NEW YORK — Crime spikes in the summer, and car thefts are no exception. July and August are the top months for vehicle theft, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. That's no surprise — the weather's nicer and it's easier to leave cars in a driveway than park them in a garage.
Here are some devices and tips to deter would-be thieves.
Lock it up:
Vigilant car owners should invest in at least one device to prevent theft. One of the most common is a steering wheel lock, a bar that is affixed to the wheel and locked into place by the owner. The wheel becomes almost impossible to turn if a thief breaks in.
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You can find these devices at any auto parts supply store or on Amazon.com, where prices range from $10 to $75. One of the more popular locks, "The Club," costs $39.99.
For extra security, consider investing in a tire locking devices, such as a boot. These devices, which lock your wheels in place, can be a more troublesome to attach and remove, but make your car much less tempting to thieves. They generally cost more than $100 and can be ordered on Amazon or at parts supply stores.
A good way to help recover a stolen car is to install a vehicle tracking system, such as LoJack or OnStar.
LoJack, which has a one-time price of $695, uses a radio device installed in your car to help police locate the vehicle if stolen. The company boasts a 90 percent recovery rate for stolen vehicles that use the service.
OnStar, which is only available in GM cars, goes several steps farther. Besides alerting police when a car is snatched, it also slows down the vehicle and blocks the ignition from being restarted once it's turned off. The service starts at $18.95 a month and offers accident-assistance services.
Remember the basics:
The most effective steps are the commonsense ones. Keep windows rolled up. Lock doors always, even if parking in a garage. If you have a garage, use it for parking, not storage, and lock it if you can. Otherwise, park in a well-lit area.
Rick Ward, director of auto claims at MetLife Auto & Home, offers the following advice for those who park outdoors: Before you leave your car, turn the wheels as far as possible to the right or left, then engage the parking brake. This makes it extremely difficult to tow your car or load it onto a truck, a common method of car theft.
Clear it out:
When you park your car, clear any valuables from view that might tempt thieves to smash your window, or even steal your car.
That's especially true for electronics, which are high-value targets among thieves, says Terri Miller, director of the Michigan-based group Help Eliminate Auto Theft.
"GPS units and DVD players and cell phones and iPods are eye candy to thieves right now," Miller says.