March 30, 2023


Thieves have different reasons for breaking into your car. Not all of them intend to steal the car; some just want to smash and grab valuables inside. Car alarms can be great deterrents to this type of crime.

Many new vehicles come with a key fob device, allowing drivers to remotely lock and unlock their doors or trunk. However, do these cars with keyless remotes have alarms? In many cases, they do not.

Most remotes feature a “panic” button. This can be used to honk the car’s horn for location in a parking lot, or to frighten away suspicious characters hanging out nearby. Unfortunately, this honking requires activation by the driver—it is not an alarm, protecting the car in your absence.

Your car’s window sticker or invoice may list security or a left-deterrent system. These may include self-activated door locks, or a key containing a coded microchip; but not necessarily an alarm.

Follow these steps to determine if your car has a real alarm:

  1. Lower the windows.
  2. Close all doors.
  3. Lock the doors using your remote control.
  4. Reach through an open window and open a door from the inside.

If your horn starts honking, you have an alarm. However, your alarm may still be inadequate, and will not deploy unless the crooks actually open the doors during their smash and grab. What you really need is an additional glass breakage sensor. Fortunately, these may be added to your existing system, depending on the manufacturer. Ask your dealership service consultant whether your vehicle alarm includes the sensor.

Aftermarket alarms usually feature motion sensors. These are typically mercury switches, detecting unauthorized movement of your vehicle. Sensitivity can be adjusted, protecting your car from the slightest touch by passers-by.

Unfortunately, loud passing vehicles often trigger these alarms. This is more than an inconvenience, contributing to noise pollution and prompting your neighbors to either ignore the alarm or place a flaming bag of poop on your doorstep.

Your car’s owner manual will have all the information for arming and disarming your system. Alarms are important features, and owners should learn their operation and limitations.

Drivers should be careful not to get a false feeling of security. Alarms are far from perfect. If bad guys really, really want the car, alarms won’t stop them. A complete security system includes a vehicle recovery device, such as LoJack or Mobile Guardian.

Nevertheless, the following deterrents are effective, and absolutely free:

  1. Place all valuables out of sight, in the trunk or cargo area.
  2. Roll up all vehicle windows.
  3. Remove keys.
  4. Lock all doors.

You’ll be surprised how many stolen vehicles had the keys left in the ignition!

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