Car Security Devices: Their Uses, Pros and Cons

Most car thieves are lazy and generally go for the easy mark with less security. Layered security uses multi layered protection including the use of preventative common sense about where and how you park and secure your car and contents, some sort of electronic security device and additional visual deterrence.

Electronic Security Devices





Automatic system arming.

Usually factory fitted.
Included with most better car alarm / security systems. Usually automatically arm and include an automatic engine kill switch. Insurance discounts may apply. None, unless you lock both your keys and your any transmitter in your vehicle.

Car Alarms

$150 to $1,000
The typical car alarm is equipped with motion sensors, impact sensors and a loud siren Activation may disable the engine. The best car alarms usually automatically arm and includes an engine kill switch. May also flash the headlights and sound the horn. An alarm will deter some thieves. After years of false alarms, people have stopped paying attention to alarms. Need to be maintained. Can fail. There is no statistical evidence that they reduce auto theft.


(Electronic Keys)

Often factory fitted and standard equipment. Cars can only be operated with a correctly coded key. Interrupts the car's ignition systems when an incorrect key or no key at all is used to start the car. Electronic key systems are easy to use and reliable. Invisible to thieves. Inexperienced criminals will damage steering column before discovering the device. Any vehicle damage is costly to repair. If the ignition id damaged the car will not start. Some thieves have devised ways to get around immobilizers.

Electronic Tracking Devices

$300 to $1,500
An electronic transmitter hidden in the vehicle which emits a signal that is picked up by the police or a monitoring service. Highly recommended for unique or valuable vehicles. Effective in helping authorities to recover vehicles before they can be stripped for parts. Can help catch thieves. The initial cost is high and there is usually a service fee each month.

Keyless entry

Often factory fitted.
Retrofitted: $150 to $800
Locks and unlocks doors. Ease increases chances that the car will be locked. Often standard equipment. Can be retro fitted to car without electric door locks. Increases personal safety by enabling entry and exit without fumbling with keys. None


May be included in an alarm.
Can be added or installed:
Pager warns that the car alarm has been activated. An option extra in some alarm systems. The public are desensitised to or may not react to an activated alarm. Pagers will let you know when your alarm has been set off so that you can take action. Encourages confrontation with car thieves which is not generally a good idea.
Visual Deterrence Security Devices

Flashing warning lights

$10 to $20
Warning lights suggest or identify an armed alarm system. Thief may not know that the light is bogus and move on to another car. An inexpensive way to bluff an amateur car thief. May not deter professional thieves.

Armoured Steering Column


Often factory fitted.
Retrofitted: $100-$200
These collars prevent thieves from breaking into the steering column to hot-wire the vehicle. Some are installed permanently whilst others must be fitted manually each time the driver leaves the vehicle. The collar provides an excellent line of defence for older vehicles which can be easily stolen by breaking open the steering wheel column. Inconvenience to use as manual collars must be fitted and than removed whenever you drive.

Steering Wheel Lock

$30 to $60
A long metal bar with a lock that fits onto the steering wheel preventing it from being turned. J bar variations hook under the brake and locks to the steering wheel. Highly visible from outside the car. Inexpensive way to keep some would-be thieves away. Especially good device for older cars and as an additional level of visual protection. Mainly effective against amateur opportunistic thieves and kids looking to joyride. A professional can cut through the steering wheel in seconds making steering wheel locks and most J-bars useless. Can be heavy and awkward to fit.

Gear Shift Locks.

$120 - $200
Prevents the use of the automatic or manual gear shift. Immobilises the car so it cannot be driven. Has to be installed professionally. The gear shift or transmission could be damaged by a thief trying to get it off resulting in expensive repairs.

Brake/Clutch Immobiliser.

$50 to $75.
Immobilises the brake or clutch preventing the car being driven. Brake locks are disliked by thieves because they prevent the rear brake lights being operating which attracts police attention if the car used. Suitable for older cars. Easy to install and remove. High visual deterrence. Helps prevent inexperienced thieves breaking into the car. Avoids any costly damage to the ignition and wiring. A good single security device for older cars. Useful additional security when used in conjunction with engine immobilisers. None if the device is well designed, manufactured and properly fitted. Some inferior designs can be moved and leveraged off. Some may not fit all vehicles.

Wheel Locks

Similar to the wheel clamps which make the vehicle nearly impossible to move. Very effective in deterring would-be thieves. Excellent security for infrequently used vehicles. Used and recommended by some police forces. Not only is the wheel lock a strong visual deterrent but it also provides a formidable challenge for would-be car thieves. Greatly hampers thieves who are looking to make a quick getaway. Bulky and time consuming to install and remove. Must be installed manually each time the driver wishes to leave or drive a vehicle. Messy to use as it accumulates dirt from the tires. Inconvenient to use in bad weather and dark locations.

Window Etching Micro Dots

Costs: $20 to $100
(Some theft-prevention groups
provide etching service for free.)
Application of a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) onto the window and other parts of the car. Illegal parts resellers thrive on cars with no or easily removable VINs. Discourages car theft. Makes cars less attractive to steal for parts. Aids in recovering stolen cars. To deter theft the markings need to be obvious but this may affect the resale value of the car. May not deter some professional thieves who steal first and check later.

Theft-Deterrent Decals

$2 to $5
Typical decals identify the vehicle is protected by either a bogus or actual car alarm. At a quick glance, the thief may not know that the warning sticker is bogus and may go on to another vehicle rather than take a risk. Inexpensive way to bluff an amateur car thief. Ignored by professional thieves who recognize bogus stickers. For professional the decal tells them what alarm system they need to defeat.

Anti-theft Number Plate screws

Non removable screws replace the standard ones Can only be removed by a special tool. Low cost. Easily fitted. Reduces theft of vehicles for offences such as petrol theft, toll evasion and other crimes. Does not protect the interior of the vehicle or the theft of the vehicle by professionals.
Non Visual Security Devices

Kill Switches

$10 to $125
A hidden switch which prevents the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine until the switch is activated. The switch needs to be turned on for the car to start. Inexpensive and easy to install. Thieves know where to look for them. Minor risk of accidentally engaging the switch whilst driving. If improperly installed can damage electronics. May void new car warranty.

Hood locks

$75 to $175
Will keep a thief from getting to your car's battery to cut the power and disarm the alarm. Usually standard equipment on vehicles made in the past 20 years. Prevents thieves from gaining access to your vehicle's engine compartment. Does not protect vehicle contents.

What to do if your car is stolen

Report it to the Police immediately. Supply the registration number, make, model and colour of the vehicle, the location and time of the theft. Notify your insurance company immediately.


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