As winter approaches, with the clocks already set back an hour and the nights getting ever longer, it is a sad fact that car crime levels will likely increase. Thieves are opportunist and realise that they are less likely to be identified by CCTV systems, digital doorbells or good, old-fashioned passers-by during the darker nights. So here are our top tips to help you avoid becoming the victim of overnight car crime during winter.
Park it securely
It might sound obvious, but if you’re lucky enough to have access to a private garage, use it. It might seem like hassle to have to get out in cold weather to open the garage before driving your car into it, before contemplating doing the whole process in reverse in the morning, but that’s a lot better than waking up to no car at all because you left it out in the open. Stick the car in the garage and lock it up, and you’ll significantly cut down the chances of the vehicle being taken in the night.
Of course, not all of us have access to a garage, but if you’ve got a driveway with a barrier or gates across it, that’s better than leaving the car on a dark street. Essentially, the more securely you can park the car, the less likely it will be that the vehicle will be stolen.
Light it up
If you’ve not got a garage or a lockable driveway, or even a driveway at all, the best thing you can do is leave the car in a well-lit area if you can. Right underneath a streetlight is good, or if you’ve got on-street parking slap bang in front of your residence, some sort of security lamp pointing at the car would be a great idea. Thieves don’t want to be recognised and the longer night-time hours give them a greater blanket of protection in that regard, so if you can do anything to keep the car lit up during the evening, all the better.
Use old-fashioned security devices
You might have an alarm and/or immobiliser on your vehicle, but don’t underestimate how much of an added deterrent a visible steering-wheel lock will be to a would-be car thief. The disc-type locks are the preferred method, although even the simpler bar-type can help. It’s another delaying tactic to a potential thief and while it might not put every single criminal off, it will certainly slow down even the most determined of them – perhaps long enough for them to get caught in the act.
Remove all valuables
Don’t leave anything on show in cars overnight if you can help it. This doesn’t only include the obvious, like aftermarket satnavs, dashcams and mobile phones, but also laptops, shopping bags… pretty much any personal possessions. While a thief might not be after your entire car, which is a more involved job to steal, an opportunist ‘smash-and-grab’ raid for something pricey in the interior can be avoided if you make sure you empty the car of everything at night. And it’s no good putting stuff in the glovebox, either – thieves are wise to that. Especially if there’s a telltale round-ring marker on the windscreen where you affix the item with a sucker pad to the glass inside; so wipe your screen down of these giveaway signs before you get out of the car as well.
Purchase a Faraday cage for your key fob
Cars with remote central locking and keyless entry are susceptible to something called a ‘relay attack’. A two-person job, this high-tech form of theft has one thief using a device to amplify the signal from the car’s key in the house, and then relay it to another device held by their accomplice to open the car and get it to start. This effectively increases the range of the key – so the way to solve this is to buy a Faraday cage for yourself. These simply block electromagnetic fields and come in the form of either a special pouch or a small box, and they typically cost less than €30. Pop your key inside and it’ll mean the relay attack cannot possibly work, securing your vehicle during the night-time hours.
If you own a motorcycle or similar two-wheeled machine, make sure you secure it with an anchor and chain. If you have a van and you don’t have a garage, park it tight up against walls, if possible, to prevent sliding side or opening rear double-doors from being easily accessed. Make sure you take all your tools out of your van at night as well, and put a sticker on the back of it to that effect – such items are readily available.
Defrost your car safely
One of the follow-ons from long, dark winter nights is a frozen car in the morning. You might be an early riser and you could be having to defrost your vehicle when it’s still dark outside, but even if it’s a bit lighter, don’t leave your car idling and unattended while trying to defrost the windscreen. Car thieves are aware of weather forecasts too and, on the coldest mornings, they will patrol urban areas looking for unattended cars with their engines running – it’s an easy win for a criminal if they find one. So make sure you stay with your car while you defrost it, even if that means sitting in a cold vehicle for 10-15 minutes. Again, while it might not be the most comfortable experience, it’s a lot better than nipping inside the house and coming back outside to find your car is gone completely – especially as insurance companies may not pay out if they find you have been culpable in the theft of the vehicle.