Car theft

Friday night, my 96 Saturn was stolen from in front of my house. It was locked, and no one had keys but me. There was no broken glass around.
So how’d they do it? Short of having a tow-truck, how’d they get my car off without waking me up? You can’t just hotwire a 96 SL2, can you?
I heard a very insubstantiated rumor that there exists a set of a dozen or so keys that will fit all Saturns. Is this true? If so, why don’t they make the bloomin’ locks more unique?!?!?


Well for starters do you STILL have your key(s) or were they ever out of your site long enough to be copied. Is it a stick that some could have broken the window (unless you left it down) and cleaned up the glass and hit the clutch and rolled it away. I suppose you should probably get the cops involved (hopefully you didn’t leave that 3-foot glass double bubble on the front seat)they’ll have a better chance of finding it then us obviosly. As far as the keys go I’m sure more then just your keys fit your car. Actually I accidentally put out familys Ford Aerostar key into the ignition of my work van (Ford Econoline) and started it just fine on more then one occasion (although it does not work on the door). Along the same lines we’ve (from work) had our soda machine stolen twice becasue they don’t make nearly as many keys as they do locks for those so all someone has to do is get a soda machine key try it out on all different machines and when it fits one they push it on a pickup truck and take off.

Formerly known as Nec3f on the AOL SDMB

Yeah, I still have my keys. Nobody borrowed them, and nobody made copies. Like I said, no one had keys but me.

Yes, of course I called the cops and filed a report. And I didn’t leave the windows down, Joey. Sheesh.

It’s a stick, if it matters, but how far could they have pushed it without getting unwanted attention? And what kind of neat-freak car thief sweeps up after himself?

PS - What’s a 3 foot glass double bubble, anyway?

Well the glass could have also been cut as not to make a lot of noise, and they might have hooked it to another car and towed it I suppose. And a 3-foot glass double bubble is a bong, but I suppose as long as your asking what it is you don’t have to worry about that. I mentioned it because my friend trvavis once locked his keys in his trunk and after he called the cops to get them out he remembered that there was a lot of incriminating stuff laying out that would have probably gotten him arrested.

Formerly known as Nec3f on the AOL SDMB

I do not know about a particular set of keys that will fit all Saturns and I am sure that Saturn would not admit to it if there were.

I do know that based on my '92 Saturn, that the key that fits the door fits the ignition, and that there are a finite set of key combinations. I guess someone could go around trying their key in different Saturns but that would look odd.

I also know that there is a number that a locksmith can use to make a key without the original. I guess if someone were to jimmy the lock and look at your manual and had the locksmith equipment, they could make a key.

Probably they came along with a tow truck and stole it, that would probably arouse less suspicion.

While you could hotwire the car, it would not steer, due to the locking wheel. Unless, someone can unlock it. I have heard of people replacing the whole ignition mechanism and using their own key. I do not think it takes as long as one might imagine.

I guess it depends on the thief’s willingness to take the risks and the likelihood of being spotted in your neighborhood.


I know of two ways it could have been done without breaking the glass, both are “generic” answers as they may not specifically work with your make/model of car.
-Slim Jim. Most newer cars have been built so that a slim jim won’t work but there are exceptions. If you don’t know what it is, its a flat strip of flexible metal in a sort of “T” shape. You slide it inside the door next to the window and pull the lock. There readily available to towtruck and parking garage operators.

-The “matching key” hypothesis. I don’t know about the “dozen or so” master keys, but I do know that almost all dealerships can make a key for your car without the original- all that they need is the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Any reputable dealership will want to see much proof of ID and vehicle ownership before making a key in this manner. However, if a dishonest employee likes your car…
I have personally seen keys from a different car work in the door of the same make and model car- In this case it was an 84 Renault Alliance. Chances of this happening were rare (I tried it on several other 84 R.A.s with no success) and I don’t know how prevalent thay’d be now. I also doubt that a thief decided to try several keys on the off chance that one might fit.

Lastly, I’ve seen car windows broken with what’s known as a “ninja rock”- typically a spark plug with the ceramic taken off. It doesn’t make that big of a mess with the broken glass. Maybe your thieves were anal-retentive…

Recenty in DC there was a rash of car thefts with the method of theft being a tow truck. The guy stole several cars in plain sight as nobody thought anything suspicious about someone towing cars in the middle of the day.

In college, I owned an early-70’s Ford Maverick. I lent it to a friend once, giving him the keys and said “It’s parked out in parking lot 11” or wherever it was. Seems there were a couple other brown Mavericks in the parking lot that day, and my keys opened ALL of them. He couldn’t start the ignition of the cars that didn’t belong to me, but the key that opened the doors, at least, was the same for all the cars.

Yep, Slim Jim. Most professional thieves would not have a reason to break glass. Slim jims are designed to fit between the window glass and the weatherstrip at the base of the window. A cutout on the slim jim catches on the door lock mechanism and voila! Next, the ignition assembly is popped out with a dent puller or some such device. A pro can be, as they say, gone in 60 seconds. Usually less. I had a brand new Camaro stolen right outside of my bedroom window. The police told me even an alarm would not stop a pro. Maybe slow him down a bit, but if he wants the car he’ll get it.

I’m not a locksmith, so this may be an urban legend, but I’ve heard that the auto companies generally only make about ten to twenty different lock/key combinations for each year’s make and model. This enables dealers and locksmiths to duplicate keys by keeping a relatively small number of masters. It also enables a car thief looking for a particular vehicle to carry a small ring of keys one of which will work.

I don’t know if a slim-jim would work or not. I have auto-locks, if that matters. (Had auto-locks. Grrr…)

Mike King, what you mention is what I heard. Does anyone know if this is just an urban legend, or if it’s true? This one’s kinda important. I don’t care if a poodle ever got microwaved or not, but I do care if it takes just a ring of 10-20 keys to get into my car. Anybody in the know out there?

