8 Tips to Protect Your Car While You’re Away

When you go away on vacation, you probably do all you can to make sure your house looks lived-in to keep it from being burglarized.

You probably ask a neighbor or relative to take in your mail or feed your pets. You set the lights and televisions on timers.

You ask the neighbors to cut and rake the grass while you’re gone. You might even have them put the trash on the curb at the appropriate time.

It’s great that you take precautions to protect your home — but have you ever given a second thought to protecting your car?

Other than your home, your car is probably the most expensive purchase you’re ever going to make. That’s why you need to give thought to protecting your vehicle when you go on vacation.

If you leave home without your car, here are some tips to protect it from would-be thieves and vandals.

Install a car alarm

Many new cars come with built-in alarm systems, but if you have a car without an alarm system, install one before you leave for vacation, said Robert Siciliano, a Boston-based personal-security expert and spokesman for BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com.

Most car thieves just want to make off with your car without calling attention to themselves, Siciliano said. They’ll probably get the heck out of Dodge as soon as the alarm starts blaring.

However, you should probably give a trusted neighbor a key to your car and tell him or her how to turn off the alarm. The idea is to deter the bad guys, not to drive your neighbors crazy.

Buy a steering-wheel lock

It might not look pretty, and you might think it old-fashioned, but a steering-wheel lock is a good way to keep thieves at bay, Siciliano said.

Steering-wheel locks can be cut, but most car thieves don’t want to spend more than a few minutes making off with your vehicle. Anything that can slow them down is a deterrent.

Take out the car’s battery

“You can just pop the hood, take the battery out and store it in your garage,” Siciliano said. Even if it disables the alarm system, thieves “are going to have a hard time stealing that car without a battery.”

Detach ignition wires

Detaching the distributor cable is a guaranteed way to stop your car from starting, Siciliano said. Or just detach the cable wires that go to your battery — that will also do the trick.

No car thief is going to stand around trying to diagnose an engine problem, Siciliano said. The thief will be off to greener pastures and a car that offers less resistance.

Park in your neighbor’s garage

If you don’t have a garage, and you don’t want to leave your car alone and vulnerable while you’re having fun at Disney World, Siciliano suggested asking a neighbor about parking your car in his or her garage.

Install a kill switch

A simple kill switch cuts power to the starter and can be installed under the dashboard, in the glove box, in the center console or somewhere else out of sight.

“That switch or button has to be used every time you go to start the vehicle,” Siciliano said.

Don’t put the kill switch in an easy-to-identify location, because most car thieves do have some common sense.

They have less patience, and will give up in short order if they can’t get a car to start quickly.

Don’t hide an ignition key on the car

Some people hide ignition keys on the body of their vehicles in case they get locked out. If you’re one of those people, remove the key before you head out on your trip.

Car thieves are bad guys, but they’re not stupid. They know all the places — under the bumpers, on top of the muffler, inside a wheel cap — to look for that spare key.

Make it look like you’re home

Giving your house that lived-in look will deter car thieves as well as burglars, Siciliano said. Ensure your mail will be picked up, cancel newspaper deliveries so the papers don’t pile up outside and put timers on your lights, televisions and radios.

“All these tips can be defeated, but it’s all about layers of security,” Siciliano said. “The more you include in your security strategy, the more protected you’re going to be.”

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