Is The "Unbreakable Autolock" Actually Just "Gone In 60 Seconds?"

Reader Alan thought that installing the Unbreakable Autolock would give him some peace of mind and enhance his vehicle’s security. But those thoughts were quickly dashed when his Toyota Rav4 was stolen in the middle of the night. The device is supposed to immobilize the brake or clutch making a car impossible to drive. Alan did some research, and to his amazement, found a video of a young boy picking an identical lock in under a minute. The lock-pick video and his letter, inside…

Dear Consumerist,

To my surprise, my 2002 Toyota RAV4 vehicle was stolen last night. I thought I always have a peace of mind when it comes to the security of my vehicle. I don’t think this is one of the most stolen vehicles, and my vehicle wasn’t kept exceptionally well with dents behind the vehicle. I have LoJack installed and Unbreakable Autolock model#1740.

My father woke up at 3am and just happened to peek outside the window and discovered our vehicle was missing from our driveway. The truth is everything is breakable in less than a minute even the so called Unbreakable Autolock. I doubt I will ever get $5000 dollars as they claimed when your vehicle was stolen. Here is a video from Youtube, sounds like a kid showing you how to pick a $60 lock in less than a minute.

Thanks,
Alan

We’re sorry to hear about your loss, Alan. We would certainly hope that you are a candidate for Autolock’s $5000 guarantee. Autolock’s website doesn’t reveal any details about their guarantee but we suspect there are a sea of loopholes that prevent the company from making frequent pay-outs. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that your LoJack produces results in the coming days. Let’s put it out to the Consumerists: What, if any, are the best vehicle security devices on the market?

Comments

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  1. B says:

    The electronic kind that make it impossible to start the car without using a particular key or a remote unlock device.

  2. rolla says:

    i have the older autolock with th e circular barrel key…i wonder how secure that type of lock is??

  3. bdsakx says:

    I wonder if it ever occurred to the guy who made the video that “hmm, maybe it’s too dark and the angle is bad — let me reshoot this video”. Gahhh….

  4. Saboth says:

    60 seconds? Once he actually put the tools in and tried, it was more like 16-18 seconds, and he was going slowly. I’d think 5-10 seconds would definately be feasable.

  5. pferde_schwanz says:

    you know the economy is bad when people are putting steering-wheel locks and lojacks on their 6-year-old dented rav-4s … and they’re still getting stolen. what. the. fuck. no, seriously.

  6. davere says:

    These things don’t work. I used to live in an apartment complex where someone went in and unlocked a bunch of car’s steering-wheel locks and put them on dashboards before stealing one of the cars.

  7. jchabotte says:

    [www.compustar.com]

    They have online vehicle tracking so if your car gets stolen, know precisely where it is, via maps. It uses the cell phone network to report the gps data it recieves. You could literally call the cops and tell them where to find your car and hopefully the thief.

  8. rkwadd says:

    @B: Or an immobilizer chip that you pull out and it disables the ignition.

    The Club is easy to defeat but involves sawing through the steering wheel. Generally just going totally overboard with highly visible deterrents should encourage a thief to take a an easier car.

  9. danio3834 says:

    Best security device?
    Install one of these in your car…

  10. I have one, but I thought mine was the “unbrakeable” (as in car brake) auto lock. Mine has a round key, the type commonly used on Kryptonite locks.

    In the video, he starts in the unlocked poition, and moves it up to th epoistion it would lock in, and then slides it back down again. So while technically, I believe that if you slide it up into the locked position, you can’t slide it back down without the key (or in this case picked), I don’t know if it would be much harder to pull off, if he started in the locked poistion, rather than the unlocked position.
    I have no knowledge of lockpicking, but I just noticed what he was doing in the video.

  11. bonzombiekitty says:

    @B: That’s what I have on my car. It doesn’t even use a key, just a little rfid tag. If the tag isn’t within a certain distance from the ignition, the car won’t start. I can also leave the car running and walk away from it, but the steering and transmission will lock until I come back.

  12. danio3834 says:

    Years ago I thought the best security system would be to replace the driver’s air bag with a 12 gauge shell and a primer that would activate when the vehicle is started in theft mode.

    I figured the mess afterward would render the vehicle useless anyway, but revenge would be sweet.

