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Manual Transmission = Theft Deterrent?

Two nights ago my 1996 Plymouth Breeze (one owner for the car, 4 for the Manufacturer) was broken into; the would be thief pulled the ignition switch- so the car starts easily with a screwdriver- but did not steal the car, or any of the contents.
Two questions-

  1. How likely is it the would be thief could not drive a stick, and had no idea how to run a car with three pedals and no “D”?
  2. Any harm in continuing to drive using a screwdriver to start and stop the engine?

Any good thief would not be deterred by a manual transmission. I can only guess at starting the car with a screwdriver, and would guess I go with stuff that works. I think car thieves know what cars have alarm features, and yours did not, thus the target. Probably a bad thief that did not know how to drive a stick, ha ha stupid thief!

I have seen some carjackers with that same problem, can’t drive a stick. As for your ignition lock cylinder, if just the lock was damaged, these are easily replaced. If the column itself was damaged, which is almost certain, they are a bit trickier to replace but still no big deal. It takes a couple hours to replace one if you’ve never done it, but they can be found cheap and easy in most any junkyard. You can drive it like this if you want, but it will get old fast if you have little tolerance for driving what seems like a piece of junk, as I do. I bought an F150 a few months ago that had a similar situation: attempted theft left the steering column damaged. It took me less than two weeks to get completely sick of it, go to the junkyard, spend 20 minutes removing a steering column from a similar truck, give the cashier $24, go home, and spend an hour installing the new steering column so I could use a key to start the truck.

They wouldn’t be deterred at all. They may destroy the transmission in the process…but wouldn’t be deterred.

Yes, this has been known for some time. Most people can’t drive a manual transmission car so it follows that most crooks also can’t do that. calls it a lost art form.

One would imagine driving a 1996 Plymouth Breeze is a theft deterrent enough…

One would imagine they got interrupted. How dumb would a thief need to be to first break into a car, crack the lock and then find out they can’t drive the car? If they truly can’t drive stick, they wouldn’t have bothered with it, risking getting caught.

Here in Washington DC most car thieves are teenage or even pre-teen joy riders.
These kids generally don’t have caring parents to teach them about driving stick-shifts or how to be good citizens.
Over the last 30 years I’ve owned 4 stick-shift cars and two automatics.
Both automatics were stolen. One wrecked and the other never recovered.
When the last one was stolen (~1994) the entire city had one detective assigned to car thefts.

Now that anti-theft systems have become pretty sophisticated I might consider an automatic in my next car.

'round these parts, if they can’t steal it or anything of value in it…

Break windows, slash upholtery, slash tires, key the paint job, etc.

That’s my biggest fear…that it can cost more if they DON’T steal it !

Years ago they broke into my house and stole a buch of dumb stuff like frozen food, electric pencil sharpener, belt sander ( not not the Makita tools ), kitchen flour/sugar container, etc.
The biggest fear then ?
That they had taken inventory and were comming back later for the computers, TVs, guitars, jewelry, tools, and such !

Um, this current class of thieves are really, really kind of dumb. I mean its like a closed gene pool and just keeps getting worse. We had a kid come in to a local jewelry store and was looking at huge rings. All of a sudden grabbed them off the counter and out the door to a waiting car. They were followed and arrested. Turns out though that the rings on the counter are all fake samples worth about $100 and the $5000 real rings are in the safe. Another group walked out a side door of Walmart with a big TV. Loaded it in their little car and off to the trailer park. Of course there are cameras everywhere and didn’t take long to locate the car and TV in the trailer park. The Police Dept. does a weekly newletter on activities that week and the apprehensions are hilarious.

One would imagine driving a 1996 Plymouth Breeze is a theft deterrent enough..

I think that Pinto in the other thread is best deterrent.

There’s several reality TV shows dedicated to dumb criminals. This is nothing new.

“Any harm in continuing to drive using a screwdriver to start and stop the engine?”

One potential harm is that a police officer who sees the ignition lock punched out will assume that whoever is driving the car is a car thief. Do you really want to go through that potential hassle, perhaps on multiple occasions?

Another potential harm is that once the ignition lock has been punched out, the car is now much easier to steal than it was previously. Do you really want to risk that there will be a repeat incident?

“How likely is it the would be thief could not drive a stick, and had no idea how to run a car with three pedals and no ‘D’?”

Without trying to be unkind, I have to point out that a “professional” car thief–i.e.–an adult who wants to quickly sell the car for a few thousand $$ to someone for export or other nefarious purposes, is not going to steal a 16 year old car with a very low book value. Instead, a teenager who wants to “joy ride”–and who is smart enough the know that this car is not likely to have an alarm system or electronic theft deterrent devices–is very likely to have been the one who attempted this theft. And, since a very high percentage of teens have never driven a stick shift, I think it is VERY likely that the manual trans is what short-circuited the theft.

Yes, I agree that a 96 Breeze ought to be enough of a deterrent- but it could be that they tried the AC and found that lacking and moved on to a cooler car. Its been really hot here- where hasn’t it been

If the manual transmission is a theft deterrent, then one could make a theft-deterrent device from a short plumber’s plunger and a gearshift knob. Attach the gearshift knob to the plunger and then use the suction cup to attach the plunger to the floor. This might discourage the dumb car thieves. I’m still working on an invention to deter the smarter thieves.

Professional car thieves will just scoop it up with a wrecker and haul it away. No muss, no fuss, looks legit. Most less professional thieves are joyriders or teenagers who think they can make a quick buck by stealing a car. On a similar note, some GM SUVs and trucks, including the Escalade, were recalled a few years back. Seemed anyone with a vehicle and driver could steal these trucks in a matter of seconds. The steering wheel didn’t lock and the shifter lock was not particularly strong, so you just had to force the shifter into neutral, which is apparently not difficult to do, then have the other vehicle push you wherever you needed to go.

I think there’s a pretty good chance your stick shift saved your car. Chances are it wouldn’t start because the thief didn’t know about the clutch safety switch, and didn’t know he would have to press the clutch to get it to start.

While it’s true a professional thief wouldn’t have been stopped by the manual transmission, a lot of car thefts are perpetrated by amateurs who don’t know what they are doing and are just looking for something to take for a joy ride or to use it to commit a crime.

If you don’t intend to fix your ignition switch, I would add another measure that might deter an amateur thief, like a locking anti-theft device on the steering wheel. If you get something like the Club, putting it on backwards, so the lock faces the dashboard instead of facing the driver, can work. However, I would get the switch fixed, especially if you have theft insurance; that’s what it’s for.

I realize there is nothing I can do to stop a professional thief who knows what he is doing, but that doesn’t stop me from taking measures to deter low rank amateur thieves. I figure real pros would want nicer cars than the one I drive. Besides, if a professional thief steals my car, I’ll probably never see it again. If an amateur steals my car, the police will probably find it crashed in a ditch, and I’d get back a car I no longer want.