Protecting Your VW

by Robert Kuhn

If you've never had your VW stolen from you then count your blessings. If you've ever had your bike stolen from you when you were a kid, having your VW stolen feels 100 times worse. When I had my Bug stolen, I went through a range of emotions:

You start to wonder if there was something that you could've done to help prevent this. And that's what this page was going to be about but then I started to think that it might serve the opposite purpose; help someone break into a VW and make off with it.

This would be bad!

And thus I decided to just do an editorial.

Since there is virtually no way to ensure that your VW will never be broken into let alone stolen, at least within the law, we can at least take some basic steps to help prevent your car from being messed with.

The first thing that you have to rememeber is that IF SOMEONE WANTS TO GET IN YOUR CAR, THEY WILL DO IT! IF SOMEONE WANTS TO MAKE OFF WITH YOUR CAR, THEY WILL DO IT! As sad as it sounds, these are two givens that can be added to the other two givens in life; death and taxes.

blinking LEDCar alarms -- These are good investments, but don't totally rely on them. A study was done a few years ago concerning the alarm siren. The study group set off an alarm in a busy area and no one paid attention to it. Probably because so many alarms are false alarms that most people have turned a deaf ear towards them.

Pretty sad, really. One feature of the alarm is the panic mode where you can set the alarm off manually in the event that you are in danger. I guess you can yell while the siren is on.

A good decent alarm shouldn't cost more than your car. Don't be taken in by flashy pictures and logos on the box. These are marketing tricks. If you take a peek at a Clifford box, it's pretty plain. Most expensive also doesn't mean the best. I feel that a basic alarm should have a decent shock sensor (a simple sensor that acts very much like a tilt switch found in pinball machines ... when the car is struck, it sets off the alarm) and ignition kill. Stripped yellow Bug, rear view Other nice items would be the ability to tie in electric locks and windows ... my alarm will lock my doors when it's activated and unlock the doors when I disarm the alarm. On the BMW, we did the same thing and tied in the power windows so that it will close the windows when armed. You can also program the alarm so that it rolls up to a pre defined height in the event that you have to leave your dog in the car.

Another nice item, but not needed, is a motion sensor. We have this in our BMW. If the windows are open for whatever reason, or if someone tries to gain access by the sunroof, the minute they stick their arm inside the car, the motion sensor (or radar) will catch it and trigger the alarm. This is a nice feature if you have a convertible. I had this when I had a Fiat Spyder.

Other nifty sensors include --

Some alarms offer paging which means that you have to carry this pager with you and when the alarm is triggered, it will page the pager. Though this is a nifty idea, the range is limited and it still could be a false alarm. And if you already carry a regular pager, you kinda look like a geek wearing two pagers.

Most alarms also offer a valet mode. This is somewhat useful ... we have it and I don't think I've ever really used it even when I had my car valet parked.

Car alarm siren Passive and active arming is good and bad. If you're one of those people that forget to arm their alarm, then this feature is for you. If you're like most of us, it's second nature to arm the car. On some of your better alarms, there's a timed delay which will automatically arm your car. The alarm in our BMW does that. After X amount of minutes has passsed, it will silently arm itself (doesn't chirp the alarm or flash the lights).

In conclusion, I still recommend that a car alarm be purchased and installed by a professional. But I wouldn't totally rely on them!

Some car insurance companies will give you a break if you have it professionally installed. Installing a basic car alarm is about as easy as installing a car stereo. At least it is for me. It's only when you start to add on all the nifty features is where it gets complicated.

A good decent/basic alarm is the Prestige alarm by Audiovox.

Note -- Most alarms come with a pair of decals which you are supposed to put on your window to tell everyone that you have an "Acme Car Alarm". I discourage this. Some "Protected by ..." decals actually go to list what kind of alarm it is; "This car protected by Acme Car Alarm". Some don't list the make/model of the alarm, but the decal itself is sometimes all that is needed. The reason I don't recommend that you use the supplied decals is because that's all a thief needs to know. If he/she knows that you have an Acme alarm, then they may already know how to bypass it. If you feel that you need to advertise that you have an alarm, look for a generic decal. I found some at my local Pep Boys. It said "WARNING -- ALARM DEVICE" ... 'nuff said.

blinking LEDThe use of just a LED -- Though this will deter some thieves, some just don't care and will still break into your car.

blinking LEDThe Club -- This is a good device. It may not protect your stereo, but at least it will help deter the thug from making off with your car. Again, don't totally rely on this device. If the thief really wants to make off with your car, he/she will get past it. It's no secret that they will saw through the steering wheel to remove the Club. The people that made the Club have countered this by making "The Shield". Still, the Club is still a good investment. It also makes a nice weapon when needed.

The other day, as I was walking through the parking lot of a large shopping mall, I spotted three cars that had the Club, but they weren't installed! They were laying on the floor and on the seat! It only takes a few seconds to install the Club! So, if you have it or got it as a gift, USE IT!

Gene Berg Eneterprises makes a nifty locking shifter. This allows you to lock the shifter with a key. This along with the Club makes the thief think twice about making off with your car.

blinking LED"Lojack" -- In some states, "Lojack" is offered by the local Police department. Though none of my friends have this service, I have read a good deal about it. In a nut shell, the Police installs a radio device somewhere on your car ... when your car is reported stolen, the Police activate this homing device and track the where abouts of the car. I have read many success stories. The downside seems to be the price of the service. Some say that it's not worth it. I think it's a neat idea and I think that the costs are probably high because of the small number of people that are using it.

blinking LEDCommon sense -- This is probably the most important thing when it comes to protecting your car. If you have to park you car in an area where you don't feel that it's safe, then it probably isn't. Look for another area that you feel is safe. Sometimes parking under a well lit area might not be a safe area, this actually may draw attention to your car and make it easier for the thieves to gain access. Parking in large structures are also not safe. I find that it's best to park near one of the entrances or where there are many cars around you. It's sort of along the lines of "Safety in numbers". A friend of mine was so paranoid about parking his car next to others because of fear of being dinged that he parked his car away from the other cars in the parking structure ... well, since it was parked away from the others, it stood out and was broken into.

Lock your doors. I know this sounds stupid but you'd be amazed at how many cars I see parked where the doors are unlocked!

Roll up the windows. Even an inch opening is all that is needed in some cases to pop the door! If you're worried about how hot it might get inside your car, buy a sun shade for the window. These actually work! Stripped yellow Bug, side view Don't leave things out in the open that might tempt someone. Backpacks, briefcases and other things (even a carbdboard box) that are in plain sight is all that is needed to tempt someone. That sign that reads "DO NOT LEAVE VALUABLES IN YOUR CAR" couldn't have been worded better!

If you are ever car jacked, let them have your car! It's not worth it! Beware of those car jacking devices. I read an article once about a security device which was supposed to render the car useless after about 5 minutes. When the victim is told to get out of the car, he/she activates said device ... the car is driven off by the thief and after about 5 minutes, the car stops and the thief is unable to restart the car and thus leaves it.

"Hm", thinks I, "That sounds like a pretty neat idea" until I read further when this particular device failed. This poor woman got car jacked, she activated the device and the car went about 30 yards before it stopped! After a few failed attempts to restart the car, the car jacker got out and shot the lady and then took off! According to the maker of the device, they were unsure as to why the device failed.

This was back in 1990 when I read this article.

The Bug that's featured on this page was not a result of being broken into, but I have see Bugs where all that was left was the body and pan! Mine was one of them. )c=

Some of the many suggestions that I've read and heard over the years (that has made me chuckle a bit) have been:

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