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The Most Effective Anti-Theft Devices

While no anti-theft device insures immunity from theft, the presence of one or more of these devices certainly increases automobile owners' odds of finding their car or truck right where they left them. These are often divided into categories—electronic immobilizers, mechanical immobilizers, locking devices, cut-off devices, stolen vehicle recovery systems, and alarm systems—that correspond with their function. From visible to invisible, internal to external, anti-theft products vary in effectiveness and expense. The key to anti-theft options is that they either draw attention to the vehicle—and thereby to the potential thief—or slow down the thief's progress, which affords more time for someone else to happen upon the crime in progress. The following are a few of the more effective anti-theft options with which you may wish to arm your own automobile.

VIN Etching

A vehicle identification number (VIN) is a distinct serial number stamped on the dashboards of automobiles that differentiates one from all others. Since the object of most car thieves is to profit from the sale of the stolen vehicle, VINs are a strong deterrent. VIN etching places the VIN on the windows and windshield (noticeable only from close range and without damaging the glass), and because the thief will need to give the automobile a new identity, he or she will now need to first replace all the glass. Replacing the glass eats at the profit margin, and therefore at the desire to steal your particular model.

Visible Steering Wheel Lock

A steering wheel lock is a good one to combine with other anti-theft solutions. It can be an effective visual deterrent for some thieves, but may not slow down the more advanced car thieves enough. These are, however, easily stored and simple to use and remove with your key.

Tire/Wheel Locks

Tire locks are difficult to miss. They are similar to what police use to immobilize an automobile where it sits. This is probably the strongest visual deterrent. The vehicle cannot be moved without a tow truck until the device is removed, and it cannot be removed easily without the key or proper equipment. Either way, the attempt would be time-consuming and noisy, and in most cases, too risky and inefficient. Wheel locks are more discreet, but also rather effective against theft of your wheels. If you have specialty or custom-made rims or tires, you may want to invest in wheel locks. These are special lug nuts that require a key, not just a lug wrench, for removal. Typically, one of these lug nuts is used per wheel, while the others are regular lug nuts.

Steering Column Armored Collars

The armored collar does not prevent a thief from entering your vehicle, but it does prevent him or her from driving off with it. One of the most common ways a thief will make off with your automobile is by breaking or peeling the steering column. This particular device is invisible until the car thief tries peeling the column. The thief may resort to a different method of stealing your car or truck, but there is a good chance he or she will simply abandon the effort and target a different vehicle.


Although you have heard the annoying sounding of a car alarm multiple times in recent years when the vehicle was in no danger of being stolen, you likely at least glanced in its direction to make certain your own car or truck was not producing the noise. The effectiveness of alarms depends on the location of your parked automobile and the proximity of people—and people who actually care. However, alarms do attract the attention of anyone lingering around or walking nearby, and if there is a chance that someone will look in its direction and the thief cannot disarm it quickly enough, the thief may not risk detection. Custom alarms have a better chance at drawing attention, as they are at the very least distinct.

Electronic Tracking Devices

These are not preventative devices, but they do increase your odds of recovering your stolen auto. When used in combination with one of the manual or other preventative anti-theft devices, it gives car owners a little more peace of mind.

Gearshift Locks

These hefty pins are inserted next to the gearshift to prevent thieves from shifting the vehicle into the drive position. Though a more-or-less permanent solution, these are installed for simple removal and attachment by the owner of the car or truck, and work with both manual and automatic transmissions.