Theory
Alarm!
And you can hear the alarm as well:
Step away from the ride
Stop hangin' around
Countdown and ... alarm!

Protection and car alarm systems

The car audio hobby has one real downside: risk of theft. A car with an expensive audio system is an attractive object for the less fortunate. Every show people do not show up because their car was broken into just one day before the big event. Also parking a car worth less than the electronics inside it is not a good feeling.

The following is the result of research at a couple of police stations and interviewing a special car-theft-protection team. Read and learn!

How thieves select a car

First the crook picks a location. A busy shopping mall is not a good place. A deserted parking outside town with lots of escape routes is. When on a big parking try to park the car on the side. A thief is still protected by cars on either side of your vehicle so try to make at least one side visible to the public. Pick a path were many people walk by, for example to the exit.

Cars a picked by price and model. If you have a BMW you certainly have money for a good stereo. If you have a Lada you probably also have a budget radio. If you drive an average car but it has light alloy wheels, extra spoilers, a shiny exhaust or even worse stickers with the make of your audio system you are an excellent target. Small average looking cheap cars are not even looked at. If you have small car but it is filled with expensive audio equipment, try parking the car next to some more expensive cars to distract the burglar.

After the thief took a look at the possible targets he/she will take a look inside the cars. Here's were your stock lookalike audio system comes in handy. If your audio system is totally invisible, don't use a flashing red light either. Why would this car have an alarm, there's nothing there or is there? If your car seems like a potential victim on the parking lot do use a flashing red light showing you have an alarm. This makes your car less attractive than cars that don't have an alarm.

Professional burglars know what they are doing. They see they difference between a fake alarm and a real one. They also know that big subwoofers in the rear of your car mean that there's got to be an amplifier in the car somewhere. Most of them can even tell the exact make and model of your head unit by the part that's still left after removing the detachable face plate. Less experienced crooks break in once or twice because they need the money or because the see an easy target. They don't know the difference between a Pine and Alpine unit.

Statistics show that detachable face plates are the safest option. Number two is the removable unit followed closely by the key card system from Blaupunkt. As many people hide the detachable face plate in the glove compartment or the entire head unit in the boot, cars will still get broken into. If possible leave the glove compartment open when parking so everyone can see there's nothing there.

How thieves break into your car

Breaking the window is the way to go in 50% of all cases, the other way is forcing the lock. Sun roofs or hatches are not a popular place to enter a car. It is possible to protect your windows against breaking using a special foam. However this also makes your car less safe in an accident.

After taking out the head unit, the space under the seats and the glove compartment will be entered. Then all possible buttons and levers will be tried to see if the boot will open. When someone passes the car, a thief can hide inside. This is not possible when trying to steal stuff from the boot. Therefore fastening this part of the audio system really helps preventing it from getting stolen.

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Practice
Siren

Alarm systems

An alarm system will shorten the time a thief takes to grab your belongings. But the alarm has to be installed well. If a kick on the dash or pulling some loose wires is enough to shut up the system, it is a waste of money and effort.

First thing is to get a good alarm. I've once mistaken the factory alarm of a Ford Scorpio for the "lights still on but engine off" buzzer. Get a mean siren that will wake up an entire neighbourhood in the middle of the night. To avoid false alarm make sure you buy a quartz driven alarm or a good micro wave based alarm. Recommendable makes are Clifford, GT and Pirana.

Hide the central unit of the alarm system, preferably not under the dash. Pick a strange place: under the back seat, in the roof or under a door. It has to be impossible to destroy the unit in a single hit for a panicking thief. Better yet it has to be impossible to find the unit for someone who stole the entire car. Therefore make sure you hide the wiring as well. Run wires trough the car's standard harasses or temporarily remove body work to allow for wires to be hidden well. Most modern alarm systems only use black wiring so a crook cannot hack the alarm by cutting the right wire. The same goes for the siren(s), don't make them easily accessible. Preferably get a siren with backup battery so cutting the central powering unit will cause an alarm as well. Finally do not put stickers on the car showing the make of the alarm, this will help experienced thieves to disarm your alarm.

In these days with lots of break ins and many false alarms, the system is mostly a signal for you. An alternative is installing a siren inside the car. A 130 dB siren is so loud in a little car interior that the thief can choose: harm the ears for life or leave now. In the United States of America more aggressive methods like smoke or tear gas are available as well. To avoid false alarm make sure you can tap with your hands on all windows without triggering the alarm.

If you have central locking you might even think about removing the outside of the locks altogether. Without a lock on the outside of the car to force, there's less chance of entering the car. Especially when someone tries to steal the whole car, a car with a broken window is less attractive to sell and a strange thing to drive with.

Miscellaneous

When installing Dynamat, put some over the inside of the door handles. This can severely slow down or even making it impossible to break in by forcing the lock.

On a show, replace your license plates by fake ones. Bad people might want to use your registration to trace the car. This is especially useful if you drive an average car. If you have a desirable car like a Porsche chances are it might get stolen anyway.

In a home garage take out the keys. It might be hard to get into your garage but if the car is there with the keys in the ignition it might be worth while afteral.

Insurance might not pay expensive car audio equipment, not only when broken into but also in a traffic accident. Think about an extra insurance for legal costs. Try explaining the other party that your doors really are worth $ 2,500 per piece because of the Dynamat, power windows, central locking, MDF panels, wiring, pro class crossover and three part component speakers.

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Summary
  • Park your car in a crowded place
  • Park your car were everyone can see it (or rather: see the thief)
  • Park your car next to nicer looking car hoping it will be the victim instead
  • Take your detachable face plate with you!
  • Install an alarm system, it will at least make your car less attractive than cars without one
  • Do not attach stickers showing the make of your alarm, this makes it easy for thieves to eliminate your alarm
  • Hide the true identity of your car on a show
  • Be careful even at home (do not show off in your own street)
  • Insure the car and the audio system
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