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For most families, their car/s are the second biggest investment after their home and for many young families that rent their home; their car is their biggest investment. So, it only makes sense to take the time and perhaps a small investment to keep your car secure.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) recommends a "Layered Protection." You can make it more difficult or make your vehicle an undesirable target by adding various layers of protection. The common sense suggestions don't cost anything, but make a big difference.

  • Lock your car and remove the Keys - An open car with the keys in the ignition is an open invitation for a thief to remove your personal belongings and steal your car. While someone living in North Jersey would never think of leaving their car running in front of 7-ll or WaWa, in Central and South Jersey it?s commonplace. You have compromised any kind of anti-theft system that is installed by leaving your keys in the ignition. If you have to leave your keys when parking in a garage or using valet parking, only leave your ignition key, not your house keys, and remove your registration, insurance card, or any other documents that contain your address. You don't want a thief to know where you live if a duplicate key is made. Never leave an extra key or valet key in your glovebox.
  • Park in a secure area or a well lighted area - Most thieves don't want to be seen or noticed trying to gain access to your car, plus this offers you personal protection when entering or exiting your car.

There are a number of add on security devices available that deter theft and these item may inspire a thief choose an easier target.
  • Steering wheel/Brake pedal lock ? These take time to remove and expose the thief to being seen with a neon colored bar in his hands.
  • Wheel Locks ? Regardless any other theft system, a good quality specially keyed wheel lock will protect your Mag wheels and tires.
  • Window Etching - Your windows are etched with an identification number making it undesirable as a used part. It is strongly suggested that you insist on having your VIN vehicle identification number or the last 8 digits of the VIN etched as opposed to a number unique to the installing company. Police can readily cross match your car?s VIN and if your car is stolen this is the number entered into the National Crime Intelligence Center (NCIC) FBI database.
  • Laminated Glass - An after market laminate can be added to your vehicle?s windows to make it extremely difficult to break. This material is available tinted and can also serve as a sunscreen. 
  • Audible Alarms - These systems sound an alarm when a door or another compartment is opened to bring attention to your vehicle. This type of system should be part of an immobilizing system.
  • Deterrent Decals ? Decals indicating that you have an alarm installed may deter a thief from attempting to challenge your alarm or finding out if there is an alarm really installed.

Many of the older popular stolen vehicles (See New Jersey's Top Stolen Vehicles) allow a thief to quickly remove the ignition lock cylinder and break the steering wheel lock, then insert a screwdriver into the ignition switch and drive away in 3 minutes or less. An immobilizing system is designed to prevent the thief from starting and driving your car away by disabling the ignition system, the starter, the fuel system, or a combination. The best systems are installed by the vehicle manufacturer and are called a Transponder System or Smart Key. This system has proved to be the best and has been virtually undefeated by car thieves.

Transponder System or Smart Key:
This type of system has become very popular and the car manufactures have been installing this system under many different names: GM has the PASSlock theft-deterrent system, Ford has the SecuriLock - Passive anti-theft system, etc. These systems have an electronic chip in the ignition key. This is a ?Passive? system, which means that when you remove the ignition key the ignition portion of the anti-theft system is disabled automatically. When the key is inserted into the ignition lock, a signal is sent to the car?s computer, which determines if it?s the right key with a unique code for this vehicle, which allows it to start. Using a key cut the same as the original and turning the ignition will not let the car start; likewise removing the ignition lock will not defeat the system. The signal is digital and therefore cannot be by-passed by hotwiring. If you are planning to buy or lease a new car this is a ?must have? option. It is standard on most mid to high-end models or offered as an option. Make sure you check, not all luxury models such as the Cadillac Escalade have a transponder anti-theft system, despite having an anti-theft system and the On-Star communication package as standard equipment.

Note: Many transponder systems such as the GM PASSlock allow the owner to set various options for activating the alarm. The standard default allows the key to open the doors without setting off the alarm. This would allow a thief to defeat the door lock or break a window and enter the car without setting off the alarm. While the thief couldn't drive your car away, he would have access to your belongings. Fortunately, in the 2002 and newer models, you can select a setting that only allows the anti-theft system to be deactivated by the remote control. This affords the best protection.

After Market Alarms: There are a number after market and dealer installed alarms systems that prevent the car from starting even if a thief has defeated your ignition lock. Keep in mind you get what you pay for. Find an established alarm dealer that has been in business a number of years. Have the dealer show you an installed system. The wiring and alarm components should be well hidden and the wiring under the hood should blend in with the vehicle?s wiring. The alarm should have sensors to detect the opening of the door, hood, and trunk. A motion sensor or a sensor that detects breaking glass can provide additional valuable security if installed properly. The alarm should activate with a remote in conjunction with the door locks. Again, as noted above, make sure that the alarm activates when the door is opened with the key. Use only the remote to deactivate the alarm. Allowing the system to be programmed to activate when opening the door with the key shuts the alarm system off. Thieves can easily defeat a door lock with a screwdriver or break a window and then open the door from the inside, which will shut off the alarm. Unlike a car with a transponder anti-theft system, the protection of the alarm system has now been removed and the ignition can be defeated. Some systems have an option that will sense that the ignition has been shut off and will automatically active the alarm system after a door is opened and closed.

Kill Switch: On a tight budget. Pick up a miniature toggle switch at your local Radio Shack; then find a concealed location that you can easily reach to turn it off & on. Make should the switch matches amperage for the wiring. Use a wiring diagram to locate the wire going from your ignition switch to the starter solenoid or trace it back from your starter. Cut the wire and using the same size wire loop it to the switch. Most thieves won't waste time looking for a remote switch. It also helps to locate a dummy switch in a not so hard to find location to add to the confusion. Remember this type of system only works if you remember to set it every time you leave your car. It also won't prevent the thief from damaging your ignition lock, but your car has a much better chance of being there in the morning.

Remote Start Systems: Beware not all remote start systems are created equal. Have a dealer explain the safeguards for the different systems to prevent the theft of your car while it?s running. Make sure that the remote start system doesn't permanently by-pass the transponder anti-theft system rendering the best anti-theft system on the market useless. A good quality RF reader box is used in the better systems and is hidden away from the ignition. You can test the system by getting your key duplicated with a non-transponder key cut to open your door. This key shouldn't be able start your car.

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