How are cars stolen?

Car theft is childsplay!

Hardly a week goes by without a news story about cars being stolen. In Kapiti alone, the vehicle theft rate is averaging about 10 per day.

Most of the main stream media seem to blame TikTok for this. The claim being that TikTok provides youth offenders with easy access to information on how to steal a car.

Bragging rights?

They can then share the videos and photos of the stolen car. In doing so, they impress their fellow reprobate Muppet buddies and show how smart and daring they think they are!

Given that children as young as 12 have been caught behind the wheel, it is fair to assume it’s pretty easy.

But is it really this simple?

How is car theft happening and why?

Many of the cars on the NZ Police stolen list are very easy to steal. It’s generally ones that do not come with an immobiliser as standard equipment. Most of the others listed will be stolen with the key or towed.

The general assumption is that only older vehicles lack a factory installed immobiliser, but that’s simply not true. I’ll explain that point later, but first I’ll explain how simple stealing a car is.

How most cars are stolen in NZ:

1: Gain entry

Smashed car window

Either smash a window or break the door lock!

2: Smash ignition barrel

This generally involves ripping or smashing the trim off around the steering column. A slightly more suave method would be to use a screwdriver and remove it undamaged. Given how many get smashed, I’m sure there would be a black market for undamaged steering cowls!

Then all that is left to do is to smash the ignition barrel. These are surprisingly easy to break as they are normally made of cast iron. Despite being strong, cast iron is incredibly brittle and shatters with an impact.

Smashed ignition barrel

With the ignition lock removed, you can then use a flat blade screwdriver in the same way as you’d use the key. It starts the car and disables the built-in steering lock so you can simply drive off.

There is no need to hotwire the car or have any electrical knowledge. Forget the “Gone in 60 seconds” stuff with sparking wires, that’s all Hollywood bollocks!

It’s not sophisticated or even remotely impressive. This can be done by a mere simpleton.

Most NZ car thieves are simpletons.

The vast majority of car thefts in New Zealand are achieved by primitive brute force methods that simply would not work on vehicle that comes with a factory immobiliser.

Why do so many NZ cars not have an immobiliser?

There is no legislation requiring cars to have an immobiliser here in New Zealand. It’s quite remarkable considering that in Europe, all cars manufactured from 1998 are required to have an immobiliser as standard equipment.

Back in 2008 New Zealand nearly made it a requirement for a new vehicle to have an immobiliser. The draft Land Transport proposals can be found here:

This all got abandoned with a change of government.

Too late for legislation?

The average age for a motor vehicle in New Zealand is about 14 years. Bringing in legislation now would be a case of closing the stable door long after the horse has bolted.

With hindsight it’s reasonable to assume that we would not be talking about what some halfwit learnt on TikTok had the proposed legislation not been scrapped 14 years ago!

It’s unfortunate that we did not have the wisdom to learn from Europe where the 1998 immobiliser requirements had a big impact in reducing vehicle theft.

New cars without an immobiliser?

Whilst most new cars sold here now come with an immobiliser, about 2/3 cars are still used Japanese imports, many of which arrive here without an immobiliser. The most popular vehicles I’m installing immobilisers to right now are the Toyota Aqua and Mazda Demio. But there are many others which are still lacking what I consider to be basic security.

Even last week I worked on a 2019 Toyota Corolla Wagon that did not have a factory immobiliser. That was actually a NZ new vehicle, not a used import!

Get an immobiliser fitted if your car does not have one

My advice is to check if your car comes with an immobiliser. If it does not, then you can get one installed for as little as $280.00.

And finally a message to the simpletons: If you want bragging rights, then try something that’s actually challenging to impress people rather then cause misery to others. Master the game of Tiddlywinks for example!

Cobra 8510 Immobiliser


About Julian

Owner and Installer at Obsessive Vehicle Security Limited. More details here... Please keep Comments relevant to the post and use the Contact form for enquiry's
This entry was posted in Car Security News, Thieves and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How are cars stolen?

  1. Avatar Rick Hudson says:

    It seems a lot of people don’t really care enough about their car to bother with security. A guy I work with has this crappy Mazda Demio (you can probably see where this is going) and sure enough it got stolen in broad daylight on a busy street. When that video of the brazen daylight robbery using a Demio appeared in the news recently he had to endure hours of jokes from us about stolen Demios. He earns the same amount but I have two cars each worth about 10 times his. Of course my older car has an Obsessive immobilizer install, my newer one is good in factory form (except from high-thieves I guess). He’s just not a car guy and he was not prompted to improved his car security despite getting it back. But now that you mentioned that Demios are a popular install I’m going to see if I can send him your way! The one guy I work with who IS a car guy already has an Obsessive installed alarm and I correctly guessed it was a Cobra. What else, right?

  2. Julian Julian says:

    In other countries the insurance companies would step up and request that the car be fitted with an immobiliser. But we don’t have compulsory 3rd party insurance here. I think making this a requirement would make a huge difference.

    Until this happens we all need to take personal responsibility and make sure our cars are insured and secure.

    Whilst I get that not everyone is a car guy they still need to look after them, If it were a gun then… well you’d probably not own a gun, but you get my drift!

    Out of interest, did your work colleague have insurance?

  3. Avatar Jeremy says:

    Good post bro – as always you are 100% spot on.
    Aside from the Aquas and Demios, the other real common ones I’d mention by name is the Nissan Latios (worked on a 2018 the other day that wasn’t chipped) and the Subaru Impreza. The later model Imprezas are almost always chipped, but there’s a particular strand of ones (GH and GP) aged right up to 2015 that are not chipped. The difference there is that unlike the other cars, Subies are actually a pretty desirable car!

    My advice would always be to check your Subaru because since they don’t really have a big slice of the Euro market, they are regularly not chipped until very late.

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