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afarnam
12-28-2014, 05:51 AM
I don't drive. I really know nothing about cars, so laugh quietly if you must laugh.

I remember back in the 1980's when I was a kid it was fairly common out in the boonies where we lived for people to "hot wire" a car in order to start it without a key. I haven't heard references to this in quite awhile. So, I wonder if it is still possible on newer cars or if there are simply some older cars around it is possible with.

Essentially, I have a character who needs to steal a car. How is he going to make it start? He can choose an older car if necessary. Anyone?

Thanks!

indwig
12-28-2014, 07:14 AM
They have cars that don't require a key to start the ignition. The key just needs to be someplace in proximity (like in a purse or pocket), but I don't think that's what you're talking about.

He could steal a car that's already running. Like if a person forgot something at home, they might return there and dash into the house without taking the keys. Or he could wait around at a hotel and pretend to be a valet.

Or yeah, hot wire it.

T Robinson
12-28-2014, 07:23 AM
Choose an older car if you have to hot-wire it. It is very easy to do.

afarnam
12-28-2014, 09:27 AM
Yeah, I was thinking of just mentioning that it was an older model. It isn't a huge plot point with a lot of detail, just the detail that his dad taught him how to hot wire just in case and now it comes in handy but he has to pick an older model, yadda yadda. Anyone know how old we'r talking? He does have to move rather fast at one point.

Locke
12-28-2014, 10:45 AM
I have a '92 Civic which would be ridiculously easy to hotwire, hence why I've been known to swap out spark plug cables if I'm leaving it for a while. Even better, you don't even have to break the ignition cylinder. It's a manual, so you just defeat the starter cylinder (run a wire between an always-hot port on the fuse panel to the ignition) and push-start it (release the handbrake, get the car rolling, jam it into 2nd gear with your foot on the clutch, and just suddenly let go of the clutch once you're at a decent speed).

But hotwiring is also a bit of a trope anyways since it's easier to just break the cylinder (take a big screwdriver, stab the cylinder repeatedly until it goes in, and then turn to start), which AFAIK works just as well on new cars. The only thing that beats it is a computer-controlled starter, which is somewhat uncommon.

Layla Lawlor
12-28-2014, 10:52 AM
My sister had a car for a while -- some sort of '80s Mazda -- that didn't even HAVE a functional ignition key, but simply started with a screwdriver jammed into the ignition slot. I gather from what Locke says that you could do that with any kind of car.

Osulagh
12-28-2014, 11:04 AM
Older cars can be hot wired or otherwise started with the key in several ways depending on the model and age. You can jump the solenoid to start the engine, but you run into the problem of a locked steering wheel and other things that a key would bypass (older cars, like pre-80's, are easy this way). As Locke said, you can stab a key cylnider and sometimes turn certain models--you can also rip them out with a slide hammer and cut off certain locking areas to have them free moving (I've done this to a couple farm-yard cars so they run with a turn of a screwdriver).

Some newer cars (90's and 00's) have some tricky wiring that when they are hot-wired can override the wiper blades or headlights--these are things cops keep a look out for to identify stolen cars.

Newer cars today are nearly impossible to steal without proper tools and computer override. Even if they have proximity keys, the car will die when it reaches a certain range.


My suggestion: The best way to steal a car is to wait until someone leaves their keys in them. Surprisingly, many people do this, by either leaving their keys in the ignition or leaving them in the sun visor, ect. It does happen, and depending on where the guy is (like a small town) it can happen more and more. Otherwise, some research into what cars are easy (or have detailed instructions on how to) to steal and some practice goes a long ways.


I gather from what Locke says that you could do that with any kind of car.
You can only do this with certain cars, and it can require more work and sometimes a lot of effort to accomplish--that effort can be timely and noisy. And sometimes, depending on the make and model, you need other ways. As some need a second pin, some need to have a duplicate key attached to the screwdriver, ect. It's not the go-to-method and doesn't fit all.

Locke
12-28-2014, 11:31 AM
Thanks for the clarification.

Story-wise, I'd be cautious about making it too easy, though, lest it stink of a deus ex machina.

Bolero
12-28-2014, 07:54 PM
And higher end older cars could have an immobiliser fitted. We used to have a 1989 built Volvo estate car and that had an immobiliser - unless you "dweeped" it with the remote to unlock the doors and disable the immobiliser it wouldn't start even with the key.
If you just locked the car with the key, not the remote, then the immobiliser wasn't set.

afarnam
12-29-2014, 03:34 AM
Easy part:

This is mildly backstory, not real time. The actual stealing of the car isn't "on camera" in the story. It is just mentioned and another characters sees the results (i.e. whether it is broken or hot wired). That cuts down on some of the necessary detail.

