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Why would someone steal an owner's manual?

Thieves take lots of odd things, of that there’s no doubt. But, why the heck would they break into a Ford Focus, snatch an owner’s manual… and leave the iPhone? It’s a darn good, and one for which we didn’t give Amy in Chicago a very good answer. Because, frankly, we’re downright baffled.

Is the market really that hot for a book that’s usually only opened when a tire goes flat?

It beats the knickers off of us. Do you have any idea what’s going on? We told Amy we’d share her question right here in the Car Talk Community, in case any of you were more enlightened than us two jamokes.

So… whaddya think? Anyone got any bright ideas?

Yours in publishing big and small heists,

Tom and Ray
Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers

I think it was some kind of gang initiation or teenage prank. You bring back proof of breaking in to someone’s car by bringing back the owner’s manual. That was my first thought.

They are selling on Ebay for $10 to $20.

Because new cars are so hard to steal now, they can get a key made if they take the owner’s manual to a dealer.

Scavenger Hunt.

Perhaps the person who stole the owner’s manual copied pertinent information from the credit card which was in it. It would be possible to use the credit card online if it were not cancelled.

This might not be why they broke in, but I hope she cancelled the credit card. With her name, the credit card number and the 3-digit code on the back, they don’t need the actual card to use it. That could be a good trick, similar to taking checks from the middle of a check book - the owner thinks nothing happened.

It is a relatively simple matter for someone to scan the credit card that was hidden in the owner’s manual and decode the information on it. By copying the card, it becomes possible to charge against it without her knowledge - and without her notifying the credit card company.

I would encourage Amy to watch her credit card statement like a hawk, as the vandals may begin charging against it.

Regards to all,

Glenn Rutz

Someone is definitely taking a souvenir. Gang initiation is possible but here’s another. Perhaps some couple is having intimate relations in other people’s cars trying to do it in as many different cars as possible. They keep a souvenir from each. Unfortunately for Amy, they’ve gone through all the luxury cars in her neighborhood.

It’s not a thief but rather a auto glass repair shop hurt by the economic downturn.

They may have been borrowing the seats and the owner’s manual is not related or not pertinent.

It was one item needed to complete a scavenger hunt. That’s why a group was envolved.

This manual contains the answer to where the weapons of mass destruction are, encoded in the section on tire pressure. The Russian Mafia needed its own copy.

My sister had a very low end model of a car broken into a number of years back. When she asked the Police why they would break into such a basic car, the police mentioned this type of car is often used to ‘train’ new young thieves. This type of car does not have the fancy (more advanced) anti theft devices and so they would have less time pressure. The owners manual is the ‘trophy’ that they passed the test. Cancel the credit card immediately.

Back in 2000, I was a poor college student living in Chicago and was driving a GMC Jimmy (don’t remember the year anymore, it was my brother’s car that I was borrowing). My Jimmy was broken into and, like Amy, my owner’s manual was stolen. They broke in by cutting the locks out of both the driver’s side and passenger side doors, and in addition to the owner’s manual they took my first aid kit. (Maybe they got hurt while cutting the locks out?) In my case there was nothing in the car really worth stealing, since I was a poor college student at the time. I have always assumed this was some sort of gang initiation.

My thinking is running is a different direction. Suppose the theft from Amy?s car was just a smokescreen having nothing to do with valuables, or the owner?s manual, or whatever. What else could the vandals have taken? Information. If the title was in the car, they now have Amy?s full name and address; they can rummage her trash at will. If there was a credit card, they now have the card number, to use at any time. Was her social security number in there anywhere?

So I would be on the lookout for possible identity theft or home invasion and burglary. I would also be concerned a little bit about Amy?s personal safety. I?d suggest getting the police involved ASAP. This is about more than just an owner?s manual.

I would check to see if the vehicle’s airbags are still present. Airbag modules are quite expensive.

I think they needed a fuse. They got out the owner’s manual to figure out: 1) where they were, 2) which one(s) would go unnoticed if removed.

The correct answer has already be submitted. SCAVENGER HUNT… and here is why! Another person was at the repair shop for the same reason. That is clue number one. Clue 2, scavenger hunts have a time limit. You will not have time to order one from the dealer. Clue 3, it was the passenger side window that was broken. That’s the window nearest to the glove compartment. Who would do this? Think college kids, think frat house, think you might as well stop thinking about it. The good news … they may bring the manual back, but the window, hey if they are college kids, you’re stuck.

Regardless of their motive, one other item of concern I would note is the possibility for identity theft. As you indicated, they did go thoroughly over your car, and at minimum your title, registration, insurance ID cards were available. They now have your name, address (all the better to complement your credit card), insurance policy numbers, and registration information from the DMV. Not sure how easy it would be to obtain more personal information from that dataset, but I wouldn’t put it past them these days…