Debbie confirms what Tom & Ray have always suspected: car alarms are useless.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

I cry as I write. My 1990 Mazda Miata, 28,800 miles, was stolen ten days ago. I had an alarm. At 2AM, a neighbor heard an alarm go off, then it was disarmed. Then, five to ten minutes later, it went off again and the tires squealed. I'm in an apartment with a car-port only, no garage, no iron gates, no security guard. I plan to replace the car with another Miata. My question is what type of anti-theft device do you recommend?

TOM: The best alarm system in the world, Debbie, is a large, surly German Shepherd. Because the only way you can defeat it is with a large basket of extra crispy KFC chicken wings.

RAY: Of course, in a Miata, a dog that size may create some window fogging problems for you.

TOM: Actually, you've corroborated our theory that car alarms are totally useless. Your neighbor heard the alarm and didn't do anything. Why? Either he figured there was a potentially dangerous car thief down there and he didn't want to get bopped on the head..or worse. Or, more likely, he figured it's another annoying false alarm, and some moron's car theft system is malfunctioning again. Either way, it didn't do anything to save your Miata, did it?

RAY: In my opinion, the most effective anti-theft device is one that prevents the thief from ever starting the car. And I would recommend a hidden switch that kills the power to the ignition, the fuel pump, or both. Have your mechanic hide a switch for you. Don't use one of the standard "switches" that all professional theives know about now, like blinker switch up, lights on, window up, etc.

TOM: If you have a switch that's not in an obvious place, then, if a thief tries to steal your car, it'll crank and crank, but never start. And believe me, if he can't find a kill switch, no thief is going to take the time to diagnose the problem and figure out why the car isn't starting.

RAY: And if he does figure it out, you should let us know, because we could use a few good mechanics at OUR garage.

TOM: Of course, if you don't want to install some sort of "kill switch," you can always use my brother's theft deterrent. He drives a car nobody else would ever want; a '63 Dodge Dart. And as an added deterrent, he's let the smell inside the car get so bad that even if a thief could bear to sit in it long enough to start it, he'd never survive the get-away.

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