Letter: Tracking a Stolen Vehicle

Dear SurvivalBlog Readers:

We live at the end of the road in Alaska then a mile by boat to the cabin. The community parks their vehicles there. Is their a technology device that I can attach to my vehicle to where I can track down the vehicle if it is stolen? This happens from time to time with the locals. I would like some app on a device so I can pay someone a visit if necessary. Since we live on an island for some reason it is not theft, but joy riding. That is retarded but I can try to change the law, but I refuse to be a victim. – P.F.


  1. LoJack would work as a post-theft recovery tool, if local law enforcement has the equipment to track a LoJack-equipped car. I don’t know if there’s a satellite version of it.

    Or, prevent the car from being used rather than try to find it afterward.

    Buy a 4 ft plastic coated steel security cable with swaged eyes, (Lowe’s, Home Depot or Amazon). Turn the steering wheel to full lock, either left or right, loop the cable around the steering wheel spoke(s) (not the rim), put one eye through the other and lock the bottom eye to the brake pedal with a large padlock. Cheap and makes the car undrivable except in circles. If your car is a less attractive and more difficult target than the others they’ll leave yours alone.

    Right until everyone else buys their own cables and locks….

      1. Well crud,
        Shoulda investigated it more. I just saw their commercial on TV and it sure makes it seem like you just stick their device on , or in, practically anything, and if it gets lost, no matter how far away it is, you can track it with your smartphone to it’s exact location. Which I took for granted used GPS.
        For 20 bucks, I should have known better I guess. Live and learn.

  2. There are a couple of different ways to do what you are asking. The simplest is a small device (Syncup Drive) that is sold through TMobile that will provide a wifi hotspot in your car as well as send you diagnostic updates about your car and show you where it is located. This device plugs into your OBD port, and does require the ability to connect to the providers network. We pay about 25.00 per month for one of these. If you are concerned about OpSec then you can unplug it when you are using your car and then just plug it into the OBD port when you park your car.

    The second is to buy a GPS tracking device, they can be used in a car, a backpack, or in a pocket. Their battery life can vary based upon the model and types of batteries you use, but many are about 2 weeks. Here is one example:


    It updates every 5 seconds, and cost is ~ $40.00 with a monthly subscription from ~$25 to $45 per month.

    I hope this is helpful.

  3. Isn’t this what LoJack is for?

    Or could you hide a cell phone in the car (plugged in to a charger, too) so that you can monitor the phones location instead of the car? I’d maybe put a solar panel on the dashboard, too, to keep the batteries topped off.

  4. There are numerous products which utilize GPS tracking to find your car, boat, atv, generator, etc. Most require a small monthly fee plus a few each time you use it. Some are designed to be attached to the item and run off the vehicles battery, some are small and portable and run off replaceable batteries. Check amazon.

  5. 1) NOTE that some of the GPS Trackers do NOT transmit the locations of the car — they merely store the info for later retrieval. E.g, by the wife wondering where hubbie goes when he “works late”.

    2) Others periodically transmit the location but do so with a cellphone device — which may not work in more isolated areas or areas served by a different cellular network. Need to check.

  6. Check out https://lugloc.com/ – we’ve worked with them in the past and though their product may be more than what you need, it will certainly do the trick. Of course it requires RF visibility to a cell tower.

    PS: I agree it’s retarded but this is United States 2.0

  7. You can install a kill switch on the vehicle.
    Locate the switch in a hard to reach location. Most car thieves will move on to the next one when they encounter a bypassed ignition.

  8. Years ago (the 1950s) my uncle had a cabin in the Maine woods. You drove 20 miles on dirt roads to a dead end and then got out and walked for a few miles. He would take off one of his front tires and put it in the trunk and carry the lugnuts with him. He set the car up on a wood block when he did this so it didn’t sit on a jack. I went with him a number of times and this was never a problem even in the snow and cold. It took him about two minutes to get the tire back on and he would use that time to warm up the car. He left the car unlocked too but as I remember back then no one ever locked their car anyway.

  9. Most of the GPS tracking is done using cell towers so I don’t think that will help in remote areas, plus if the “joy riders” don’t take the car home, I’m not sure how much you would learn.

    My thought would be to disable the vehicle so it won’t start or can’t be driven. There are commercial “engine disablers” on the market, it depends on the age of the vehicle if they will work.
    I’m thinking old school like taking the coil wire with you, fuel cut off levers in discreet places, or an old fashioned steering wheel lock. I think any of these would at least save your own vehicle from being used as they move on to easier targets. To catch the felons, perhaps a game camera on the park or along the road to document who’s coming and going. Get the cameras with IR flash which should be less noticeable but I can’t say someone won’t notice the flash first hand.

  10. First, you want to avoid your car being selected for the “joy ride” so I recommend a big, visible, colorful steering wheel locking bar so the perps will select someone else’s vehicle. It will also avoid them breaking your window out to access the inside of your car. Thieves are lazy, they will seek the path of least resistance. Then, as a just in case insurance policy, go with any of the online GPS tracking devices that suit you as there are many.

  11. First, what kind of cell phone coverage do you have there? If you don’t have any, you’d need a satellite phone connected tracker as most of the others mentioned won’t work.

    Beyond that, the typical auto insurance discount plugin has a GPS and web page where you can find your car, but it is obvious.

    If you want something simple, buy an old, cheap android phone with the cheapest plan, see if you can get data only, then enable the “find my phone” feature and hardwire a recharger to wherever the phone is (where it will need to get both a GPS and cell signal). T-Mobile on a prepay plan is about $20, and if you used wifi to update, etc. would last a year of tracking easily.

    There are satellite variants but they would be hundreds of dollars. Another possibility is some kind of radio beacon that could be tracked (I’m not sure if you’d need a Ham or other license for some). If it is joy riding and within 20-50 miles the signal itself might be sufficient – and there may be a way of adding GPS.

    Speaking of which, if you are a Ham, see APRS – automatic packet reporting system. If you have good repeater or Amateur to internet in the area it will report location.

  12. I concur with those who advise disabling the vehicle in some matter –as opposed to using cables,etc locking the steering wheel. Such things are easily cut with rotary saws, as people with expensive bicycles have learned.


    People used to just take the rotor off of the distributor with them but maybe a mechanic can show sometime similar for vehicles with electronic ignition. Preferably a disablement that is not easily found or fixed.

  13. PS Defensive measures just deter the thief — best tactic is to remove him permanently –or for a few years at least. If you can get a comms link from the parking lot to your house, set up a web cam which sends you a text alarm /video link to your laptop if your car is disturbed. Once you check the video and confirm a theft is in progress, call the local sheriff and let him know — long country roads are more easily sealed off than suburban areas. Be best to work things out in advance with local police — they probably want to put the thief away as well.

  14. It’s not a tracker, but a simple solution would be to install (yourself) a simple & discreet switch in the ignition wires, either under the hood or beneath a panel.

    Just cut the ignition wire (or any other electric wire essential for operation) and crimp/solder/screw a switch in. Flip it off when you park it. Car will not start, & lazy joyriders are unlikely to find the switch modification.

  15. most of these suggestions are good – if you have money to burn and don’t mind being tech-dependent. I’m a believer that prevention and discouragement are better options. I used a “Club” for years, even in a convertible in a high-crime city. A “kill-switch” is your next-best option but you’d probably still lose a window at the least. Fuel cut-off devices may not deter a thief but they probably won’t get too far with your vehicle.
    When I bought my ’01 Dodge truck I was surprised to find a little plug under the steering wheel that disables the ignition system if it is removed. If in doubt, I pull it out and take it with me.
    First, deter. Then delay. Recovery is closing the barn door after the cows are gone.

  16. You didn’t say what happens to the cars that are stolen. Are they joy ridden and found later abandoned, or are they burned or dismantled?

    Steering wheel locks mean nothing since steering wheels were made to not crush your chest in a collision. Thieves know they can cut the soft steering wheel with a large wire cutter and remove “the Club”. I grew up in NYC where there is a huge black market for stolen cars. The defeat of ANY commercially made anti-theft device will be known on the street in under a week. That information makes its way onto the dark web immediately. I would suggest disabling the vehicle rather than try and locate it after the fact. Talk to your mechanic for a way to disable it.

  17. 1. Prevent joy-riders from wanting to take your car.
    2. Make it hard to use the car
    3. make recovery very easy
    4. Don’t own a car

    1. Instead of a convertible mustang 5.0, get a Subaru Loyale 4×4 station wagon and paint it ugly. Or don’t do anything, it’s already ugly (but a very capable vehicle). Next pass legislation to make laws that keep teen boys embarrassed with community service breadboards. Remember that in the vacuum of God’s law there is a morality gap. Laws step in to control behavior. Legislated morality.

    2. Install a Boot on a front wheel (are these even available to the public? unknown), and remove the spare and the other front wheel with the lug nut trick mentioned above. Next put in a series of kill switches. A combination of ON off off ON for the battery under the hood, so that even if they bring their own, it takes too much time to figure it out. kids are smart. Maybe just unplug the fuel pump hot wire or fuse. Instead of a tire removal, take out the distributor cap and rotor and a coil wire. Maybe Build a gated parking garage. Maybe build a designated parking area with full time lights and cameras. faux or real. Maybe drive it out of gas, and bring new fuel when you need to use it.

