’t put steering locks on a number of Escalade and other GMT9000 Ute model years, and shifters on these models are easily pushed out of “Park.” These weaknesses (and their ineffective fixes) allow thieves to push Tahoes, Denalis and Escalades to a safe spot where parts stripping can be done in a matter of minutes. And as the report details, Onstar is rarely effective at stopping quick snatch-and-strip-style thefts, because the damage is typically already done by the time vehicles are reported stolen. Hats off to WXYZ TV for looking past the statistics and finding the truth behind the Escaladae’s stealability. GM is reportedly working on a new steering column replacement for these vehicles.

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