Hot-wiring cars isn't really this easy, is it?

I came across this “Anarchist’s Cookbook” thing that I’m sure a lot of you have heard of, and among the dastardly deeds it describes is hotwiring cars:

This is ludicrously simple, and it seems ludicrously simple to make it more difficult (i.e. different colors for the wires).

  1. Is it actually this simple on recent model cars?

  2. If so, why the hell don’t they make the wires different colors?
    This document also describes how to get high from smoking banana peels (actually, a substance derived from banana peels) which I’m reasonably certain is a UL ( only mentions it briefly in an article about a UL of people getting high from injecting Panetene shampoo), so I’m taking anything it says with a grain of salt the size of Janet Reno.

The relatively new (1999) book The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Piven & Borgenicht has a chapter on how to hot-wire a car.

The book gives step-by-step instructions that are similar to what you found in the “Anarchist’s Cookbook,” but are somewhat more detailed and specific, naming the starter solenoid and such. In addition, they say:

So yes, the “Cookbook” instructions are close enough that the writer apparently heard the real deal from someone, but no, they won’t work exactly as written.

P.S. The Worst-Case Scenario book is kind of a hoot; it’s also got chapters on scaring away a mountain lion, running on top of a train, escaping from killer bees, how to fend off a shark, and how to do a tracheotomy. All “for entertainment purposes only,” natch.

This book was written in the early 70’s when it was that simple to hot wire a car. Nowadays most vehicles have their ignition switches shrouded in steel plate around the steering column and steering wheel lock mechanisms.
Smoking banana peels was called mellow yellow.

I’m just mad about Saffron…

That book is a pretty big mess, the author is a pretty sadistic guy that purposely or ignorantly (depending on your POV) put very unsafe directions in bomb-making causing a lot of blown off fingers and faces. Put it down and get yourself a copy of Steal This Book.

Here’s a link to a nice FAQ that talks about its dangers and, interestingly enough, the author is a born-again type trying to take AC out of publication.

I installed a cutoff switch in my car because those darn alarms just amuse the crooks and annoy neighbors.

The simplest way to start a car is with a set of vice grips. Lock the jaws in the ignition ring and jerk backwards (handle hanging down). That breaks the lock pins and the mechanism moves easily and starts the car. You don’t need to rip out the steering shield and futz with a bunch of wires. The actual ignition device on most cars is at the end of a long rod at the base of the steering wheel anyhow and when you turn the key, you pivot the rod and shove a set of contacts over each other. Release the key and the rod slides back one set, keeping the power engaged.

I just sold a 74 Duster where one turns the key on, then bridges the gap between the starter wires to start it. (Damn good motor – starts right up after sitting for months but the body was falling apart.)

Sometimes I suspect that Detroit deliberately makes cars easy to steal so they can keep people buying new ones year after year. With a screwdriver – a really good one – and a set of vice grips, one can gain access to almost any car and drive it off. None of that old jerking-the-lock out stuff.

My cutoff took some doing, but it cuts the power to the motor and the wires, naturally kind of heavy, are hidden along the bundles feeding the engine and a heavy duty switch is secreted up under my dash, out of obvious sight.

Ford autos since about 1995 or so have a system called “Securilock”, which consists of a small transponder in the key itself which communicates with the onboard computer. The car simply cannot be hotwired. Even a key cut to match the original will not start the car.

Rev, better take a look at the date of that book. It’s for old cars, like 60’s or older.

It’s three wires. Two that must be connected & the third is the starter, which you connect to the other two to start the car & then you seperate that wire… duh! Have fun Rev.

When I was a kid, our car got stolen pretty much the way PRISM02 describes it. The ignition ring came out very easily. This was many years ago but I’m sure it would still work on most cars today. We found our car a few days later and the car thief was kind enough to leave the car and ignition ring intact. go figure!

On old cars yes it will work.
On new cars No not at all. I had started a reply to this and had a wonderful overview of the history behind the automobile lock and how the systems used work today.
Then when I start to sum it up (BOOT) fricking AOL.

Anyhow, Modern cars for the most part have or are going to have transponder technology in the ignition and key. The key carries a transponder that is programed into the computer at the factory. The programed transponder key is required to start the car. If an attempt to start the car with a pure mechanical key, the computer shuts off the fuel pump for X amount of time. Most car manuafactures are using transponder technology. General Motors has been using a similar system that worked on a resistance chip in the key.
I will not go into technical details, the end results are much the same. You can program a new transponder key into the computer, but the process is slow and not a reasonable way steal a car.
Can a car still be stolen? You better believe it. Ask a repo man how long it takes for him to snatch and grab a vehicle. They do prevent the normal crook from snatching your ride and cruising off into the sunset.
My best suggestion for security of a car IS an ignition kill button that locks the fuel pump much like the one Prism mentioned earlyer in the thread.

Ok this is long enough, If I failed to answer all of your question or I bring about new questions Let me know I could go on for a while on lock of all sorts. I guess it should be obvious that I have worked as a locksmith for quite some time huh?



Actually, I remember hot wiring an old car under the hood, not under the dash. Jumper the battery straight to the ignition coil, and lay a screwdriver (with a nice thick handle) across the solenoid to crank the starter. Yes, it was that easy. And no, I wasn’t stealing it. It was an old beater somebody had in their back yard, and we were fooling around while drinking beer one summer day. These days, no way.