  13. logie-al says:

    If someone is determined to steal your vehicle, nothing short of armed guards will probably dissuade them. However, you can deter, slowdown and possibly thwart a theft long enough for you to detect it and realize your vehicle is a direct target. There are many companies making very sophisticated vehicle alarm systems these days.
    One of the more popular after market alarm features is the new two-way communication remotes. Your vehicle can alert you that someone is tampering with your vehicle as it is happening, even if you are too far away to hear the siren. These alarms are HIGHLY advanced and some even come with video cameras mounted inside your vehicle, and will take a picture of whats going on inside your vehicle and send it to your remote so you can tell if it is a false alarm or not.
    There are even systems that include highly advanced features such as GPS, similar to OnStar, but you have much more control over the vehicle. You can even disable the ignition remotely yourself with your cell phone.
    Check into reputable alarm install shops and see what would suit your needs. But be forewarned, some of these systems may run upwards of $1,000 before installation, so just calculate how important your vehicle is to you.

  14. B says:

    Or, just get one of these:
    [consumerist.com]
    and miss a couple loan payments. Then nobody can steal/drive your car.

  15. bonzombiekitty says:

    (disclaimer: I work for a company that does locations for cellular phones and produces another product for cars and pets that locates them using the cell network)

    @jchabotte: The problem with that is if it’s purely GPS based it’s very easy to overcome. Just put the car indoors or drive in a dense urban area. Granted, you can go off of a last known location but that would depend on how well location records are kept. You can probably go off of cell towers to get a general area the car may be in, but that won’t help all that much especially in an urban area.

    UTDOA, however works indoors and is very accurate in urban areas (GPS is not very accurate in dense urban areas). But the problem with UTDOA is that it doesn’t work that well when there’s few cell phone towers in the area. Ultimately a hybrid solution is best, but doesn’t exist yet because non E-911 UTDOA location services don’t exist yet (but should in the near future).

  16. highmodulus says:

    Unfortunately the smart thieves use tow trucks now. You car then gets quickly parted out or shipped whole out of the country.

    If caught, they claim they “mistakenly” towed your car if their fabricated excuse doesn’t hold up.

  17. @danio3834: Oh yeah, baby. I like it. Big 180 pound land shark guarding the vehicle. Until it bites someone and YOU are the one who gets sued. Don’t laugh. It happens, and the dog owners are the ones who lose.

    My favorite is what the Army does to secure its vehicles. Weld a heavy gauge chain to the floor of the vehicle. It should be long enough to wrap around the steering wheel. An equally heavy gauge padlock is then fastened to the chain. Unless you’ve got a hacksaw and a LOT of time on your hands, a tow truck, or a set of bolt cutters bigger than you are, you’re not stealing my vehicle, dude.

  18. K-Bo says:

    @pferde_schwanz:
    In NC the 2 most stolen cars are the 1994 accord and the 2000 civic. You can get tons of money for their parts, since there are tons of the same model on the road needing repairs, and parts are harder to track than a whole car.

  19. @highmodulus: Of course, you won’t be able to do much about PROFESSIONAL car thieves. Most consumer-level precautions are about thwarting the far more numerous amateurs.

  20. DWMILLER says:

    my favorite anti-theft: “a big black guy named ben”…”get away from the car mother f***er” this repeated over and over when a car was bothered.

  21. mariospants says:

    Living in a good neighborhood helps. So does a locked garage. Unfortunately, if someone is determined enough, they’ll take it.

    I had a friend who parallel-parked his Jeep Cherokee (back when they were semi-desireable) in a crowded city 50 feet from a police station. He had a club and an imobilizer. It took only 5 minutes – the family had had ice cream in a shop down the street – for the truck to disappear.

  22. @K-Bo: Especially trunk lids. I wanted to replace the one on my 1999 Accord because it was rusted out from road salt. Had one hell of a time locating even a used one.

  23. BoomhauerTX says:

    Pull the starter fuse. Zero cost, low-tech, and will deter most to move on to an easier target. Travelling to Mexico, I’d start my truck, pull the starter fuse and drive on.

    Could also use a starter kill switch.

  24. levenhopper says:

    All I know is that if my car was stolen last night, I’d be too busy with insurance and police to send Consumerist an email.

  25. Nighthawke says:

    Boot it. Go buy a wheel lock, same as the ones they use to boot vehicles that are illegally parked and boot your wheels.

  26. unklegwar says:

    Simple rule of thumb.

    Anything with an absolute declaration in it’s name (unbreakable, unbeatable, etc) – isn’t. As a matter of fact, it’s probably just the opposite.

  27. K-Bo says:

    @Steaming Pile: Yeah, kinda makes me want to get rid of my 2000 Civic, even used parts are expensive, and my insurance is sky high because of the likelihood of it being stolen.

  28. TVGenius says:

    @rolla: You mean this kind?

