car alarms...yes or no?

So this weekend someone broke into my 1994 Honda Civic (it’s pushing 200,000 miles right now) and stole the computer from it. It’s a big pain in the ass, I have to get it towed and buy a new (hopefully used) computer for it and everything. The cops told me that this happens a lot here in San Francisco as a lot of the kids like to rebuild crappy Hondas like my own into street racers and stuff. Apparently, the CPU is always stolen from 94/95 Civic around here. So to make a long story short, the cops told me that anyone can get into pretty much any Civic with a filed down Civic key (they don’t even have to break in!) and that I’d better get The Club, a car alarm, and a garage. Well, I got the club (and felt stupid afterwards because I realized no one will steal my car just yet as it won’t even start!) and my apartment doesn’t have a garage. I remember my car used to have an alarm (it came with one when my dad bought it new ten years ago) and that we disconnected the thing after it started going off for no reason all the time (and it wouldn’t stop 'til the battery was dead too). As I remember it, the car alarm was a huge pain that didn’t really do much. Do car alarms work better these days? Do they still go off even if someone is entering with a (filed down) key? Is it reasonable to put a good alarm on a ten year old car pushing 200,000. What I really want to do is get rid of my car an buy something that people won’t steal parts from…but I don’t have the money right now.

I’ve never been a fan of car alarms, because it seems like they go off so often that no one even notices anymore, and the owner can’t hear if in the first place, so the deterrance is lost. The only thing they’re good for IMO is to help you find your car in a crowded lot. Perhaps if the alarn came with a pager type thingy the owner could wear that would beep or vibrate if your alarm is going off I’d find them to be more than an annoyance, but I digress.

Some cars are more prone to theft than others, and I seem to recall that Hondas have consistently been at the top that list, especially in the 90’s.

Probably your best defense is to make sure your insurance is good and that it covers theft, make sure you lock your car, hide the valuables (lock them in the trunk or something), and just hope for the best. The club is a good investment, and it may lower the cost of your insurance going forward, since it is a visible theft deterrent.

I support car alarms but only if they have a kill-start (is that what it’s called?) option.

Did the theif enter the hood to get the computer? If so, I think there’s some sort of locking mechanism you can get for the hood. A friend of mine has an older Jeep Wrangler and, in appropriate weather, often leaves the top and doors off. He has some sort of contraption that prevents a would-be-troublemaker from just reaching in the vehicle, pulling the lever and popping the hood.

Think back to the last time you heard a car alarm go off. Did you call the police? Nobody else did either. Get some race car style hood pins, and padlock them. Once a thief sees those, he’ll go find an easier mark.

The theift got in using a filed down key in the driver’s side door, then got in the passenger seat, pushed it all the way back, cut up the carpet in the passenger side, unbolted some sort of plate and simply unplugged the computer–it’s right near the passenger door sort of under the glove box. I think they must have designed it to be easy to take out in case of repair. I’ve already had a stereo stolen from this car a couple years ago, so I keep the face of the stereo with me and I never ever leave CDs or any good stuff in there. I just don’t know how I can protect the PARTS of my car. The computer looked so easy to steal from the way things were left. The theif didn’t take anything else (though they did dig through the pockets in the backseat looking for valuable stuff (nothing good, just icky melted chapstick and trash). The cops said this happens ALL THE TIME in San Francisco. I’m unsure as to whether a car alarm would even phase these guys, but it might have woken up the neighborhood (it was parked on a residential street in front of a house). Don’t know though…

With 80s model Toyotas, you don’t even have to file down the key if you have a well-used original - it’s probably worn down enough to do the job. Got my car stolen in Seattle in 1997 by someone who knew that trick.

I hate noisy car alarms. Too many of them are owned by morons. I hope that if you do decide to get one, you make sure you know how to turn the damn thing off before you arm it, and that it turns itself off after a while.

I think there are alarms that just beep quietly but annoyingly inside the car, like a “put your seatbelt on” tone, and disable ignition until they’ve been disarmed. But that doesn’t help if they’re just stealing parts.

Sounds like the position of the computer would make hood locks ineffective…

Mr emilyforce gets his bikes stolen a lot. We often talk about ways to make them less attractive to thieves by painting them in garish flourescents or putting hex symbols on them or something. Maybe you could put a bunch of stickers on the new computer that say stuff like “WARNING! CAUSES IMPOTENCE!”

