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A car-alarm does work if the would-be-thief is one of the
opportunity type: 'God I'm bored, let's see if I can nick a car and have some
Wouldn't do much good against the mail-order car thief though: 'So what year did you want ? Ah yes I know one with a model y alarm just around the block.'
When it comes to protecting your car there a number of people who you have to consider. Apart from the above mentioned opportunity thief (OT) and mail-order thief (aka Professional, PT) there are:
the Vandal (V)
the Unknown Driver (UD) (people who borrow your car with your consent)
People Who Mean No Harm (PWMNH), but can be irritating none the less
somewhat new on the block the Car Jacker (CJ).
All these require different kinds of a(la)rming, some of which are mutually exclusive.
The UD and the Monday-morning-effect (MME) require an alarm that's simple to disarm without too many things you have to remember
The V,OT and PT require one that's clearly visible and looks hard to crack but not of any known type
The V, OT and PT need one that's set off easily
The UD and PWMNH on the other hand do not.
So what can you do?
Park your car in a safe place. Apart from the PT and the UD none of the others will go into your garage to try and hurt your car. But for most of us, that's not an option
You can also make your car look like Sh* in such a way that even a V would get worried about his key getting rusty if he used it on your car. Could still be a fun box to drive, but would look like it wouldn't make it till the end of the street. This is one of the most effective 'alarms'
Against V you can attach those 'breakingglass' sensors to all your windows and on the inside of your lights, install 'break-off' wires on all parts that can easily be removed and possibly a movement-detector inside the car. V will run.
Because of UD and PWMNH (like the parking attendant clamping your car) things like perimeter alarms are not a real good idea
For the OT and PT (who really want to take your car with them) you can install some sort of immobilizer. Apart from immobilizing some of the main functions (no fuel, no start, no power feed to the engine) it also should be visible else the OT might end up vandalizing your car out of frustration
Stuff like steering wheel locks and gear selector locks usually aren't worth the money spent on them; using a simple saw the part of the steering wheel or the part under the gearlock can be sawed off, usually leaving enough of the wheel/selector to use it
The pedallocks usually are more effective, but often not as visible until you're inside the car...
Because of the UD and the MME whatever alarm you install must be simple; only those alarms that sound when really needed are effective alarms. Apart from a 'rip-off-alarm' (alarm sounding when resistance changes, with cables hooked to all accessories) there's not much you can do against V's unfortunately
I know of nothing you can do against CJ's (ed's note: both barrels of a shotgun are often effective - this may however be illegal in your area)
The OT and PT can be discouraged by a clearly visible (even if it's a dud) alarm, movement-detectors (even if they are dud's), is of unrecognizable origin and is complemented with something that looks like an immobilizer. If most are duds there's no problem
A simple immobilizer should cut of the electric fuel feed, the starter motor and the feed to the coil
I guess you could make an array of switches (3 or 4), possibly of the 'nuclear device armed' type ( [Ed:JB end-of-the-world switches] always have wanted a couple of those on the dash :) which have to be switched in specific order. You should be able to change that order easily, as at some point more and more people will know it
One of those aftermarket immobilizers cost about UKP100, including installation and also has a flashing LED on the keypad
The cheapest solution I can think of is to go into London (or any other bigger city of your choice), triple park your car,wait for the police to clamp it and then take out your powertools. Replace the lock and you can park wherever you want and no OT or PT will try and nick your car
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