Has your vehicle been stolen and then recovered? While it’s all well and good to get your vehicle back again, there are a few things you should do to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
Car theft recovery is a service provided by many auto locksmiths in the United States, and it’s an important service that keeps you and your vehicle safe and secure from the effects and consequences of vehicle theft.
What is car theft recovery and why is it so essential? How can automotive locksmiths help you secure your vehicle after it’s been recovered? Perhaps more importantly, how can you deter vehicle theft from happening in the first place?
Car theft is rampant in the United States
There’s no doubt about it: car theft is running rampant all across the United States. It’s one thing to think about the reasons why car theft has soared since 2019, but that’s beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say that it is happening at an alarming rate and costing Americans billions of dollars every year.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), there were 936,315 reported car thefts in 2021, far exceeding estimates previously made in that year and showing a 17% increase in car thefts since 2019.
Denver, CO was the city leading the nation with the highest rates of car theft in 2022, showing an increase of over 150% from 2019-2022. That’s not something to boast about, but it is something to take into consideration as a vehicle owner. Preventative action can go a long way towards deterring car thieves and reducing the need to have to call the police, a car locksmith, and to go through all of the hassle of having your car stolen in the first place.
What is car theft recovery?
Hundreds of thousands of vehicles are being stolen every year in the United States, but only around 56.4% are recovered. If you’ve been able to recover your stolen vehicle, perhaps with the assistance of local police, then that’s already a good start – but it’s only the beginning of securing your vehicle.
When a burglar breaks into your vehicle, they may or may not have access to your keys. The NICB reported that in 2021 over 100,000 vehicle thefts were facilitated by keys or key fobs, making up around 11% of all vehicle thefts reported in the United States. In other words, many drivers simply leave their keys in the ignition and leave the vehicle unattended for long enough for a burglar to simply walk right in and drive off.
If you’ve recovered the vehicle, the burglar may still have your keys on hand and can access the vehicle again if he knows where to find you. If the burglar doesn’t have the keys, your vehicle may still be prone to burglary in the future if the door lock has been damaged.
Car theft recovery is a service provided by qualified automotive locksmiths which entails securing your vehicle from any past burglaries and repairing, rekeying, key cutting and/or replacing any locks so that you and only you have access to the vehicle.
How auto locksmiths help with car theft recovery
Now that we’ve covered what car theft recovery is, how can a locksmith help you secure your vehicle after it’s been recovered? Depending on the risk of future burglary and damage caused to your vehicle, some of the most common services they provide include:
Rekeying and lock replacement
Perhaps the most important thing to do after recovering a stolen vehicle is to have it rekeyed. This means that your locks will be replaced with new locks and subsequently all of your keys will need to be cut and programmed from scratch.
Rekeying is strongly recommended if your vehicle was stolen and the thief had (or has) a set of keys as they can simply steal your vehicle again in the future if you do not change the locks.
Key fob reprogramming & key cutting
In tandem with rekeying your vehicle’s locks, the locksmith will also create a brand-new set of keys that are compatible with your vehicle’s immobilizer and transponder, thereby rendering any missing keys completely unusable.
Programming key fobs requires specialized equipment and expertise, so leave this job to a qualified automotive locksmith.
Ignition cylinder repair & replacement
It may also be necessary to have your ignition cylinder locks replaced along with the door locks for the same reason as mentioned above. Although popularized in Hollywood movies, most thieves today simply cannot steal a car by hotwiring two conveniently placed wires under the steering column. Cars made in recent decades (heck, nearly half a century) use immobilizers that make it extremely hard (or virtually impossible) to ‘hotwire’ as seen in the movies.
Instead, thieves either rely on you misplacing your keys or leaving them in the vehicle while you step out for a moment. Modern cars with keyless ignition systems can be stolen using devices that plug into the onboard diagnostic (OBD) port, however, so it is still important to have your ignition cylinder replaced and rekeyed if your vehicle is recovered.
How to deter vehicle theft
It used to be good advice to tell drivers to avoid parking in dark, hidden areas. That still holds true, but nowadays may thieves are so brazen as to steal vehicles in broad daylight and in full view of others. You shouldn’t take your chances when it comes to vehicle theft, so act accordingly and secure your vehicle with some of the below tips:
Use your car alarm
Car alarms are extremely common on most newer models, so if you’ve got one you should really be using it. One downside is that car alarms have a nasty tendency to be overly sensitive, which can lead to many false alarms and generally be a nuisance to you and perhaps to your neighbors, but that can be solved by reducing the sensitivity.
A car alarm is a great deterrent to all but the most determined of burglars, and it can work extremely well if layered with other defenses such as steering wheel locks and not leaving your vehicle unattended if you can’t help it.
Use a steering wheel lock
Many of our member partners here on Auto Locksmiths insist that using a steering wheel lock is one of the best ways to deter a would-be burglar. Not only does it make it extremely difficult for the thief to get anywhere if they do manage to break in, but it also poses a visual deterrent.
Think of it this way: most thieves are not particularly clever but are instead opportunistic. If they can steal a car with the keys sitting conveniently inside and no one around, they’ll do it. If they see a steering wheel lock, they’ll need either a good angle grinder or reinforced bolt cutters to get through it first.
Do not leave your car unattended
It can only take two minutes to steal a vehicle, so do not leave it unattended. While it may seem convenient, ‘puffing’ is not a good habit to get into. “Just stepping inside” for a minute or two to pay for a bag of chips or to pick up your fast food might be all it takes for a thief to drive away.
In fact, tech-savvy burglars with RFID devices can hack into modern vehicles in as little as two minutes, so don’t risk leaving your vehicle unattended at all and get in the habit of turning off the ignition and locking your doors every single time.