Knowing how to hotwire a car is just one of those things anyone should try; not to steal cars, but to get a understanding of vehicles in general. While many people go through life without knowing how to hot wire a car, it is undoubtedly a useful skill to have. It can even mean survival.
To start, “hotwiring” is easiest on cars manufactured earlier than 2000, before most cars came with an immobilizer and alarm system. Hotwiring newer vehicles with these features is a much more involved process unless you’re familiar with the quirks of the model, and that’s a story for another day. Today, we’re going over how to hotwire a car using the steering column. This is a simple way to start a car without the key, and is a learning experience.
For many readers, I suspect this will be at best a review, but for those not familiar with some of the basics of how cars work–relax, this is easier than you think.
Cautions and Tips
- It is a matter of personal survival to always wear insulated gloves when handling the wires so as to prevent you from being electrocuted.
- In dire situations where your survival is the top priority, you probably won’t have time to check a manual to find out which wires to use. It may help if you practice beforehand and in the safety of your home, so doing it later will come easily.
- Always bring your driver’s license with you, along with something that proves that you are the owner of the car that you are about to hot wire. It would do you no good to be arrested for trying to hot wire a car that you own.
1. Gather Your Tools.
- To begin, you’ll need some electrical tape, a pocketknife of some kind, a screwdriver, and insulated gloves (recommended).
- Do not break into a car unless you own it and have documentation to prove it. Be aware that forced entry will set an alarm if the vehicle is equipped.
- If you have access to the owner’s manual, check to make sure the steering column and gear selector can be overridden. Serious damage to the shifting mechanism and steering column can result from this method.
2. Remove the plastic cover on the steering column.
- These are usually held in place with concealed clips or #2 Phillips-type screws. Remove them and pull the access panels free.
3. Find the wiring harness connector.
- Once you remove the panels on the steering column, you should see a roil of electrical wires. Don’t be intimidated, learn to recognize the right bundle. There will typically be three main bundles of wires:
- Wires leading to the column-mounted controls on one side, like lights, cruise control, and other indicators
- Wires leading to the column controls on the other side, like wipers or seat warmers
- Wires leading to the the battery, ignition, and starter leading straight up the steering column
4. Separate the battery, ignition, and starter wire bundle.
- One of these will be the primary power supply for the ignition switch, one will be ignition wires, and the other will be the starter. The other colors will vary depending on the manufacturer.
- Unfortunately, only one wire is responsible for actually starting the car, and as there is no universal color code for the individual wires, you will have to consult your car’s manual to know which one to look at.
- Sometimes the ignition wires are brown and the starter wires yellow, but the battery wires are most usually red. Again, the only way to be sure is to read the owner’s manual. Be warned, messing with the wrong wires will get you electrocuted.
5. Strip about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of insulation from the battery wires and twist them together.
- Wrap them with electrician’s tape if available, and do not allow them to short against metal vehicle components. Connecting these will provide electricity for the ignition components, so the engine is able to run when the starter is turned.
6. Connect the ignition on/off wire to the battery wire.
- You should see the dash lights and other electrical components come alive at this point. If all you want to do is listen to the radio, you’re done. If you want to drive the car, you’ll need to spark the starter wire.
7. Strip the starter wire about 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm).
- This will be live, so you need to extremely careful and keep close hold of your bare wires. Touch the end of this to the connected battery wires. Don’t try to twist it on, just spark it against the battery wires to start the car.
8. Rev the engine.
- If you get the car to start, rev it a few times so you don’t stall out and have to do this process again.
- Once the engine starts, you can remove the starter wire and continue on your way. When you want to kill the engine, simply unfasten the battery wires from the ignition wires and the car will die.
See, easy, right? Once you’re done playing around, use the electrical tape to carefully cover up the insulation holes you made in the wires. We don’t want any shorts or fires or anything.
If you’d like more information and practice with Vehicle Commandeering, BSR offers a Vehicle Commandeering Course designed to teach individuals how to acquire a vehicle without the use of a key. The training focuses on commandeering a vehicle in an operational environment by improvising the tools needed to gain entry, overcoming the locking devices, identifying and selecting the appropriate electrical circuit, both inside and under the vehicle hood, in order to start the vehicle.
For more information on Vehicle Commandeering and to see course offerings, visit our website.
Read more at Jalopnik.com.