  29. TVGenius says:

    (I mean the lock cylinder, not the style of bike lock…)

  30. Ron21 says:

    The best anti-theft device is completely free!

    Simply pull out the fuel pump fuse when leaving the car! I’d like to see them start the car then.

  31. danio3834 says:

    @Steaming Pile: Yeah, vigilantism doesn’t seem to have a place in our sue-happy society.

    Seriously, if car theives want your car, they’ll get it. You can install all the devices and gimmicks in the world, and they’ll flatbed it.

  32. rsg2003 says:

    I just had a problem with my autolock 2 Fridays ago. Except my lock was different and almost impossible to pick (for an amateur like me, that is). I ended up having to cut the thing with my Dremel. The whole thing took less than 15 minutes (including time to locate an alternative plug)… I’m not planning on replacing my autolock. Here’s a link w/ a pic of the final results on my blog.

  33. TexasP says:

    Always bear in mind that most cars are stolen for a) the value of their parts, and/or b) their use in another crime (like residential burglary). So the most commonly stolen cars are very common, very non-descript vehicles like Honda Accords.

    The Club et al are all pretty useless, as methods to defeat them are well known even to amateurs. LoJack is useful, but there was a recent case (unverified) involving a thief who claimed he could evade detection by parking the stolen cars under a metal roofed carport.

    A new trend is the theft of catalytic converters from SUVs and pickups with high ground clearance. Roll underneath, crank up your battery-powered saw, and ta-da, you’ve got something worth $1000.

    Useful devices: digitally-encoded ignition keys thwart amateurs (pros get a master key from their buddy at the car dealership). LoJack is good. An alarm that calls your cell phone is better.

    And finally, never, ever buy a Honda Accord. Ever.

  34. danio3834 says:

    @Ron21: Yep, thats what I do when I park one of my cars outside for more than a day. If they have the balls to come into my private driveway and try and steal the car next to the house, they wont be driving it anywhere.

    Then again, if they want it, they’ll back the flatbed in. Boom, gone.

  35. calpchen says:

    Yeah, I’m surprised to see how the Kryptonite/Bic Pen lock fracas has been forgotten already.

  36. B1663R says:

    here is the solution.

    drive a piece of crap that no one will steal.

    @rkwadd: sawing through the steering wheel is old school son. nowadays they use a piece of pipe around 3′ and bend off the hook in seconds.

  37. tkozikow says:

    Parts…definitely for the parts. Our neighbor had their 2004 Acura TSX largely stripped in the middle of the night while the car sat in their driveway a couple of weeks ago.

    The car was parked around 11pm on a Friday and when they went to get the paper Saturday morning found the hood, doors, battery, radiator, driver’s airbag, front seats, and front wheels gone. The police figure that a team of 4-6 finished the job in about 15 minutes.

    The house has a side-load garage that is not very visible from the street which made the job a bit easier. Somewhat ironically, my neighbor had plans to install a motion-activated security light that weekend.

  38. loueloui says:

    I once saw a gang fight in a Walmart parking lot where someone used The Club as an actual club to try and clobber someone with. The irony was breathtaking.

  39. mzs says:

    @Steaming Pile: You can saw though the steering wheel lickity split. Plus not much hope against a tow truck.

    Two people in my family in Poland chain the tow hook on the front of the car to something big and immobile when parking.

  40. Mike the Dog says:

    @BoomhauerTX: “Starter fuse”? WTF is a “starter fuse”? I’ve been working on cars since before I was old enough to drive one, and I’ve never heard of a “starter fuse”. When my dad was POed at my mom he used to pull the ignition wire off of the starter solenoid and tuck the loose wire under the fender lip where it wouldn’t be noticed, but that involves opening the hood a lot and anyone casing your car will catch on fast, plus it only works on Fords and AMCs. switching the coil wire for #1 spark plug wire also works well, but with the same drawbacks.

  41. Orv says:

    Two things to keep in mind:

    - Any anti-theft device can be bypassed if a thief wants your car badly enough.

    - Unless your car is particularly desirable, you only have to make it harder to steal than the next guy’s.

  42. Skeptic says:

    by danio3834 at 09:47 AM Reply *
    Years ago I thought the best security system would be to replace the driver’s air bag with a 12 gauge shell and a primer that would activate when the vehicle is started in theft mode.

    I figured the mess afterward would render the vehicle useless anyway, but revenge would be sweet.

    The think about booby traps is that they are often much more likely to kill the creator than a thief. I can think of few things dumber than driving around with a an electrically fired shotgun aimed at your face. Well, that and the whole “booby traps that kill make you guilty of murder” thing….