I think the goal of a car alarm is not to allow to owner to hear it and let him know his car is getting broken into, rather, it is there so that the car makes noise and draws attention to itself, which is the one thing every theif of that nature hates. If a car is making all sorts of noise and the lights are flashing, everyone within distance of seeing the car will. That said, you have to decide if that will deter people from your car. If an alarm goes of on your street, do people generally stick their heads of out windows to see what is going on, or do they all ignore it? If a thief knows that no one cares about car alarms in a certain neighborhood, then he will take stuff from the car regardless if the alarm is going off or not.

And you say that they only steal parts? Then is seems the club might be useless in that situation (though it will help in preventing the whole car from being driven off.) Another thing to consider is that if they can get in with a key, then they can probably easily pop the hood and disconncet the battery in a matter of seconds after the alarm starts to go off, making most people think that you merely forgot it was on and opened the door then turned it off.

And after all this, consider that a lot of people hate them, myself included. But if you feel it will helpm, go ahead and get one. Just don’t be one of those people who turns it on EVEY TIME YOU PARK YOUR CAR! Even is a residential neighborhood with no crime in BROAD FREAKIN" DAYLIGHT!

It seems to me if you entered with a key the car alarm, unless deactivated by some sort of numeric code, would not have been activiated at all.

Yeah, I’m at a loss. The computer is probably going to cost $500 or more to replace (so my boyfriend’s brother has warned me). I can’t even get the damn thing towed today because there’s no room at the shop until tomorrow! I’m not sure that anyone in this neighborhood would care about the alarm, but perhaps it would make it a less attractive target. When I went out and found that my car had been broken into, I saw THREE other Honda Civics that were newer and better looking parked right in front of mine. I really hate car alarms too, but I’m already flat broke and I can’t afford to get ripped off all the time! Does a car alarm go off if you enter with a key, but you don’t use the beepy thing? Or will they just not go off if someone uses a filed down key?

It depends, Lauasia, some are designed to go off no matter what if not deactivated, others won’t go off if unlocked with a key. I’m sure these are things that can be set when you get the alarm installed, the guy will probly ask how sensitive you want it to be (go off at the slightest touch, or stay silent until the engine tries to run over.)

Public Transportation.

And taxis for dates.

Can you secure the plate on the floor that goes over the computer with some kind of lock?

If you really want something good get a paging alarm. The only down side it that they are really expensive (on the order of $500 US for a good one, maybe $250 for something cheap).

They work quite well, my friend has one in his new WRX. The pager alerts you about 10 seconds later (I don’t know why it takes so long) and will display if the car door is open, if the window was smashed, or if the motion detector went off.

The range is roughly a mile (but effectively much less). Its great for him since he’s usually fairly close (in the house or at work) and the alarm has caused him to run out of the house with a bat a few times :smiley:

Alarms only work if you’re relatively close to it. I can hear mine from my bedroom and it’s very distinctive. I’ve run downstairs (I live in an apartment) at least once to check on my car (false alarm).

My alarm is not at all sensetive. I’ve set it on it’s lowest setting. It will only detect actual physical hits or if the door is opened without the remote. It also enables the engine immobilizer and cannot be started even with the key.

mmm…tough call. Spend hundreds on a 200K-mile POS, or take your chances?

First off: You live in San Francisco! WHY do you own a CAR?!?
S.F. is one of only two cities in the whole USA that has a decent public transportaion system! I had some friends who lived there for years and they didn’t own a car. The money they saved not buying a car, not paying for insurance, not paying for gas and not paying for parking, allowed them to RENT a car anytime they wanted to leave the city!

But of course, you may have your reasons, I’m not trying to give you a hard time, really. ;^)

A number of folks have weighed-in on the “I hate noisey car alarms” thing already. By an of themselves, I have to say they’re pretty much useless too. SOMEONE has to HEAR them, and then DO something. Unless that person is YOU, who’s gonna do that, realistically?

A pager alarm: I had one of those once. Probably the best idea in car alarms before they came out with those units that are hidden in a car (the owner doesn’t even know where) that allows the cops to track the car, if it is stolen. But those are WAY expensive. And even with a pager, what, yer gonna run down there with a bat an say “stop thief”?

