How Do I Find an Unauthorized GPS Unit on My Car?

Thanks for the link to Also, thanks for setting me straight about the aluminum foil. I guess Mr. Pleasedodgevan was trying to insert some humor…it’s just that I’m not very “literate” in ‘electronic speak,’ so I figured he was helping me out, rather than joking…

I’ve suspected the cell phone–it would be cheaper, more accurate, and definitely more stealthy. Do you know if the tracking still works if I simply turn my phone off?? Even though I’ve questioned my own sanity, not to mention parania, about this, I still believe that he has some way to track me.

Makes me sad. Gotta move on, drive away and never come back…yuck. I guess this is why country songs were written…welcome to heartache… The suggestion to toss the gps device over the cliff and maybe the dude will follow really made me chuckle. Thanks. That also helped. Now it’s up to me to see what I can find. You guys are all great—I can’t thank you enough.

P.S. I also liked the suggestion to attach the gps device to helium balloons and insert into the jet stream—let him try to track that–Ha!!!

Thanks again.

I know some phones have built in GPS which can be set to either always on or just 911 only. I forget how to set it up on mine(Razr), but any phone kiosk should be able to help you. you could always “break” or “lose” your phone if your car turns up a dead end.

you, reba, johnny cash and willy nelson, what a song you could write.

the police can use the signal to track your phone (only while it is on) whether or not you choose to have the gps on, or off! so turning it off will make you invisible.

any idea if this guy is a cop? or does he have a friend that is a cop? you can disable the gps tracking on your phone for public use, but the police can still get the signal for emergency use. if a dishonest cop has access to the system, they can still track you even if you shut off the gps tracking on your phone. NOTICE i said a dishonest cop; because this is NOT what the system is supposed to be used for.

Do you have any type of “E-Z Pass” or other toll payment tag on your windshield? These will allow you to be tracked whenever you enter or exit a toll road or use a bridge or tunnel that has a toll. I had a friend who busted her cheating boyfriend by checking his toll records on-line and found out he was not where he said he was.

Also check your cell phone. If it is GPS enabled your boyfriend can activate services that can track your phone. This is even scarier than him tracking your car.

Either way good luck.


Update—I checked trunk, spare tire well, under hood–lots of big metal boxes and not too many wires–all wires were wrapped with tape and looked as dirty as the rest of the engine. Also felt under seats–Under the passenger front seat, I did feel one loose wire with some kind of thin plastic tag attached, so I felt under the driver’s seat to see if it felt the same. I couldn’t feel any wires there at all. Both seats have electrically controlled adjustment. So I’ll have someone check this out.

I also found the fuse box to see if any loose wires were hanging from it. Nothing. Everything seemed okay. Also, I researched gps units online and found that they are very small—could be hidden anywhere!!!

The next step is to look under the car and bumpers. The weather has been wet and awful lately, and street is wet and filthy.

So here’s my plan(sounds like a campaign promise):
1.)I’m going to take my car to a neighboorhod mechanic, who received glowing reviews right here on the Car Talk web site (Thank you!!). I’ll have them go over the car sometime this next week.
2.)This next week, I’m going to the phone store to see about gps capability on this phone.
3.)I’m going to the local police station–where I’m hoping they won’t think I’m some random crazy person—and ask if there is a way to detect a signal.
4.)If nothing is found, I may take myself on a mental health vacation—and come home and sell the car!!!
5.)Finally, I have been faithful and true to this man. I’m not the type to even TRY to make someone jealous. Quite the opposite—I’ve been loyal, never coy or mysterious. But too many weird things have happened to be mere coincidences, so I’m concerned…Clearly it is time to move on.
Thanks everybody—I’ll keep you posted. Oh—he’s not a cop, but he does have a good buddy who is a cop. I just can’t imagine that he’d ask someone to do something like help track me----but then again, I never thought I’d find myself on this website, asking for help! Thanks again.

It’s likely a magnetic mount tracking device. In this case she should stick it under the bumper of a police car and see what he does.
It would be interesting to hear what the cop would say while the BF was trying to retrieve it.

And I thought my jokes were obvious. At least they’re still not funny.

Get a restraining order if he nuts or maybe see a psychiatrist to get over it if its yourself with these paranoia’s. Good luck.

Thanks for your reply. I really wouldn’t put myself thruogh the scrutiny of a public forum, if I weren’t concerned. Also, I wouldn’t be planning to visit my local police station, if I did not think that my whereabouts were possibly being monitored. I know it sounds crazy and I said so up front. But how many victims have there been who didn’t speak up? I’d rather face the humiliation of being wrong than find myself in danger. Armed with the information and advice I’ve found here, I feel much more confident about how to proceed.

In most counties, there is an organization for battered and abused women. In my county, it is called the Women’s Resource Center and it functions as both a shelter for women and as a counseling resource.

Since the type of behavior that you suspect is characteristic of men who abuse their wives/girlfriends, I believe that, if he is actually tracking you with a GPS device, it will only be a matter of time before he abuses you–either verbally or psychologically, or physically. (Trust me to know this, as I write the Court Complaints in my county relating to situations like this, and I have heard or read it all on this topic!)

So, I would suggest that you contact the equivalent agency in your area. Undoubtedly there have been cases where women were tracked with a GPS device, and the counseling staff at the agency in your area will likely have information about finding the device.