  43. dragonvpm says:

    A long time ago, 20/20 did a piece on car thefts and the offered up the best advice I’ve heard to date (coming from a reformed car thief).

    Use multiple systems that will slow down a potential thief. That means, a club, kill switch, alarm with visual indicator, etc… The key isn’t to make your car theft-proof (that’s impossible if someone is motivated enough), the trick is to make it less appealing than any of the cars nearby.

    Most car thieves are motivated by profit and they aren’t going to bother with your car if it looks harder to steal than the car next to it.

  44. wow, I didnt know the auto lock had gone so down hill to use regular keys. I remember when the 1st gen ones used a raised bump key design, then they downgraded to the barrel style keys like they use on vending machine locks and shot a shotgun @ it to show how “safe” it was, now down to this….amazing

  45. donkeyjote says:

    Re: the Video:
    Classic Rake + tension wrench. Hell, it looks like those “space keys” are easier to rake then regular house key locks.

    @danio3834: Those break down in the summer, and monthly maintenance costs are preventative :(

  46. Vicky says:

    I have lost all faith in the GPS locater/LoJack systems when I was present as someone tried to actually, you know, find his stolen car. He had LoJack on his truck and it was stolen from a parking lot while we were at dinner. The system could only be activated by law enforcement Monday through Friday during regular business hours and the locater would only would only work within the continental U.S. – no great help at 8PM on a Friday when you’re within an easy drive to either Mexico or the Port of Houston.

  47. Bee1 says:

    If they want it bad enough nothing will stand in their way.
    Several years back one of the surronding counties was known for stolen vehicles.

    The old saying went…

    They are so good at stealing your car they will leave the radio playing for you.

  48. Czum says:

    I may have gone a little overboard:
    1) Auto Club (round key design)
    2) factory alarm
    3) aftermarket immobilizer (RFID based)
    4) Cobb AccessPort anti-theft program, which prevents the car from being started if power is cut to the vehicle. Car cannot be restarted without my _specific_ AP (they are “married” to one another) – you would have to replace the car’s ECU ($1k+) to get it going.

    Admittedly, and as has been pointed out, this will not stop a dedicated thief. But that is not my point. As Orv mentioned, my goal is simply to make my car too much of a PITA to bother stealing, and get the thief to move on to the next (easier) target.

  49. FightOnTrojans says:

    @tkozikow: And the motion-activated security light would do what? Give them better light to work in? A motion-activated security DOG would probably be a little better. Or that anti-theft device that was in the Robocop movie that fried the thief when he got in the car. That is a good one.

  50. FightOnTrojans says:

    @Skeptic: You are so right about the booby-trap killing the creator. A guy in my town finally had enough of his wife and decided to off her by booby-trapping the door to their double-wide so a bomb would go off when she opened it. He so despised her that, after setting up the bomb, he pulled a chair up and sat just inside the door, so he could have a good view of her going kablooey. Sure enough, she comes home, opens the door, and KABLOOEY! She wakes up blown halfway across the trailer park, bumped, bruised, scraped, cut, and the trailer door on top of her, but otherwise ok. He, on the other hand, immediately placed himself on the Darwin Award shortlist. You see, he placed the bomb inside the door, so when it went kablooey, it blew the door of the hinges knocking her across the trailer park, and making dead-husband stew out of him. Doh!

  51. fuzzball21 says:

    [dcist.com]

    Better than a guard dog….

    I’d get two, and put one on each side, front and back…. that way you can’t be towed….

  52. artki says:

    I’ve had experience with unbreakable/unpickable anti-theft products. Once upon a time I had a CB radio (yeah, I’m old) and I installed a clever anti-theft gizmo around it. Massive steel plates, pick resistant locks. Very formidable. One day my CB was gone and the thief was cheeky enough to relock the anti-theft device.

  53. phimuskapsi says:

    @Skeptic: Actually “man-traps” are illegal in all 50 states. There is a book I have called 50 Projects for the Electronic Evil Genius and it has instructions for a car ‘alarm’ that shocks the intruder with 20,000 volts. There is a starred disclaimer at the end saying that doing this is illegal though.

    Too bad I would love to make a system like that.

  54. @Ron21: I used to go to school in Newark, NJ, and I did this every morning to my car. It was good because while they may get it started for a few seconds, it will then die. This will confuse most thieves b/c it DID start, so they know it’s not a kill switch, but then you have a whole bunch of options as to why the car didn’t start, and by then it’s too much of a hassle to become a shadetree mechanic.

