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Finding the Right Car Security System

Updated on August 29, 2010

I have had my car stolen once and broken into twice. It is not an experience that I ever want to live through again. The problem with car security systems is that they all have their limitations and benefits. I listed limitations first, for a reason. All security systems have major problems. They all have an Achilles’ heal so to speak.

Passive security systems exist on a simple principle; stop the would-be robber from getting the car. The simplest of these are systems like the Club or even your door locks. Of course you should always lock your doors, but against a real pro, door locks will only buy you a few moments of time before they have your vehicle open. I have watched trained locksmiths open a locked car in under ten seconds. They didn’t even look like they were trying. Now, ideas like the Club or any other steering wheel or brake petal locking system become a secondary hindrance to car thieves. They will stop the amateur car thief, but will again only slow down a professional. When the Club first came out, thieves were simply pulling the steering wheel off and leaving with your car and your Club. Others simply cut through them, or break off the lock and simply remove them. However, if the thief is simply trying to steal a car, they might move on to the next one if you use a passive security system. Or they might just ransack your car, which is what happened to me once when I was using the Club. They broke in, mashed the lock on the Club, and stole everything in the car. I had to cut the Club off the next day because they had done so much damage to the lock.

Electronic alarms are great at scaring away many car thieves. However, if your car is of decent value, they will simply disable the alarm from under the front of the car at your battery. Once they break in, they can disable the rest of the alarm, reattach the power, and drive off. The best thing about electronic alarm systems is that they dissuade looters and may stop all amateur thieves. The other good thing is that many of the better manufacturers offer insurance against if your car is stolen if you register their product.

Tracking security systems, such as Lo-Jack and On-Star, do a great job once the vehicle is stolen. They do nothing against looters and can also be thwarted by true professionals, but they may be able to get you your car back.

The type of car security system that I ended up with is a smart ignition-based system. Once the system is armed through a small switch that I hid in my dash, it cannot be disarmed until a combination is entered into my ignition-control box. If the car is started, either with the key or if it is hot-wired, the car will run for about one minute and then the ignition-control will begin to stop sending a spark to one cylinder at a time every minute. The car will sputter and eventually stall out after about eight minutes. The ignition system will not turn on again without a different code being entered into it. The beauty of this system is that it is not directly tied to my battery. It has no obvious wiring or sirens. It will not stop looters, but my car is not going anywhere once it is armed. Also, the ignition-control box looks completely stock and is mounted in the stock location with the stock wiring. The only way to beat this system is to tow the car away, which is not beyond the professionals.

The truth of the matter is this, you need to determine the right car security system for your needs. If you are worried about looters, get an electronic alarm system. If you simply want to dissuade would-be thieves, use an obvious passive system. If your car is of tremendous value you will want to use a combination of a tracking security system and an ignition-control system. Of course, price is always a consideration as well. Just remember that no system, or combination of systems, is enough to stop a motivated professional thief. Do your research and remember that the best defense for your car is a ton of prevention. Park in well-lit, secure areas and don’t ever leave anything of value in your car.


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