By the way, your ex-BF wouldn’t need a full-fledged GPS unit. Just something like a Lo-Jack unit or a simple “homing” radio beacon (and he has a directional antenna to locate you). As mentioned before, eventually the battery will die (unless it’s hooked up to the car’s electrical system). You’ve seen animal tracking radio collars on nature shows? They can be quite small and light, so your best bet is probably to hire someone experienced with bugs and radio devices to scan for it with RF detection equipment. It may take a while if this thing only transmits periodically.

If your ex-BF is really that paranoid and/or possessive, you would do well to get very far away from him. Eventually he WILL beat the crap out of you when he thinks you’ve been cheating on him (sorry to tell you the bad news). I presume that he’s not the reasonable one and you’re not a wildly promiscuous woman that he would need to keep tabs on. I would hesitate to advocate arming yourself, as it’s more likely that he’d get the gun away from you and use it on you, but you might look into tear gas or pepper spray to keep with you (once you have a restraining order against him).

Do you know if the tracking still works if I simply turn my phone off??

Turning it off will not turn off at least some tracking tools.

Is it possible he is tracking your cell phone? Get a new number just in case.

I really believe you are doing the right thing. People like that need to keep their comments to their self. It’s best to speak up rather then drag this on and something bad happens in the future. As for the boyfriend, by what I have read I am really worried about your safety, and the funny thing is, I don’t even know you. You need to get away!!! Even if he isn’t using a tracking device to locate you every move, he is still invading you personal space by not allowing you to have time to yourself. He shouldn’t be showing up in places your at especially if he wasn’t invited. This is just the beginning, just like someone else said, what’s in it for you in the future with this man? I have been there and started over, it seems hard at first, but to tell you the truth, things get better. Sometimes I believe it is better to be single then tied up, cause then their is no one to answer too, no one to rely on you, and no one to worry about, all you have to do is worry about yourself, single is good especially in a case like yours. And also, please update us on what you find.

If you find a tracking device, send it to me and I will drive around with it for a while.

Mobile Phone GPS: Most digital phones have it. Do you still have the owner’s manual for your phone? It will tell you about the GPS and how to disable it. If you don’t have the manual, you can get it on line from the phone manufacturer.

The big problem with floating off the tracking device or attaching it to a cross-country semi is that your ex-BF will soon figure out that he’s lost the scent. Better: if you find such a device, move it over to some random local person’s car, so it will stay in the area and your ex-BF will spend his time looking in the wrong part of town. By the way, the device’s antenna cannot be hidden behind any metal, which may make it easier to look for it. Of course, it might still work if hidden under plastic or rubber trim, so an RF tracker sweep by an electronics surveillance expert might be in order.

Does anyone really know how these things work? I don’t have time to dig through all the trackers listed on the link given, but they seem to be in one of two categories.

  1. You need to retrieve the tracker later, and download the data to a computer.

  2. You pay for a tracking service to receive transmitted data, probably via satellite.

Did anyone see one that included a tracking receiver?

There are two options for GPS-based tracking units. They can either store tracking information for retrieval later by connecting some sort of reader to the unit or they can broadcast their current location, either all the time or on demand. The former sort are available for parents (or others) to secret in a car and retrieve later so they can see if Jr went where he said he was going or someplace else. They are not too expensive but do not provide real-time information. The On-Star™ system is one of the latter. When you place a call to the control center the system relays your current position as a data stream connected to the call you are placing. Other systems can be set to broadcast more-or-less continuously…perhaps every few minutes, or more, or less, depending on the mission of the tracking device in question…but are much more expensive.

The good news is that instruments are available that can easily detect radio emissions from a nearby location. Fortunately even if a tracker is not broadcasting on any regular schedule or even is not designed to broadcast at all, it can still be detected using exactly the same sort of equipment. Radio receivers (and GPS units are radio receivers) actually emit low level radio frequency signals as part of their normal operation. The FCC regulates how much different sorts of devices are allowed to emit and emissions must be kept low in devices that are not actually designed to be transmitters, but all electronic do-dads emit some RF (Radio Frequency energy). The signals are weak, but are present none the less. This is why you must turn off any radio receivers you have with you (not just radio transmitters) when you are flying as a passenger on an airliner.

There are several types of equipment that could be used to detect RF emissions from an unknown electronic device hidden in an automobile. A common general purpose device with this sort of capability is called an RF Spectrum Analyser. It is in effect a very widely tunable radio receiver able to detect the strength of high frequency (radio) signals over a very wide range of frequencies. Of course no mechanic in town will have one…and no TV or computer repair shop will have one either. But the Electrical Engineering department at a university or technical school may. The senior engineer at your local radio and/or TV station may have one. If you live in a big city with a commercial two-way radio repair shop they might have one. But wherever you find one, you can be sure they will not loan it to you…so just plan to ask nicely for somebody to help you find a hidden radio or GPS receiver in your car.

And don’t worry…anybody nerdy enough to know how to operate an RF Spectrum Analyser is entirely too nerdy to say no to anybody female enough to have a boyfriend. With a Spectrum Analyser and a directional antenna a good tech can pinpoint any device emitting RF that does not belong in your car.

Personally I think it is very unlikely this guy is using any sort of device to track you. He knows you. I presume he knows your friends. He knows your schedule, more or less. He knows your interests. Unless you have completely broken contact with him (and everybody who has any contact with you has done the same) he is picking up clues about what you are up to. Are you on MySpace or Facebook? How much are you telling the world about what is going on in your life on a regular basis? The military may need GPS to target a cruise missile but finding somebody you know a little about does not require any gadgets.

Talk to your friends. Use the buddy system. Talk to the local women’s shelter. Talk to the cops…especially if you are feeling threatened. Your people love you and will close ranks around you. Let them.