Anti-Theft Devices

While not foolproof, anti-theft devices can stop the amateur thief and slow down the professional. The longer it takes to steal a car, the more attention the thief attracts, and the more likely the thief will look elsewhere. Also, many car insurance companies offer discounts for certain anti-theft devices. Check with your agent for details.

All vehicle theft prevention equipment helps deter criminals. Many anti-theft devices are also effective in protecting your vehicle from burglaries and vandalism. Consider adding some or all of the anti-theft devices listed below to help protect your vehicle.

VIN Etch

VIN Etch

This is chemically etching the vehicle identification number onto the window as well as other parts of a car. VIN etching effectively discourages thieves from taking your vehicle. How? Chop shop rings thrive on vehicles that have easily removable VINs or none etched on at all. By etching the VIN on important parts of the vehicle, you make your vehicle less attractive to thieves.

VIN etching also aids in recovering a vehicle in the event that it's stolen. VIN etching is an inexpensive means of protection, costing anywhere from $20-$100 - or attend a Pennsylvania Auto Theft Prevention Authority sponsored VIN etch event, and have your car VIN etched for free! 

Kill Switch

Kill Switch

A hidden switch that needs to be flipped on for the car to start. Kill switches can be set up to prevent the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine until the switch is activated. Relative to their effectiveness as a security device, kill switches are typically inexpensive and easy to install. The trick is hiding the switch well. Keypads, pressure pads and more expensive "Immobilizers" and "Passkeys" can also be used.

Check your warranty before installing a kill switch. Some warranties prohibit installation of these devices, and doing so will nullify the warranty. At $10-$125, Kill switches are also an inexpensive way to foil would-be car thieves.

Steering Wheel Lock

Visible Steering Wheel Lock

A long metal bar with a lock that fits on the steering wheel and is designed to prevent the steering wheel from being turned. And also acts as a visual deterrent for thieves looking in car windows. Some steering wheel locks also come equipped with steel shields that protect air bags from thieves - a common problem.

At a cost of $25-$100, steering wheel locks are an inexpensive way to keep would-be thieves away, and are especially effective when using multiple safety devices.

Tire Lock

Tire/Wheel Locks

These are similar to the circular steel "boots" used by many police departments, and make the car nearly impossible to move. They can cost from $80-$200, are a strong visual deterrent, and greatly hamper thieves looking to make a quick getaway.

Steering Column Lock

Steering Column Armored Collars

A metal shield that prevents thieves from breaking into the steering column to hot-wire the vehicle. Some are installed permanently and others must be installed manually each time the driver leaves the vehicle. $100-$200 installed.



One of the best-known car security devices, alarm systems make loud warning sounds when a car's doors, hood, or trunk are opened. The typical car alarm is equipped with motion sensors, impact sensors and a loud siren or series of tones in the 120-decibel range. Panic buttons, back-up batteries, flashing parking lights or headlights, and automatic engine-disable features are also popular options. Depending upon an alarm system's features, they can cost anywhere from $150-$1,000. Tip: Consider a backup power source for the alarm, as professionals could deactivate the alarm if they get to the power source.


Electronic Keys

Pre-installed electronic anti-theft systems that allow the vehicle to operate only with a correctly coded key. The systems are virtually invisible to thieves, easy to use, reliable, and come standard in some models.


Electronic Tracking Devices

An electronic transmitter hidden in the vehicle which emits a signal that is picked up by the police or a monitoring station. Vendors include: Alpine's Mobile Mayday, ForceTracker, Ford's Rescu, GM's OnStar, LoJack, BlackJax, and PageTrack2 from Motorola. There are a variety of services offered by each company, such as mapping services and vehicle-location if your car is stolen.

Other Possibilities:

Floor Board Lock

Floorboard/Crook Locks

Locking metal device that disables the gas or brake pedal.

Gear Shift Lock

Gearshift Locks

Disables shifting of the transmission.


Theft-Deterrent Decals

An inexpensive ($2-$5) way to fool a car thief, the typical decal identifies the vehicle as being protected by either an alarm system or national theft prevention company.

Hood Locks

Hood Locks

Prevents the thief from gaining access to the engine compartment.

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