I’m starting a new “How To” series on my blog!  This is from writers (me) for writers (you), and will help with all those tricky resources we keep googling.  Now you’ll have my favorite blog posts and videos on various topics in one easy-to-reach spot!

Aren’t you lucky?

Ahem.  So today’s topic: CAR THEFT!  Woot woot! 

Cause this guy clearly isn’t posing for anything.

Writers are just secretly criminals, aren’t we?  No shame, folks.  I taught myself to pick locks “for research.”

Okay, I feel like I should have a disclaimer before we get started.


Don’t do it for realzies.  [Or maybe just don’t get caught.]

Anyway.  You have a character who’s kind of a klepto.  Or maybe she just needs to steal to survive.  Or maybe she’s a modern day Robin Hood, relocating those Ferraris to the little people.

So how would she do it?

Everyone knows about the Slim Jim.  It looks like this, and it works like this.  (Mostly.)  A coat hanger can be used as a substitute.  It’s a good, physical fallback.  But let’s say your character doesn’t have access to a coat hanger, because most of us don’t just carry one of those around.  She’s in a pinch, and she has to get creative.

Maybe she finds a car with a door lock like this:


All she’d need is a long string tied in a slipknot.  In my book, one of my characters unravels an old friendship bracelet.  Basically, she would tie the slipknot in the middle, then, holding the string on either sides of the window, she’d work the thread between the weather stripping on the door.  She’d position the slipknot right over that golf-tee lock, and pull outwards to tighten it.  Then she could just pop the lock upwards.  Bingo.

Here’s a video if you’re confused!

Here’s a website with a comprehensive list of these techniques and more, including inflatable wedges and… tennis balls…  Huh.

Anyway, those are all very physical methods.  Read: old-fashioned!  Maybe your character is a hacker.  Maybe the idea of hotwiring a car is laughable, because he uses his cell phone for everything.

(This is a Leverage episode, by the way.  It’s called “The Boost Job,” and it’s fantastic and on Netflix.  And if you don’t know what Leverage is, shame on you.)

We’re not impressed.

That is, admittedly, a TV show.  So let’s get real for a minute.  What technology is available to hack a car?

MysteryDeviceWell, this is apparently a thing.  It’s a power amplifier, and it works by increasing the distance through which computers can talk to each other.  Which means that, used correctly, it allows your key fob communicate with your car, even from inside the house.  So all your thief needs is one of these and a car parked in a driveway, and they’re golden.

Check out this article for a more in-depth breakdown of this device!  Talk about spy technology.

Finally, I’d like to bring attention to this article, written for NaNoWriMo participants!  It’s probably my favorite, because it talks about the theft-preventatives installed in modern cars and how to overcome them.  Mainly, by dealing with the on-board computer.

“Alternately, if the protagonist is working alone, she could be a computer genius who comes up with a device to override the on-board computer that she would plug into the ignition, and bingo, everything would start up.”

Sounds good to me.  These are all awesome resources, but don’t forget about the most important thing: creative license.  I researched all of these avenues, and in the end, my hacker just wrote an app on his smartphone that allows him to clone the embedded transponder chip of a newer car.  This basically establishes his smartphone as a key fob, and he uses it accordingly.

So, overall, do your research, make it sound realistic, but remember you’re writing fiction.  It’s okay to bend the rules if it makes for a more dramatic story!



Do you have any car thieves in your novels?  Was this “How To” helpful?  Let me know!


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