    “@BoomhauerTX: “Starter fuse”? WTF is a “starter fuse”? I’ve been working on cars since before I was old enough to drive one, and I’ve never heard of a “starter fuse”. “

    I am guessing he is referring to the fuse in the fuse box that covers the starting system in his car. It appears your car doesn’t have this fuse.

  55. @phimuskapsi: There was a guy who tried this in NJ a few years back. He hooked his car up to a transformer so that if you touched the car, it would shock you. It was discovered when a cop was driving by on a rainy night and saw sparks coming off the car. They called the bomb squad out and everything. I remember the news story, it was funny.

  56. eskimo81 says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the gaurantee is something akin to Kensingtons gaurantee on their laptop locks.

    The gaurantee on those only applies if the cable is cut, and not if the lock is picked.

  57. Not Alvis says:

    Just pull the distributor cap when you park and carry it away with you.

  58. EyeintheLAsky says:

    Although it is debatable as to how effective any anti-theft device is, one of the best devices is that which helps DETER the theft in the first place.

    As told to us in criminology: “You can’t stop crime. You can only move it around.”

    That being said, a company called Ravelco has one of the best ideas out there.

    Unlike LoJack – which only helps and comes into play AFTER the theft has occured, the Ravelco anti-theft system deters the thief through sheer numbers: by using the number of wires in a wire loom to change the number of connections to make the car start in the first place.

    These numbers add up to time. Time which most thieves don’t want to waste on any particular item for very long.

    The idea is to make a thief want to abandon the time it’ll take to actually take your car…and maybe try to take another car nearby.

    The quote for my Camry was $400. Less than the price of a LoJack.

    Sure – someone can still break INTO my car. But chances are, they won’t spend the time it’ll take to figure out how to START it, so they can TAKE it.

    Check out their website:

    [Ravelco.com]

  59. Not Alvis says:

    What to look for in a quality lock is an Abloy-type key.

    These twist wafers inside the lock. Unlike normal locks with pins, there’s no spring to provide tension, making raking the lock impossible. The only way to pick these is by impressioning, which is quite difficult.

  60. jfischer says:

    I’m amazed no one has said it, so I will:

    They call it “UnBREAKable”, not “unPICKable”, and for a reason!

    Oooold saying:
    Ain’t the hick that ain’t been tricked,
    Ain’t the lock that ain’t been picked.

  61. Drive a car that doesn’t start. That was my strategy for years. Oh, and having doors that don’t open keeps them trapped in the car. Granted, he broke the window to get out.

  62. drnmr says:

    The best anti theft device is to take your rotor button out, or the equivalent, every time you park.

  63. vietkangta says:

    One of the best way to protect your car is to park on your driveway and set a light to shine on the car all night long. That should deter thieves from stealing the car. Sure, you might waste electricity.

  64. frogpelt says:

    @unklegwar:

    “Anything with an absolute declaration in it’s name (unbreakable, unbeatable, etc) – isn’t. As a matter of fact, it’s probably just the opposite.”

    Wasn’t that a little redundant?

  65. Dakine says:

    I use a police grade wheel boot on my truck. The kind that they slap on you in the city for parking enforcement. Guaranteed no one is leaving with the vehicle.

    I admit it’s mighty inconvenient, as it weighs over 50 lbs and is a pain to put on and take off, but for those times when you want to make absolutely certain that vehicle ain’t going nowhere…. put on a wheel boot.

    [www.universalboot.com]

  66. Mike the Dog says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: I guessed the same thing, but I’ve never heard of or seen one, either in one of my own cars or any one I’ve worked on (I’m in my 40s I’ve owned and worked on literally dozens of cars). I would almost go so far as to say that such a thing does not exist in any car, anywhere. The closest thing I have ever seen is a fusible link, which is a piece of thin wire between the battery and ignition switch made to burn up and open the circuit in case of overload. These are not readily removable, though.

  67. snoop-blog says:

    I waiting for my briefcar from the jetsons.

  68. ringo00 says:

    @snoop-blog: Why wait? Mazda built it about 15 years ago.

    [www.roadraceengineering.com]

  69. You’re being naive if you think there’s such a thing as an unbreakable lock.

  70. Lucky225 says:

    @Garonyldas:

    unBREAKable, not unPICKable lol

  71. Orlando Javier says:

    k-bo.lets clear somthing up.the parts on a honda that are stolen are 90% cosmetic.lets not get this twisted.repairs your meaning cosmetic.hondas are in the top 2 in reliability.that offends me that you you did not do your homework before you down talk one of the most successfull and reliable car companies on the planet.