Buying advice for accessories that improve car security

Posted on September 30th, 2016 by Rob Marshall

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With car thefts rising, the best thing you can do is to reduce the chance of your car being either broken into, or stolen. While my last blog on the subject gave some advice, I tend to be asked by GEM members about anti-theft accessories.

Whatever you decide to buy, it is best to choose to invest in a part that is certified with Thatcham’s Quality Assurance. This not only proves that the part has been tested independently by experts, often to destruction, but also that the manufacturing process of the component in question is assessed, to ensure that standards are maintained.

Thatcham’s categories are not rating systems but they classify compliant security systems’ specifications as follows…however, always ask your insurer for advice, before making permanent modifications to your vehicle:

Category 1. – Combined Alarm and Immobiliser

The alarm must include ignition and perimeter detection, interior movement and audible warning, with a separate back-up power supply. The immobiliser must also be able to be set with no action required from the driver and must isolate at least two electronic circuits of the vehicle to which it is fitted.

Category 2 – Electronic Immobiliser

Not only must the unit activate automatically but at least two of the car’s electrical circuits must also be isolated, or one of the circuits that is essential to the engine’s functionality.

Category 2-1 – Electronic Alarm upgrade

The alarm must meet the same requirements as those set in Category 1.

Note that aftermarket alarm and immobilisers tend not to be suitable for DIY fitting.

Category 3 – Mechanical immobiliser

These items, which include physical steering wheel, gear lever, handbrake and foot pedal locks are becoming more popular, because not only are they relatively affordable and can be removed and refitted easily but they also provide an obvious visual deterrent to the opportunist. Yet, they pose an inconvenience to remove and refit and can be cumbersome to store.

Thatcham dictates that compliant systems must operate on at least one critical operating system and should be straightforward to fit and unlock.

Category 4 – Wheel locking devices

Up until the Millennium, alloy wheels were stolen to bolster a black-market in upgrading basic models, fitted with less desirable steel wheels. Today, however, wheels tend to be stolen because of the high worth of tyres.

Thatcham evaluates wheel locks by their resistance to attack, as well as durability. The manufacturer’s key replacement procedure is also assessed for security.

Category 5 – After-theft systems (Stolen vehicle tracking and recovery)

These systems require professional fitting and tend to provide the maximum level of security, to date. However, they also tend to be expensive. Thatcham requires the specification to include bi-directional communication, street level mapping, a back-up power supply, ignition off and on theft alerts, an approved and secure operating centre and a Level 1 (immediate) police response.

Category 6 – Stolen vehicle tracking

Obviously, this category alerts the authorities to the vehicle’s location, after it has been driven away. Apart from a back-up power supply, tracking and position data must feature, with street data and a motion sensor. A police (or licensed security) agreement must be in place, as well as an ignition-off theft detection alert function.

Category 7 – Stolen Vehicle Location

Mainly to aid recovery, as well as an enforcement agency agreement, bi-directional communication and a provisional data store, an RF frequency location must be included. However, Level One police response, or remote engine immobilisation, is not available.

To see which products are certified with Thatcham’s Quality Assurance, the organisation has published the full list here.

Yet, it is worth noting that other security systems, approved by Thatcham, are also available that may be especially useful, notably if you are on a budget. These include:

1  Marking kits – These systems once etched registration plate details onto the car’s glass. These new systems, such as those made by RetainaGroup, can mark the whole vehicle, or individual components, with a code that is linked to a secure and established database from which the owner’s details can be traced.

2  On Board Diagnostic (OBD) relocation/protection devices – These systems either relocate, or protect, the car’s main diagnostic port so that thieves cannot access it to either start the engine, or clone keys. One of the latest Thatcham-approved OBD relocation systems is pictured.

3  Part protection – Although individual components can be marked, there are various systems that hinder removal of valuable parts, such as catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters, from vehicles that sit high enough from the road to allow a thief to creep beneath and remove the part(s), without having to raise the vehicle. While these systems require professional fitting, they are worth considering, if you own a 4×4 vehicle, an SUV, or a large van.