    3. You don’t have to find the car, you have to find the teen’s access to a garage. race track, School principal, Sheriff etc. Put out ‘wanted posters’ on Instagram or Facebook. This is where they are online. or maybe not: kids get a charge out of being chased. Is there a motion detection camera out there that uploads pictures to the internet? The whole idea of a joy ride is be seen. “Being Seen” is evidence. Put 2 cameras facing each other inside the vehicle.

    4. Don’t own a car.

    The reason one leaves the car unlocked is because of radios are easier to replace than windows.
    Don’t own a nice radio and install tinted windows as dark as legal. Park it at a friend’s house instead of the end of the woods, and have him meet you with a warm car.
    I suspect that if it’s ‘too much trouble’ or ‘you’re advertising just too hard’ that this is a ‘un-stealable’ car, or the penalties are too high etc. kids will just eggs your car and ruin its value via slashed tires, slashed toppers, punctured tanks, bent, hit, burned, or crow-barred lights.

  18. A switch connected to the fuel pump circuit.Or remove a relay or fuse to end a circuit. I would consider not locking your vehicle.Saves on broken windows.I have seen people make stereos so they could be removed and carried away you. I always wondered about a hidden phone with the GPS activated and a solar panel to keep the battery up.Don’t leave anything in the vehicle that would attract someone to it. My car was stolen and it was almost out of gas. This was a good thing.It ran out of gas on the thieves. They were very brazen.Even taking my car to a fast food joint and leaving the wrappers in my car.

  19. Sorry, but it seems the easy answer is to prevent the theft in the first place. REMOVE something required to run the vehicle but not commonly carried or found. Eg., a distributor cap rotator (older cars) or the ECU (newer cars), both of which take only 5-10min to reinstall if you have them but are darn near impossible to *find* in even well-stocked junk piles.

    No GPS or cellular doo-dad is going to help if the vehicle is truly as remote as you describe. They all require being in radio signal range, in order for them to communicate the GPS location.

  20. Having an undesirable (but mechanically reliable) car is the first step. Having a few things idiosyncratic with the car such that a thief won’t get very far or wont get it started at all is the next step. When i lived in the city (and in a sketchy part of town where i could afford to buy a house) i still had one of the junkiest cars on the block and never even locked it. Once someone went to the trouble of removing the crap radio i’d bought the car with, but then left the radio on the seat after removing it. I figured locking the doors would just ask for a broken window. The car itself , never got stolen until a racket between some corrupt cops and a towing company started up where they wrote you a questionable ticket and towed the car (to another county!) and by the time you got the ticket cleared up a month later in court etc they figured you wouldnt know where the car was and you’d be facing a thousand dollar ‘storage’ fee. I tracked it down sooner and got the car back for only about 200 bucks, the court threw the case out, but they only busted that ring up when they accidentally took the car of a city council member , who blew it open on the local news and shut it down.
    I wouldn’t want to voluntarily hook my car up to any tracking services, it just goes against the whole concept of privacy. Add a kill switch (i had a quick disconnect on the battery and the car being a diesel, a quick turn of a bolt would mess with the fuel supply and make it impossible to start even if hot wired) and if your car is too desirable you should downgrade. Even now out in the country all the troublesome kids who steal cars or siphon gas know my car is unlocked and full of random crap i havent gotten around to throwing away, we all park out on the road as theres no drivable street in the village (on a mountainside) , and they all know it’s a diesel, slow and boring, they have never messed with it. like the sun tzu article i saw this morning here, they can’t hit you where you aren’t exposed.

  21. I concur. Make the car “not work”. I also live in Ak. Near the end of the road where everyone parks their car to hike or snow machine in. A car will either be stolen or vandalized if left too long. If the “losers ” can’t make it go and it is not worth wrecking- already nothing to look at – they might just take the next one.

  22. If you have cell coverage, you can get a unit that plugs into your OBD port under your dash, from Verizon. Mine was $29, plus $10 per month, the data comes off my phone data plan. Live tracking. Also will check all systems. My wife has a new car but a medical issue, so we can know where she is. My son has an old car, it has told us of problems, and we fix it. Also as a bonus, has an ONSTAR type call box, in case of 911 needed. Smart theives would check for these devices however. And if you were speeding and caused a wreck, the records could be pulled by the deep state folks to prove it was your fault. I’m with the others on this one, I’d have a crap back up car, leave it unlocked.

  23. I know when I was younger and fuller of p&@s and vinegar a shotgun blast of salt rock to the southend of a northbound moving teenager would keep me and my friends forever from riding our dirt bikes in other farmers fields! ( It only took onetime)!

  24. A mercedes of 1998 or newer wont start without the special key. No way to bypass, end of story. Any cell based tech wont work in a rural area without a signal.

Comments are closed.