Issues:

1. There is very little time. The character needs to steal a car within maybe 10 minutes in a small town in Upper Michigan.
2. He has another car, his car, that he doesn't want to be recognized when he breaks into a place and escapes. He has to make the plan fast. He drives around until he fins an older car.
3. He has no time to practice. He was shown how to hot wire a car by his dad previously because his dad considered it it an important survival skill from his rugged youth. That's it. No practice time and he isn't planning on stealing cars. The necessity comes up fast.

So... it sounds like I could say he hot wired it but it might be considered a bit of a stretch by some. I could also say he broke the ignition and stuck a screw driver in it. I have seen cars that simply started that way too though they were repaired and didn't look "broken." What would it look like with no repair time? One thing I may need to describe is hat another character sees when getting into the car.

Many thanks to you all for the help!

PeteMC
12-29-2014, 02:53 PM
Make it an old, cheap car and you're good with just ramming a big screwdriver in where the key should go. Even my old '88 BMW had an immobiliser though, so think low-end 80s car not anything fancy.

With no repair time it would look like exactly what it is - a car with a whacking great screwdriver sticking out of the steering column. Not subtle, especially if he's had to break a window to get into the car in the first place.

It's more plausible than hotwiring on the hoof when he's never done it before though.

WeaselFire
12-29-2014, 07:11 PM
1. There is very little time. The character needs to steal a car within maybe 10 minutes in a small town in Upper Michigan.

Hang around a mini-mart for a few minutes, someone's always leaving the car running to keep it warm while they make a quick run in for cigarettes...

Jeff

WaveHopper
12-29-2014, 07:40 PM
To add to WeaselFire's observation..

Every morning for the last four days, I've gone out to my iced-up car, turned on the ignition, and set the heat to full blast to clear the windscreens. Then gone back inside to finish my coffee. There are at least three other cars humming away in driveways on my street.
My folks always did this in my childhood home, but we lived a mile away from the nearest neighbour - didn't lock the front door etc.
I do it now in a row of semi-detached houses. I live at the end of a cul-de-sac in a small town. I wouldn't do it if I lived in a city.
So if your scenario was morning before-setting-off-to-work time in a cold climate, your character could maybe run down a side street listening for idling engines.

afarnam
12-29-2014, 11:42 PM
That's a very good idea about the morning rush to work and it would all do perfectly (winter scene, very safe small town environment) BUT it needs to be later in the morning and hot wiring sort of works with some of the guy's background. :P I'll think about the mini-mart idea. It's probably between that and hot wiring some older car. I did watch someone hot wire a car quite a few times while growing up in the 80's. So, I know it can be done relatively quickly.

I can't remember anyone breaking anything to hot wire a car. Do you really have to break the steering column somehow to do it? It is possible that all the old cars people had around here in the 80's already had wires hanging out. :)

King Neptune
12-30-2014, 01:21 AM
That's a very good idea about the morning rush to work and it would all do perfectly (winter scene, very safe small town environment) BUT it needs to be later in the morning and hot wiring sort of works with some of the guy's background. :P I'll think about the mini-mart idea. It's probably between that and hot wiring some older car. I did watch someone hot wire a car quite a few times while growing up in the 80's. So, I know it can be done relatively quickly.

I can't remember anyone breaking anything to hot wire a car. Do you really have to break the steering column somehow to do it? It is possible that all the old cars people had around here in the 80's already had wires hanging out. :)

You are right. When hotwiring nothing is broken; although wires do get stripped. The link describes in general terms how to hot wire. It can't be done to new cars, because the computer related interlocks will shut it down.
http://www.wikihow.com/Hotwire-a-Car

afarnam
12-30-2014, 01:34 AM
Thanks.

Orianna2000
12-30-2014, 05:23 AM
My Mom's car doesn't use a key, just a remote that she keeps in her purse. She pushes a button to actually start the car. (It's a Prius.) It can be very confusing if you've never driven that kind of car before.

Might make for a funny scene, some guy breaks into a car, then can't figure out how to start it. In fact, true story--we used a rental service once, where you pay, and then go into the parking lot and pick which car you want. We wanted the Prius, but somebody beat us to it. So we just waited a few minutes, and sure enough, they got out of the car and chose another one, because they couldn't figure out how to start it without a key.

Locke
12-30-2014, 06:06 AM
I caught a video the other day where a father, angry with his son, locked the keys up in a small safe. The son wound up picking up the entire safe, putting it into the passenger-side floorboard, and the car started right up.