… and *** DO NOT *** attempt to follow any bomb making instructions from the Anarchist’s Cookbook. You could easily blow yourself to Kingdom Come.

During the late '60’s and early 70’s I had several Fords. It took only a screwdriver on the contacts on the solenoid (no jumper involved) to start the cars (the solenoid was conveniently mounted on the upper left fender well.

In a related question, what’s to stop a chop-shop from building a device to detect a signal such as a Lo-jack device might put out, or blocking it long enough to locate the device?

Yes, I do know you can start a car by juming it with a screwdriver on the solinoid. I have even done that with an old toyota celica I owned. Since the OP was directed at hot wireing a car under the dash I did not think to mention it.
Once again vehicles that have a steering wheel lock as part of the ignition make it dificult to steal. I am refering to the cars where when the car is turned off you can turn the wheel a few times to the left or rigth and then the wheel lock into place.
Making a device to track down an ignition kill switch is not that difficult. All an ignition kill switch does is place a break in the power wire running to the fuel pump.
Tracing down the break and finding the button can be done it is just time consuming. Time is a car theives worse enemy.
Now, a device that can read and reproduce a transponder signal that would be interesting.


In response to the locked steering column.

I just happened to be watching The Learning Channel over the weekend and they basically showed people how to get around this problem.

The program had to do with closed circuit T.V. being used as a deterent to crime and all around rambunctiousness. At one point, as the moderator droned on, they showed actual footage of a car being ripped off. Pretty fightening how fast the guy was. He jimmies the door and hops in. Then, bracing himself against the door, cranks like mad on the steering wheel until it breaks the locking mechanism. Meanwhile, the moderator helpfully explains that the locked steering wheel provides no protection at all to a would-be thief. After the crook swings the wheel a bit, he fiddles with the column (remember, this is C.C.T.V., and the camera was a ways a way so details were fuzzy) unlocks the door to let his buddy in, and drives off. This took him all of a minute to complete.

Thanks to T.L.C., I now know some basics to stealing a car. On the other hand, as the guy drove off he was quickly nabbed by the fuzz, re-affiming the belief that all our city streets be equipped with C.C.T.V.!! I don’t know which is more frightening…

’ Meanwhile, the moderator helpfully explains that the locked steering wheel provides no
protection at all to a would-be thief’
Neither does the Club becuz they can saw thru the steering wheel in 15 seconds.

I’m not sure how the hot wiring works on newer cars, but i had a 86 Toyota 4-Runner that wouldn’t start sometimes for unknown reasons. I replaced practically everything under the hood that dealt with the electrical system except the engine and radiator, but it still got fussy sometimes. My father-in-law who is a major motor-head showed me how to hot wire it in under 30 seconds. All i had t do was put the key in the ignition, pop the hood, and run a stero speaker wire from the positive battery terminal to the starter and boom. No problemo. :smiley:

So how does having a Saab affect would be thieves? And no wise remarks about being safe because no thief would want one, etc …

What I’m getting at is that with the key on the floor, there isn’t a steering lock. Instead, there is a similar mechanical lock on the transmission. I have a manual, and you have to put it in reverse to take the key out, and turn the key to get it out of reverse. Annoys the hell out of me whenever I have to park pointed uphill, BTW. I believe the automatics are similarly mechanically locked in park by the key.

I’m sure that this mechanical lock is as easy to break as the one on the steering wheel, but does it help that the system is odd, and potential car thieves won’t have had practice with it?

From what I can tell, that particular section of the cookbook is the only reliable one. When I was in jr. high school, me and my buds tried a few of the recipes in the ‘drug’ section. The one I remember the most was smoking the peanut skins… Sat around eating peanuts all weekend, throwing the shells away and putting the skins into a seperate bowl. Then (per the recipe) rolled the skins up in cigarette paper and smoked em. All we got was a sore throat and a bit of a headache.

QirQ said:

I never tried that one (too much work for a couple of lazy jr. high school students) scraping the stuff out and cooking it and all)
I’m curious, did it do anything?

sigh It’s a sad state when you’re too old to smoke banana peels and peanut skins.


Well, living in Astoria NY was hell on car ownership. The NYPD claimed that it was a very popular neighborhood, because within moments, one could be in another borough, or Jersey ( which, to many people’s way of thinking WAS another borough).
I had the local fellah install an ignition kill switch. Voila ! I came back from a weekend away, found the door Slim-Jimmed, but the car was there! Yes, they had cracked the steering column open, but couldn’t short the wires because of the kill switch. I felt like The Winnah!
Less than a month later, they came in the middle of the night with a flatbed tow truck, and stole the car. It was obviously a very popular model <sniffle> It was a 1985 Chevy Caprice Classic wagon. HUGE car, jump seats ( which the kids adored), 8 cylinder…


Well, one thing that can be said about the rise of steering column locks and/or non-hot-wireable vehicles is the rise of Car Jacking. Thieves just figure, “I’ll wait till the poor bastard is driving the damn thing, and then I’ll shoot him in the head.”

My father has left the keys in his car all of his life (He’s 73) but he doesn’t live in the “bad” part of town.