And seperately, can a pro really remove my ignition and take off with my car in 60 seconds?


Yes. I’ve seen demos of it done that quick, especially if you have a ignition pulling device (its got a nickname that I can’t remember). Basically its a dowel with a screw attached to the end. You thread the screw into the key slot of the ignition and then rip the ignition out. At that point all you need to do is touch the wires to start it. If someone’s using a steering wheel lock (like the Club) it adds an extra minute to hacksaw the steering wheel and get it off. The best theft deterrent is driving an undesirable car. Read Athena’s post (sorry to bag on the Mav- my mom had one in the 70s too)- her key fit every other Maverick door key yet no one tries to steal them.

Absolutely. It’s not too difficult to learn, what bits to break, what to rip out, and which wires to play with. The main trick is finishing fast enough that you don’t get caught; professional thieves are very quick because they have so much practice.

Nothing makes a car impossible to steal. As others have said here, if somebody wants your car enough, he’s going to get it. Alarm systems, jimmy-proof locks, and The Club are all just ways to slow a thief down and make his life more difficult.

Anti-theft devices can still be deterrents because, to a thief, they make the car slightly less desirable. If there’s another available mark which will be easier or faster to steal, the thief may pass up your protected vehicle for your neighbor’s unprotected one.

The best theft deterrent is driving an undesirable car

That’s not always the case I remember my uncle one day driving an old rusted out maroon piece of crap and I asked him why he had it, and at some point he said he’d rather be driving his rx-7 in because “People steal horseshit cars like these because that don’t stand out as much when they’re [theif] driving them” (BTW he is a cop to so he has expierence) Oh and he was talking about in the shitty parts of town too that they more often then not will steal a 82 Chevy Celeb instead of a 98 red camero

No problem ragging on the Maverick, Mojo. My father bought me that car when I got my driver’s license, and even being a car-hungry teenager I almost cried when I came home and saw it in the driveway.

Interesting point on the “drive an undesirable car.” Currently, I drive a 1990 Honda Accord EX. It’s ALWAYS in the top ten “most stolen” car lists. This weekend, I went camping. I met my boyfriend at his house, and in the rush to transfer stuff from my car to his I accidentally left the car unlocked. He lives in a dense, student-y area about 5 blocks from downtown.

I came back last night to find my car with four doors completely unlocked. Not only was my car still there, but my CD player was still there, all my cd’s, my various car junk, etc.

Guess I was just lucky, eh?

Is there any chance that you’ve missed a payment or two?. Or perhaps the lender didn’t log your payments properly?

The best car thieves in the world are repomen!

I had a 96 Pontiac Sunfire that (supposedly) had a theft deterrent device in the form of an ignition key that emitted radio signals… if the right key wasn’t in the ignition, the engine didn’t start. No bypass.

They even told me that any duplicate keys would have to be ordered especially from Pontiac, cuz the keys they grind at Ace Hardware don’t have the embedded signal.

Does this really work? If so, why don’t other cars have this technology?

“Anything is peaceful from one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three feet.”

      • Some cars such as Corvettes use a resistor in the key. The lock is electronic and tests the resistor when you put the key in. If the key fits but the resistor is wrong, the lock still won’t open. The problem here is that locksmiths don’t like them, because they can’t open the lock for you by picking or make duplicate keys for you. You have to get additional keys made at the dealer.
      • Some cars are now made impervious to slim-jims, but most are not. A volume I have on hand says: push down for GM and Chrysler cars and pull up for Fords. Many cars use a spring clip to retain the lock in the door; a properly bent piece of metal can easily push it off. The release mechanism can then be reached with a pair of needle-nose pliers and pulled, unlocking the door.
      • Picking or raking a lock works, but it takes time. There’s several ways to remove steering column locks; usually this destroys the lock, but new ones can be purchased if the car will be sold to somebody who cares. My book (Ragnar’s Action Encyclopedia of Practical Knowledge and Proven Techniques - ISBN# 0-87364-801-3) says that the ignition lock can be rotated with a screwdriver after it is pulled from the column. If it won’t, it will be hanging by the ignition wires at this point.
      • Most cars, particularly most new and common cars that are stolen end up being stripped for parts, more or less. Pro thieves don’t like to break or scratch windows, because that’s one of the parts that sells well. People who are out to joyride won’t care, but a pro will only break the column lock, if even that. - MC

At a guess, there was no glass lying on the road where your car used to be because, if you smash a glass window, almost all the debris would land on the inside of the car wouldn’t it?

It only hurts when I laugh.

okay—i’ll come out on this one. i recently spent a year and a half in prison for auto theft so belive me when i say YES i could make off with your car in under a min. some times 30 sec. NO your glass was not broken (it shatters all over the place and could not be cleaned up in less than 5 min.) also auto glass breaks if you try to cut it with a standard glass cutter. your lock was probably opened with a slim-jim (new cars -post 1993- have a cover over the lock mechanism that makes this a bit harder but you simply have to come at it from an angle) YES a lock puller was probably used to start it the whele lock CAN be removed with two screws. NO the resistor in the key thing does not slow a thief down at all if using a slim-jim/lock puller method. the bottom line? there is NO way to make a car theft proof short of incaseing (sp?) it in a solid coat of steel and welding it to the ground. but this method makes it hard to drive.

the best theft deturrent? keep your car in a garage and when you go to work park it in a company parking lot with a guard and only one entrance.

i hope i could be of some help

It’s good to know we have real experts here. What a resource!

Eggo, I want my Saturn back! :slight_smile: