Car security issues

Dear Car Talk, I have a 2002 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport. I have been a magnet lately for people who would want to get into my car without my consent. I just had the door lock key cylinders replaced and today someone got into the car again. I am wondering how they would be getting in and what can I do next to hold them off other than a gun or vicious dog in the car. A cop said that it is possible to file a key to use to pick the lock and another idea is that they have copied the remote key fob and are using that to get in.

My advice is to make your car an unattractive target.

If they’re breaking in to take stuff, don’t leave any stuff they’d want to take.

If they’re stealing or trying to steal the car itself, you could look into a deterrent anti theft device, like The Club; it won’t stop a pro but it will encourage an amateur to move on to a softer target, especially if you install it backwards to make the lock harder to break.

Why would anyone want to steal a 17 year old car, even for parts? Stop leaving stuff IN the car overnight and the temptation will subside.

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Not necessarily. I never leave anything at all in my truck, and it gets broken into at least twice a year. I’ve taken to leaving the door unlocked just so the idiots don’t break a window to get in.

In my case, it’s high school kids playing a game called “car shopping” in which they roam around stealing things out of cars and tally what everyone got at the end of the night to determine a winner.

If a physical key will open the door, most anyone skilled in lock-picking will be able to open it. Not sure how easy it is to crack the fob door lock electronics. Probably depends on the manufacturer. Anything can be cracked with enough effort, but I’d guess they use a rolling encryption code, like is used on newer garage door openers, so even if someone captures the transmitted signal as the owner opens the door using the fob, that same signal won’t work the next time. So you’re most likely the victim of somebody who knows how to pick car door locks. An acquaintance of mine was having a problem with their car’s starter motor being stolen. Happened 2 or 3 times over the course of a year. Whoever was doing it left in a hurry one time and forgot some of their tools, which the police determined to be lock picking equipment. OP could look the bright side, the most common way thieves do this is by throwing a rock through the window. Not only do you lose your stuff inside the car, you are also left with an expensive repair.

The best solution is probably a car alarm system that makes a big noise if the door is opened by anybody besides the owner. That’s not foolproof, nothing is, but it gives the thief a reason to target another car instead of yours.

car door locks aren’t exactly high security.

I rekeyed a 1996 Ford van with brand new key locks from Ford. Turns out my old worn out key that worked my 1980 Ford van would also work the new locks.

I would echo the sentiments above to not leave valuable stuff in your car.

I’m not sure why anyone would pick a door lock when it would be so much easier (and probably faster) to use a slim jim to unlock the door. Have you seen how fast those Pop-A-Lock guys can unlock your car with a slim jim?


That reminds me of a story. My Uncle Paul owned a late 1950s Ford pickup truck that he bought used in the mid 1960s. In 1980, my parents bought their first new car, a full-size Ford Econoline van. They both used the same keys. Ford must not have many different key patterns, because that was one heck of a coincidence.


Welcome back Moonmen. When I was in college, my roomate had an old '79 Supra. I sold it to him. We lived in the ghetto. The kind of place where a person would be killed on your stoop by a broomstick or the apartment next to yours would be robbed and only food taken (both really happened). That car was also a magnet and the ignition tumbler could be removed by an experienced thief and then the car could be started with a flat-head screwdriver. After the first ignition replacement, my roommate left the screwdriver in the car in the cuphlder and would report it to police after it would disappear. They found it a few times for him. Out of gas in the “Acre” neighborhood near ours. The only one tougher than ours. When he asked how he could prevent the recurring break ins and thefts, the cops told him to “graduate and move.” We did. No more break ins.

Which is why he should have asked a mechanic, because a hidden starter or fuel kill switch will stop most car thieves cold, unless they’re part of a group and have their own quick-pick tow truck. :wink:


Never tried it, but I think it would be pretty difficult to open either of my Corolla’s front doors with a slim jim. I had to repair the front passenger side lock one time, removed the guts of the locking mechanisms in the process. The door lock latching mechanism and associated rods are purposely configured behind metal enclosures and hard to get at. I think a thief would have better luck to go over the top of the window and try to grab hold of the little locking pop-up knob at the top of the door.

The following vdo claims to open a Toyota with no key in 15 seconds. I can see conceptually how they get the trunk open, but I don’t understand how they got the door opened. It’s probably explained in the audio, which I’m unable to listen to w/this computer set-up. That method wouldn’t work on a basic Corolla like mine, no trunk lid release in the passenger compartment. The virtues of simplicity I guess.

It is possible that they are entering the vehicle though unlocked doors. Old door lock actuators become weak and operate intermittently with age. Who pays attention to the rear door locks when walking away from the car? there may be one or more door lock that fail to lock when leaving the vehicle.

Give up, take everything out of the car that can be removed, don’t lock it. Leave the glove box door open, open the cubby between the seats. You want to make it clear that’s there’s nothing inside to be stolen.

I had a friend in Boston who had a similar problem and he also had a kill switch installed. The toggle was in the cigarette lighter socket. It worked very well, and the car was never stolen or even ransacked again

I had a similar experience. At the end of the work day I parked the 1986 Ford E350 van. I unlocked my 1971 Ford Mustang MACH 1, started it and drove home. I was missing my house key! I realized I had the van key in my hand. I compared the keys and they had the same cut. I tried the Mustang key in the van the next morning and it worked fine.

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