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Tips & advice

Car security: products, devices and tips to keep your car safe

From simple to hi-tech, we look at some of the best ways to help prevent to stop your car or its contents being stolen

Factory fitted car alarms and immobilisers aren’t always a deterrent for determined would-be car thieves, but thankfully it’s fairly easy to increase your car's overall level of security. From steering wheel locks to GPS trackers, there are plenty of aftermarket car security devices to help you protect your pride and joy from criminals. But what are the types of anti-theft car security solutions and which would best suit your needs and budget? This guide outlines the different preventative car security measures you can take to keep your car safe.

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Unlike car criminals of the past, the modern car crook isn’t necessarily armed with just a crowbar and a screwdriver, or looking for items to steal from a parked car and going on joyrides. Instead, many will invest hundreds of pounds in sophisticated tech to bypass modern security systems. Once stolen, many cars will be given a false identity, smuggled abroad, broken up for parts or used in other crimes.

Despite modern cars being fitted with sophisticated alarms and immobilisers, car crime is still a problem for motorists, with little in the way of repercussions for thieves. In 2024, dash cam supplier Nextbase, collected data following a Freedom of Information request which showed that from July 2022 to June 2023, the charge rate for vehicle thefts declined from 2.8 per cent to 1.43 per cent, with car crime becoming “essentially decriminalised”. As a result, high car crime numbers are adding increased pressure to already soaring car insurance premiums.

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So, how can you make life more difficult for these increasingly-sophisticated criminals? We’ve taken a look at some of the latest gadgets, and a few old favourites, to help keep your car safe and potentially bring down the cost of insurance.

Steering wheel locks

Steering wheel locks have been around for decades but are some of the most simple, yet effective ways of deterring car thieves. Some steering wheel locks come in the form of a simple metal bar with a locking mechanism, while others like a Disklok cover the entire wheel completely – whichever steering wheel lock you choose should deter all but the most committed criminal by making it impossible to drive off without removing the lock. 

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It will also prevent airbag or steering wheel theft, which is an increasing problem as crooks look for cheap parts to repair crash-damaged cars. The downside is that they are cumbersome and relatively expensive, but they can be used on any vehicle, from classic cars to motorhomes.

Wheel clamps

Alongside steering wheel locks, wheel clamps are a great visual deterrent for car thieves. Wheel clamps can be fitted to wheels of almost any size, are made of extremely strong steel and have pick-proof locks. Good wheel clamps are very difficult for car criminals to remove, even when equipped with power cutting tools.

Car window laminations and etching

While some thieves are using clever technology to break into cars, the cruder criminal will still use the smash-and-grab method to get into a vehicle and take whatever they want. One way to stop or slow them down is to install glass lamination on the side and rear windows. This plastic sheeting is invisible but helps strengthen and hold the panes together, like a laminated windscreen. Professionally-installed film on a mid-sized car, like a Nissan Qashqai, would cost in the region of £500.

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If window laminations are a little out of your price range, etching the car’s registration number onto the glass or certain parts can also act as a deterrent, while DNA marking is even more sophisticated. This involves dabbing a uniquely-coded paint on 50 points on your car. It dries clear, but can be seen under ultraviolet lights. Security-marking kits, such as SelectaDNA, cost around £60, but some police forces offer it for free, and some insurers will give a discount for marked cars.

Car key Faraday pouches and signal blockers

Many modern models are ‘keyless’, which means you don’t have to take the key out of your pocket to unlock or even start the car. While that’s great for convenience, it’s not so good for security or keyless car theft. Thieves use boosters to amplify the key’s signal enough to open and start the car, no matter where you keep your car keys in the house. You can prevent it by using a signal-blocking Faraday bag. We’d recommend the £6 Defender Pouch, which came out on top in our Faraday pouch and car key signal blocker test – similar items are also available. You might want to keep keys (including spares) in a safe, too, to protect your car in the event of a burglary. They start from less than £40.

OBD port locks

All modern cars have an OBD (on-board diagnostic) port, a universal plug technicians use to access the vehicle’s electronic brain. Unfortunately, this port can also be used by crooks to bypass the immobiliser, and even reprogram a blank key so that it unlocks and starts the car. You can protect an OBD port with a special lock, costing less than £200, depending on the model. Or consider a combined OBD protector, tracker and key-clone preventer, like that offered by StopTrack for £599, plus £6.50 a month.

Car number plate security screws

Having your number plates stolen doesn’t just mean you’ll have to pay to replace them. Thieves can use false plates to clone your car (or disguise a stolen model’s identity) and then use the vehicle to commit other crimes. If you’re a victim of number plate theft you could face lots of stressful paperwork as you clear your name. Since most plates are fixed in place by either sticky pads or regular screws, any thief can remove them in seconds. You can make it more difficult for criminals to steal your number plate by fitting tamper-proof security screws which are available for as little as £5.00.

Driveway CCTV and security lights

Thieves tend to be camera-shy, so CCTV can be a good deterrent, and help police to identify and catch crooks. Make sure any system has infrared night vision, and go for the best resolution you can afford to make sure faces and registration numbers are identifiable. If you park your car in an unlit area, you could also go one step further and install a motion detecting security light at the same time. Basic wired systems with just one camera are available from online retailers for less than £100, and tend to be easy to fit. Sophisticated WiFi set-ups, can be expanded to use wireless cameras with floodlights for under £400.

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If you're unable to install a CCTV camera or security light, you could invest in a dash cam. Some dash cam models have a 'sentry' mode and will be able to detect motions whilst the car is parked, sending a notification to your phone to warn you if it detects movement.

Parking posts

Even if a thief has used a computer to bypass the car’s electronics, they won’t be able to get it off the driveway, or out of a parking space, if it’s blocked in by a solid metal post. Physical barriers such as this vary in their sophistication, with remote-control bollards which rise out of the ground automatically costing around £2,000, while a simple key-operated post can be purchased from around £25. Just remember to keep the key outside the car, and don’t forget the post is there and drive into it yourself.

GPS Trackers

If your car has been stolen, the chances of it being recovered are low, unless you have a tracker. GPS trackers are fitted discreetly inside the car and can range from basic location trackers from as little as £45 for ones which you can install yourself, to more sophisticated and professionally-fitted systems costing well over £700, depending on their features and sophistication, plus an annual subscription fee.

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Many types of GPS trackers are approved by insurers and the police. Not only can a tracker help the police recover your car quicker in the event of it being stolen, but car insurance providers may insist on a GPS tracker being fitted to certain cars, or will give a meaningful discount for a properly-fitted device.

Top tips for preventing car theft

Increasing your car’s security equipment is one way of countering car theft, but there are other things you can do to help prevent your car from being stolen.

  • Lock your car and keep the sunroof and windows closed when leaving your car unattended. If your car’s wing mirrors don’t fold-in automatically when the car is locked, make sure you have properly locked the car – car criminals are on the lookout for modern cars with the wing mirrors still out, as it could be a sign it has been left unlocked.
  • Don’t leave handbags, rucksacks or valuable items on display in the footwells or on the passenger and rear seats. Always take them out of the car if possible, or put them in the boot.
  • Keep the car keys safe in your house and not left near doors or windows. If you have a car with keyless entry or start, consider getting a Faraday pouch or signal blocker mentioned above.
  • Beware of car jackers. Just because you are in your car doesn’t mean someone won’t try to steal it. Counter this by driving with the doors locked.
  • Avoid parking in dark or secluded areas whenever possible. 

Check out our tips and advice section for our latest guides on how to help keep your car safe...

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Content editor

Ryan is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2023, he worked at a global OEM automotive manufacturer, as well as a specialist automotive PR and marketing agency.

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