Help with theif!

I bought a beautiful 2003 Ford E-150 cargo van last year for $9,000. It had only 29,000 miles on it and was in perfect condition. I got it to use for a new business that I was starting, a portable digital photography studio.

I had a professional graphic designer create stunning advertising on the van to attract business. I must say that the adverting was quite effective. Someone broke into the van last week at my apartment expecting to find expansive camera equipment. I do not keep any thing of value in the van when not on a job, so the thief only got a backpack that hand things I use when driving a taxicab on the weekend. Since the alarm went off, they only had a few seconds to grab and run.

The thief entered through the back doors by popping off the lock. After the fact I learned that the lock is only mounted on a thing plastic plate. This is the recessed plastic insert that also houses the license plate. To fix the broken lock back to the original condition I need to replace the recessed plastic insert for $185 (which also includes the door handle) and the lock-kit for $125. With the labor it will cost nearly $500.

The sad fact is that if I pay this $500 to restore the damage, it will be as vulnerable as before. It only takes a screw drive and two seconds to pop it off again. Yellow Cab?s locksmith says that he gets a lot of business from this type of break-in.

What I would like to do is seal the whole where the lock was with reason or a plastic or metal plate, and then install an electric solenoid bolt to secure the door with a switch in the driver?s compartment. I searched the Internet for a solenoid bolt, but only found a few bolts may or may not work in my application.

Do you know of any vendors for solenoid bolts that might fit my needs?


-Mark Page-

San Jose, California

Sorry I don’t know anything about the solenoid bolts, but I can tell you the low-tech solution. A place I used to work at had an older ford cargo van and the boss’s solution to this problem was to bolt a metal bracket onto each door and if we had anything expensive in the back we’d put a pressure-treated 2x4 across them. I suppose this was taking the term “barn door” to its literal conclusion.

The only drawback was that you had to crawl back to lock or unlock it. Perhaps you could rig up a rope and pulley system to the front, but I suppose this might start to interfere with maintaining a professional image.

In my limited experience, hidden provisions are not as effective. The thief will destroy things not knowing it is protected. I would want some sort of highly visual cue that it might take more than prying on the door/latch to get in. A cheap and effective means might be a hasp type setup with a security padlock. Nothing will keep a determined or professional thief out but anything you can do to discourage the rest will help.

If you’re handy, you might be able to use a solenoid to work the OEM latch. JC Whitney has a cheap solenoid here:;0;0;0;100001;ProductName;0;0;0;N;2003047;0;0

Another option is to install a heavy duty exterior hasp like many vending machines have. Here’s one from American Lock:

Things to do to help prevent break in.

  1. Have a metal petition installed to separate the passenger compartment from the cargo area.

  2. Have heavy duty hockey puck locks installed on the back, and side cargo doors as DocterPinto suggested, another link

  3. If you have windows on the back, or side doors you will need to protect them as well.

Ask the Yellow Cab locksmith what he recommends.

I just leave my truck unlocked with everything removed. Then thieves can open the doors, look around and see there’s nothing in the vehicle worth stealing, and they then move on to the next vehicle. And if that vehicle’s locked they smash out a window or do some other damage to that vehicle to get in.

If they want in, they’re going to get in one way or another!


I thought I was the only forum member that admitted they drove a pick-up :)so non-green.

I should have mentioned that the van was owned by an electrical contractor and he had the full security cage factory installed. There are no back windows and there are no side windows, so no one can see what is in the van. Due to the advertising, a potential thief?s immigration will get the best of him.

If I cannot find a good solenoid bolt solution, I may look at the heavy duty hasp idea. The only problem with that is that, if thy use a crowbar to pry it off, it will do some real damage to the doors.

I can also fix it so the rear doors cannot be oppened, but I would loose access and it might have the same problem as the hasp; that is, a thief doing damage to try and break into the van.

Here is a photo of the van:

I dunno how to secure your truck. But convenience stores put signs in their windows that say things like “registers never contain more than $30,” and I have seen big locked boxes at construction sites that say “For interoffice mail – no valuables inside.” Presumably the signs have some deterrent value. Maybe you could mount little signs next to each lock that would say something like “We’re not stupid! NO VALUABLES INSIDE!” You might also need to ask yourself whether the advertising value of writing “Portable Digital Photography Studio” on the sides of your truck is worth the risk. That makes it sound like the truck IS the “portable” etc. Just showing the web site is enough information for people to learn about your business and how to contact you.

“Due to the advertising, a potential thief?s immigration will get the best of him.”

Freudian slip?

No windows on side or back. See photo below.

The van already has the security cage. The original owner put eyelets on the back and sliding doors to secure with padlocks. He even added eyelets on the security cage, to improve security. Since I was not storing anything of value in the van, I did not padlock them from the inside. If I had, the thief might have done more damage to the van.

If I get a solenoid bolt, it will not be seen by a thief (as mentioned by another poster), and a thief may try and pry the door open, causing damage to the van.

If I use your solution, it may deter the grab-and-run thief. I can also get more than one keyed the same. I could even put them on the sliding door, and perhaps the driver and passenger doors.

Thanks for the suggestion.

A sign would be a good idea! Make sure the sign has a message in english and spanish.

If they want in bad enough, they’re gonna get in. Crow bar the doors off, break the glass, THEY’RE GONNA GET IN.
– A thief’s worst enemy is time – So a deterrent is all you can hope for.( The sign is already in place so forget about removing the incentive. )

There’s a product called ‘jimmi jammer’ ( ) that is a steel plate which mounts inside of door handles to deflect the attempt to get through from the outside. I don’t know if they make one for your rear door but you could use the idea to fabricate similar.
While you’re at the fabricators, see if they can rebuild/replace the whole license frame with steel, or similar redesign that would also prevent break in.

Have you thought of a car alarm?

The kind that pages you if the alarm is tripped is best. Instead of the parking lot noise makers that are so often ignored.

It sounds like something Popeye would say.

I think you should contact an armored car company to ask for advice on how they fortify their armored vans.

The hockey puck locks that americar recommended would work better than a traditional lock hasp. Check out americar’s link: I would get them set for the same key and put them on all the doors.

I like the ideas of a sign indicating no valuables, as well as leaving it unlocked. That’s about all you can do. If someone wants in, they’ll find a way and that will undoubtedly cause more damage.

I would keep it locked for sure, but if you keep nothing of value in it, why not replace the back doors with doors that have glass? Anyone could see that there’s nothing in the van and it makes it safer to drive because you can see behind you.