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Homepage. This page: Car security - protecting your older car from theft with some simple tips and advice.

Car security, precautions, & alarms suitable for classics.

Basic tips on keeping a classic car secure. Insurance companies will insist that some of these points are adhered to, but regardless it pays to stick to a few basis rules to try and ward off the attentions of the light-fingered members of society.

Parking your car securely.

1950 Chevrolet parked securely in a garage
Insurance policies tend to dictate the parking arrangements you'll have to follow with your classic. Some say the car must be garaged overnight, or alternatively be off the road between certain nocturnal hours. Either way, make sure you know what's what in terms of the policy you have. Best of all is to park a car in a locked alarmed garage, preferably directly outside your home, with the hounds set loose. Alas not many of us are in that fortunate position, although garaging should really be arranged wherever possible. Driveway parking is satisfactory so long as the insurance company know of this and agree to it, but for the long-term preservation and security of a car, a garage - or at the very least a car port - has to be the way to go if possible.

Try to ensure that your driveway has some form of lighting, most car thieves don't like everyone being able to see what they're up to, and that alone may be enough to make stealing your car too risky a proposition. You might think that your dog-eared A55 Cambridge would appeal to no-one, but the truth is that the older cars with perhaps less secure locking arrangements are often targeted by pond-life, as opposed to many pricier classics that may have seen some money invested in extra security measures, tracking systems, and so on. Certainly if a car is being stolen simply to weigh it in, the badge on the boot is of little or no importance.

If you leave the car in the drive or garage for a period of time, it may be worth getting a removable (or folding) security post, these are usually set into concrete and lockable by key. The folding ones are handiest, although your low-slung Austin-Healey's exhaust system may complain if it's regularly dragged over the horizontal post. If nothing else, make sure your driveway has a nice set of gates across it, as otherwise it's an open invitation for your common tea-leaf to wander in and meddle with your car. If you have a modern car sharing your driveway, why not park it behind your classic (or up against the garage doors) as, if nothing else, it'll make stealing your interesting car a whole lot more difficult if there's a "modern" in the way.

Wherever possible, don't leave your classic parked out on the road for any length of time, local councils are getting very 'diligent' in scooping up anything that looks even remotely down-at-heel. If you have no other option but to park at the side of the road, especially if it may be for long periods of time, find out about your local authority's attitude to long-term parked cars. Certainly don't leave anything un-taxed out on the road, it's an offence anyway.

Car alarms.

You might want to invest in a car alarm - quite a wise idea as classics aren't usually too difficult to break into. By now, cars from say the 1960s may be showing wear in the door lock area. One thing to remember when installing the alarm is the polarity of the car - check first how best to install an alarm onto an older car that may well be positive earth. Popular cars that spring to mind would include the A40 Farinas and Ford 103E Pops of this world, to name a couple. Equally, said Pop and others from the 1950s and before are often fitted with 6 volt electrics, so some adaptation may be required.
Steering bars/locks may deter some criminally-minded people, but they are really just a minimum precaution, as they can usually be hacksawed off, or in extreme cases the steering wheel itself can be bent out of the way, rendering the lock null and void. If you really want to push the boat out, fit a tracking device. It won't stop people trying to steal your car if that's what they want to do, but it'll give you a fighting chance of having it returned one day.

Immobilise your car.

Old car driving along near some houses For a more modern classic, you could always get an alarm system that has an immobiliser incorporated into it. A simpler method, which may be of more use to owners of more basic steeds, is to whip out the rotor arm from beneath the distributor cap. Unless the bad guy has a stock of matching rotor arms in his back pocket, he won't be starting your car's engine in a hurry (unless you leave the rotor somewhere too obvious!). Likewise you could take the main coil->dizzy cap HT lead with you, but that's a less secure solution. Again, cars being parked up for a reasonable length of time can be made more secure by jacking them up and removing the road wheels. Anything that slows down a bad guy taking your car without consent has to be worth considering.
I've known people have quick-removal steering wheels on their classics (I remember an MG Midget and early Golf GTi with this arrangement in the work car park), leaving the car rather difficult to either drive or (importantly) tow away. It won't stop enterprising criminals equipped with a lorry and a HIAB crane, but it'll deter most. Simplest is to have a cut-off switch secreted about your car, which is usually plumbed into a main battery connection lead. However, unless it's well hidden, scummy types may find it and carry on un-hindered. Slightly more cunning is to fit a tap to the fuel line at some convenient location, that way the thief will only get a few yards down the road in your treasured motor before coasting to a halt. These are available from motorsport suppliers.
If you subscribe to the school of thought which says that nothing is too bad for the thieving fraternity, please remember that if you wire your car up to the 240v mains supply and fry the next low-life that tries to break into your car, it will be you that's hauled up for illegal activity, and not the toasted 'victim', so isn't really a sensible route to take.

Contents inside the car.

Common sense dictates that leaving anything worthy of stealing visible inside the car, is not a good move. So hide away that rare copy of Autocar magazine, c1968, and your period Motorola radio, permanently tuned to Radio Caroline. Equally, lock away your rare collection of Roberta Flack 8 track cartridges, just in case a nostalgic, one-time '70s groover sidles on by your Vauxhall Victor, and takes a fancy to your tantalising tune collection, on display to all. Needless to say, all mobile phones and sat navs should definitely be out-of-sight, including any tell-tale holders attached to the inside of your car's windscreen, including the rubber sucker marks they can leave behind.
Something quite easy to overlook when it comes to convertible cars is the tax disc .. at the best of times, protecting your nicknacks in a classic roadster is tricky, but don't forget that little disc. OK it may be úzero rated if you are in the UK and in a pre-1973 build car, but it's still a pain in the derriere if it gets swiped. The only way of slowing down someone taking the disc is to fit a high-security or motorcycle-style tax disc holder, and try to fit it in such a way that both removing the holder, and the disc inside, is an involved process and one that most thieves wouldn't have time for. This has become less of a problem since the introduction of computerised taxation records, but nonetheless is still something to look out for.

Car & tool storage.

Do you want to protect a project car from local thieves?? Well, the easiest way to slow someone down from taking your car is to jack it up on axle stands, and remove the wheels. That way only iron-man contenders can walk off with your classic, again unless they have a HIAB to hand and suitable access, or a set of donor wheels and tyres. Another good move is to throw a sheet over it if you're not bothered about the paintwork - the less attention it attracts the better, plus you're less likely to get ear-ache from your neighbours, who (strangely) might not share your delight in overlooking that crusty old '57 Chevy Belair crumbling away to oblivion in your back yard. If the spares car has some particularly rare or valuable parts on it, remove them at the earliest opportunity, again to lessen the attractiveness of what you have parked outside. This is especially true if storing such a vehicle at a remote location, say on a farm.
At my previous home I had a few old cars not in use, that didn't fit into the garage. However I still wanted them to be dry and out of sight if possible. My solution was to cordon off the corner of the garden and throw up a small shelter to house the cars. Access was way down the bottom of the garden and out of sight, important as I like hanging on to my possessions. An understanding wife or husband is required for this plan though.
It isn't just cars that might be worth something to you. Loose spare parts and tools are also expensive to replace, and popular with the light-fingered brigade - after all they're nice and easy to sell down at the pub to make a quick buck, or weigh in at the local scrap metal yard, so it's a good idea to lock up tools and parts carefully. For ideas on storing parts and tools in a nice orderly manner, have a look at my garage storage ideas page when you've finished here.

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