There is another type that no one has mentioned yet. The type that has the alarm siren on the INSIDE of the car. The idea is, the alarm is so loud inside the car, the thief doesn’t want to enter/stay inside the car long enough to GET anything. Some even have flashing stobe lights set up in such a way that the flashing makes them nauseous. Aside from the lights, you could achieve this with a cheap car alarm and just mount the siren inside the car, right above the access plate for the computer!

'Course, there’s the even cheaper alternative: When you get the new computer installed and they put the access plate back down, WELD the sucker shut! They don’t fail often enough to worry about getting access to it again.

But seriously, who needs a car in S.F?

I need a car in SF! Well, I will if I might. I’m still looking for a job (that’s a whole different story), but one of the my leads is at night in a rather bad neighborhood with no good bus route nearby! They have security escorts to your car, but not to the bus stop, which is a good ten minute walk away. The other reason I want a car is because my friends and family live in SoCal, so I’m often driving back and forth or picking them up from the San Jose airport (they are all too cheap to fly into SF). I also have a dog…a medium/large dog who I love taking to the beach and various parks outside the city. I think dogs are allowed on the bus during certain hours, but my dog is terrified of buses when the drive by, so I don’t think I’d be able to bring him without him peeing all over the bus in fear! Maybe I can ask the mechanics who fix my car if they can weld the thing shut somehow… I wish I could dump my car and I am seriously thinking about how I could get by without one. Once I get a job, I will know how bad my commute is going to be and how public transit friendly it will end up being… The pager alarm–I don’t know. Is anyone going to stop jacking stuff off from my car if me, a somewhat small 23-year-old girl, runs out and yells at them to stop!

I too hate car alarms, but for a different reason. I work on cars and I hate the craptacular workmanship that is used in alarm shops. :mad:

As has been said alarm horns don’t seem to make much of a difference. I do have a suggestion that I’ll get to in a minute.
Downside of various car security devices
Alarm NObody pays any attention to the horn. I had one of them go off on me while I was test driving a customer’s car and did not even get a second look from the cops I passed.

The Club IMHO totally worthless if the guy that wants your car has an IQ above room temp. Takes about 5 seconds to remove (NO I won’t discuss how, but let’s just say when I had a car towed in with a club and a lost key. It took less than 30 seconds including the walk to my tool box. The customer was very upset about my lack of problems removing the Club :smiley: )

Upside of those devices
They both work to stop idiots. The problem is you got hit by a guy that knows cars and wasn’t out for a joy ride. :frowning:

What can you do? Well there is one part of the alarm that is effective. It is the blinking LED on the dash. If a bad guy has a choice between a car that appears to have no alarm and one that does, they will go with the no alarm. Even though dealing with the alarm horn only takes a few seconds, if he has a choice he will go with the easy target. So what you need is to make the bad guy think you have an alarm. This is very easy if you or a friend know about cars or electronics.

Below is my homemade <$15 “alarm” system

You will need:
1 red flashing LED
1 dropping resistor 750 ohms or there about
1 relay that has the power feed terminal connected to an output when power is NOT applied. (these are very common on the cars I work on, if you had to buy one at the electron hut it might cost $10)
Electrical tape
soldering gun

Find a place to mount the LED on the dash Make sure that it is visible, and possible to get to the backside. Solder the resistor to the positive side of the LED, a wire to the other side of the resistor, and a wire to the negative side. Drill and mount the LED. Connect the ground side (non resistor) of the LED to ground.

Wiring the relay
I am going to use DIN standard terminal designations for relay terminals casue that what I use at work.

Terminal 30 (power supply to load) Hot to the battery with the key off
Terminal 87A (output to load, connected with relay OFF) Connect to resistor going to relay
Terminal 15 (power to relay coil) connect to Ignition key position II
Terminal 31 (ground for relay coil) connect to ground

Insulate all the wires, and you should be good to go.

How it works
When the key is on, the relay is energised, and the contacts supplying power to the LED are open, LED is off
When the key is turned off, relay disengages, and power is sent to the LED and it starts to flash.

Result bad guy thinks you have an alarm, but you never have a false alarm.