No matter what situation you find yourself in, if you’re looking to get out of dodge in a hurry you’re going to need a set of wheels. But without a car of your own, you’re limited to begging, borrowing or stealing. In today’s article I’m going to touch on what’s a potentially polarizing topic, but one I hope you look at logically. Because when it comes down to it, stealing a car is a felony. But if your life is on the line, it might be the only option you have left. I for one, do not condone crime in any way, but knowing the different ways you can hotwire a car could definitely come in handy once the SHTF.
Which vehicles should I target?
As a rough rule of thumb, the older the car, the easier it will be to hotwire. New technology has made it almost impossible to steal new cars, without sophisticated tools and electronics to break into their systems. That means that any model from the 80’s or 90’s is likely a good target, though I should warn you. You’ll be cutting wires and destroying ignitions with these techniques, so don’t practice on your own car. File this information away until you need it, or if you want to test it out, a visit to a local junkyard may prove wonderfully insightful.
What equipment do I need?
I’ve seen cars broken into with just a pocket knife, but that’s not to say a few tools won’t go astray. A good pair of gloves will protect your hands as you work with all the electrics, and a screwdriver and a pair of wire cutters will also come in handy. Oh, and grab a rock for either breaking the window (or using this first method I’m about to share), and your multitool.
Method 1: Break the ignition
The first technique to try is the easiest. Insert a flat-head screwdriver into the ignition and give it a turn. If you’re lucky, the car might start right up. This is because the ignition is designed to turn, and the chamber surrounding the key just needs to be forced to move. If it doesn’t, take the rock and hammer the screwdriver in deeper until you feel the lock give way and break. Once it does, you should just be able to turn the screwdriver like a key.
Method 2: Traditional Hotwiring
Taking a knife or a screwdriver, open the panel underneath the steering column to get at all the wires underneath. What you see next, determines your next step.
If there’s two brown wires, these are for the ignition. Carefully cut them and strip the ends, then tap them together to start the car. As you do so, be very careful, as the wires are live and connected to the battery, and will give you a very nasty shock if you touch them with your bare hands. So use your gloves. Once the car has started, separate the wires and you’re good to go.
If there’s only one brown wire, look around for two red wires. This is a more complicated system, and you need to cut and bind together the red wires first. You’ll know you’ve done it right, because once it’s working the dash will light up. Cut and strip the brown wire next, and touch it to the connection of the two red wires. The car should start, so separate the brown wire and you’re good go.
Method 3: Short the starter motor
This one requires you to pop the hood, which is far easier if you’ve already broken into the car. With the hood up, look for the ignition coil by the starter motor, and the wire running into it. It’s probably red, but it might be another color. Use the jumper cables you’ve either found in the trunk of their car (or that you had handy for a situation like this), and connect that wire to the positive terminal on the car battery. Done right, and the dash should light up. Next, hook the negative wire to the negative terminal on the battery. Once it connects, it should fire up the engine.
How about the steering lock?
Once the car is running, it’s likely the steering wheel is fixed in place as you’ve not “unlocked” it using the key. Right now, the car isn’t able to be driven, until you’ve got this free (you won’t be able to turn). What I’d recommend is trying to snap the locking pins, which you can do by pulling the wheel as far as it can go in one direction, and then forcing it further with a pry bar, or a good kick. Sometimes using a screwdriver in under the steering column can help locate and push the locking pins away. Once you’re done, the car is good to start driving.
How do you get inside the car?
Now knowing how to hotwire a car is well and good, but you’ve also got to get into the car first. There’s two methods I’d recommend. The first, is simple. Take a rock and smash a side window. Preferably the passenger side so you won’t have to sit in the broken glass, then just reach in and open the door. The other trick is to straighten out a wire coat hanger, bending the end into a curved hook. Slide it between the window glass and the door, above the area where the door handle is. Keep it moving until you see the door handle moving, then rotate the wire so it catches the locking pin. Once it’s on, a good pull can unlock the door.
Remember, with all of this information it’s critical you’re using this in emergency situations only. Breaking into cars, hotwiring them and stealing them will get you into serious legal trouble. Everything in this guide is intended to be a reference only, for use when you really do have no other choice. Be smart with this information people.