An Ounce of Prevention is Better Than a Pound of Pain

Simpler times
Remember the good old days when you could leave your bike outside overnight? Or your front door unlocked while you ran an errand? (Yes, I know I’m dating myself.) Sadly, those days are long gone. Theft is now a part of our lives. But we can minimize its occurrence.

Four wheelers already know that their vehicles are quite attractive to the wrong crowd. Yet it’s good to be reminded occasionally of the simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your property.

It always amazes me to read about a vehicle being stolen because the owner left the keys in the ignition. (And in some cases, left the engine running. Can you believe it?!) Needless to say, as you exit your vehicle, turn off your engine, grab the keys, and lock your doors.

Thieves can attack a vehicle in many ways. You need to be as resourceful to thwart any attempts. Let’s review some of the products out there that help you protect your vehicle and possessions.

Before, we go any further, it is important that you appreciate the impact when off-road of having everything “locked up”. The worst time to find that you forgot your special lug nut key is when you have a flat in the middle of the desert. Or discover that the lock to remove the hood latch is rusted beyond use.

When you start your off-road trip, remove all the locks. Cut them off if you have to (in town with access to a lock smith and lots of power tools). Avoid devices, when possible, that require the lock as an integral part of the design to remain fastened. Replace them with non locking straps, caps, etc for the duration of the trip. Take all your locks with you in case you need to stay overnight in town or abandon your vehicle.

Master Lock
The Club®: Very effective at keeping the steering wheel locked. Master Lock has a similar product that connects in four places on the steering wheel and is more difficult to be defeated by cutting the steering wheel. If you are looking for a quick, cheap solution, run a heavy chain through the steering wheel and around a seat leg. Secure with a big lock. This might just be the answer, when you have to leave the vehicle unexpectedly.

Engine disabling components:
RFid Dongle
If you own a Jeep or Chrysler brand, pull the ASD (automatic shutdown) relay. It’s quite accessible in most new vehicles. It is a lot easier if you install a hidden cut-off switch to the ASD relay. It disables everything –fuel pump, starter, battery. A quick search on the Internet will give you instructions on how to install these parts. If you can’t remember to throw the switch everytime, install a RFid Kill switch. It works off a “dongle” on your key ring which must be within 16” of the hidden antenna to allow the vehicle to start. http://enforcer.com.tw/vehicle/sli_760pp.htm

Locks Latches
Hood locking mechanisms: J.C. Whitney (www.jcwhitney.com) and Savanna Jones (www.savannajones.com), among others, offer locking mechanisms for most vehicles. In use, I like the lock on the center safety catch. It can be left unlocked on the trail, for easy access under the hood. Locks on the outside hood latches, become part of the latch and must always be locked to hold down the hood.

Center Hood Lock

Protect your gas: Some crooks like to pour sugar in the gas. Protect your tank with a locking gas cap. Keep the non-locking cap, though, and swap it in before you go off road.

Door Hinge Lock
Keep a hold of your doors: Jeep owners know that the doors are made to pop off easily. Make sure a thief doesn’t do the same with a door lock from Tuffy Products at http://www.tuffyproducts.com/p-240-165-jk-security-door-locker-2-door-model.aspx

You can bolt in some small pieces of angle iron inside the doors, at a 45 degree angle above the key locks. A Slim Jim will hit that on it's way down and slide off instead of being able to work the lock.

Tie down External items:
Coolers, gas cans, and other items can be secured with a steel strap from Steelcore (www.steelcore.net). The strap is encased in fabric to protect your stuff and your vehicle’s finish.

Store your keys and cards:

Hitch Safe
HitchSafe (www.hitchsafe.com) makes a nifty device that attaches to your trailer hitch to hide your keys, credit cards, and other small valuables. Don’t use a hid-a-key. That is the first thing a thief looks for.

Cover a bolt & lock it
Bolt locker: Tuffy Products offers a really sturdy device for securing a winch or just about anything else you’d attach to your vehicle.

Other items to consider include:

Items stored internally should be secured to keep them from flying around. Even at off-road speeds a small tool can put a major league dent in your skull. Use a sturdy strap to secure those items.

Assorted small objects can go in a spare cooler or tackle box. Just remember to secure or bury that item as well.

Concerns about security must consider your personal safety as well. That topic alone can take up a column or two. But we can cover some basics here. First, always be aware of your surroundings: who is nearby, where possible escape routes are, and such. Consider taking a self-defense course where you can learn some simple moves that could get you out of a jam.

For weapons, consider a nonlethal approach first. Pepper spray is quite effective, yet doesn’t carry the legal consequences of a firearm. If you feel you must carry a firearm, be sure to get some training from a certified instructor first. Study the laws pertaining to the transport and possession of firearms, keeping in mind that the rules may be different on federal lands. And please think carefully before using a firearm. Once you pull that trigger, there’s no going back.

Overall, our world is a safe place. Following simple steps like those listed above will help keep you from being victimized. We know how that can spoil a weekend.


There are 2 big adventure trips coming up very soon in March.

The Death Valley Adventure Starts March 20th. This is a 4 day trip on the back roads in Death Valley. We will drive the Panamint Mountains, visit Badwater Basin (lowest spot in North America), visit Chloride Ghost town, Titus Canyon, check out Ubehebe Crater, Teakettle junction, The Race Track & Lippencott Mine Road, camp in the Warm Springs and leave via Steal Pass up to the high meadows, then take Dedeckera Canyon down to the Eureka Sand Dunes. We might encounter wild flowers. All four days will see some light to moderate 4-wheeling.

Check out the details and sign up on the website: http://www.4x4training.com/tours/Deathvalley.html

Mojave Road
On March 28th we take off from the Colorado River to follow the Old Mojave Road for 3 days. This was the earliest wagon road into California. Again we might see wild flowers but for sure we will visit tons of history and see some incredible views.

Check out the details and sign up on the website: http://www.4x4training.com/tours/mojaveroad.html

I hope to see you on the trails!

Tom Severin, President
Badlands Off Road Adventures, Inc
4-Wheel Drive School
Make it Fun. Make it Safe.


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Tom Severin, 4x4 Coach, teaches 4WD owners how to confidently and safely use their vehicles to the fullest extent in difficult terrain and adverse driving conditions. Visit www.4x4training.com to develop or improve your driving skill.

Copyright 2008, Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Inc.