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My wife drives a Toyota Camry Recently it was stolen...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



My wife drives a Toyota Camry. Recently, it was stolen from in front of our house and abandoned, rather banged up. The locks, however, were undamaged. The cop said Camrys are so common that car thieves have master keys for them. Yikes! It's very disturbing to think that anyone who wants to can just get in our car and drive off. My wife feels that a good solution would be to replace our Camry's locks with a set of locks from a '78 Pinto or some car that thieves are unlikely to have keys for. How tough would that be for a mechanic to do? --Jacob

RAY: Well, it's true that master keys are available. In fact, I have a set of them at the garage that allows me to get into just about any car. We have them on hand for those not-so-rare occasions when customers lock their keys in their cars.

TOM: At least that's his story, and he's sticking with it.

RAY: The keys are made of plastic or thin-gauge metal -- and there's usually a different one for each manufacturer. They work better on some cars than on others. Some locks require patience and a bit of careful jiggling, and some locks are nearly impossible to open. Unfortunately for you, the Camry is one of the easier ones.

TOM: And I agree with you that it's unconscionable that, for about a hundred bucks, some enterprising teen-ager can get his hands on a set of master keys like this.

RAY: Unfortunately, installing a lock from a different car isn't easy -- whether it's on the door or the ignition. Most locks are not interchangeable and won't fit other cars. The more cost-effective thing to do is to get an alarm system with an ignition-kill device. Or a deadly snake.

TOM: And more importantly, you need a decal that lets people know that you HAVE an alarm system ... or the aforementioned deadly snake. You want potential thieves to see your decal, decide it's not worth it and go on to another car. Because even if they realize once they get in that they can't start your car, they might vandalize it in frustration.

RAY: In fact, if you could buy JUST the warning decals, that would probably be enough.

TOM: Hey, we should sell them. A set of four for $39.95. They could say: "Warning, Please Do Not Feed My Anaconda."

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