Reader Question: Theft-Proofing Older Cars?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Tim asks: I have been thinking about getting something pre ’95, due to all the advantages you mentioned and lower personal property tax. My biggest worry is that it may get stolen. Are there any real deterrents to theft? I have an acquaintance that got an old El Camino towed away from a shop it was at. Also, neighbor had older car stolen out of driveway.

My reply: Theft is, of course, a potential worry with any car. And it’s arguable that newer cars are more vulnerable simply because they are worth more – their parts, especially. One of the additional advantages of owning an older car – especially if it’s a “beater” – is that it’s more likely to be left in peace. You can park such a car  on the street with less worry than a new/newer car. You certainly won’t be as upset if you come out one morning and discover someone scraped the fender.

Also, bear in mind that new car theft-proofing won’t stop a pro. It may stop a street kid, etc.

One thing you can do to prevent an older car from being stolen is to wire in a secret “kill” switch that only you know about. A switch that cuts off power to the engine/ignition system. Very easy to do. Just locate the switch somewhere not obvious. If the car still gets stolen, it was a pro – and there wasn’t much you could have done to prevent it.

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Defending against a tow truck is extremely difficult. Keeping the car from being driven away under its own power not so much.

    A hidden ignition kill switch will do well. Another trick is to remove a key component like the coil wire. Also if you know the car’s wire harness that helps too. Unplug the right plug and the car is disabled. If the car is an electric fuel pump that too can be put on a switch. Best to put the switch on the signal side of the relay that activates the pump. Older Fords have an inertia switch to cut the fuel pump out after the car is hit, that would be another place to put a switch.

    Of the more obvious theft prevention devices my favorite is a sheet steel device that locks around the steering column. This was/is made for 1980s GM products at the very least.

  2. Why farm trucks are never stolen:

    **They have a range of about 20 miles before they overheat, break down or run out of gas.

    **Only the owner knows how to operate the door to get in or out.

    **It is difficult to drive fast with all the fence tools, grease rags, ropes, chains, buckets, boots and loose papers in the cab.

    **It takes too long to start and the smoke coming up through the rusted-out floorboard clouds your vision.

    **The Border Collie on the toolbox looks mean.

    **They’re too easy to spot. The description might go something like this: The driver’s side door is red, the passenger side door is green, the right front fender is yellow, etc.

    **The large round bale in the back makes it hard to see if you’re being chased.

    **You could use the mirrors if they weren’t cracked and covered with duct tape.

    **Top speed is only about 45 mph.

    **Who wants a truck that needs a year’s worth of maintenance, u-joints, $3,000 in bodywork, taillights and a windshield.

    **It’s hard to commit a crime with everyone waving at you.

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