Unattended vehicles tempting target for auto thieves

No need to “warm up” most vehicles, experts say

SAN ANTONIO – With colder weather expected this weekend, you might be tempted to warm up your car before getting in and taking off. But that could make your vehicle a target for thieves.

“Typically, during colder months, vehicle thieves really look at this as an opportunity. They’ll drive around. They’ll look for vehicles when a driver has maybe started their car and then they’ll go back inside and wait for it to warm up when it’s unattended,” said Joshua Zuber, a spokesman for AAA Texas. “And then just, you know, in a matter of seconds, a thief can jump in your vehicle and take off with stolen property.”

Unattended vehicles with keys or fobs left inside “made up 11% of all vehicle thefts in 2018 or approximately 81,911 vehicles stolen,” according to AAA, which cited the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Zuber said all you really need to do to warm up most modern vehicles is start it for enough time to buckle your seat belt. Then you can get on your way.

“That ensures, of course, that the oil gets to lubricating the engine and then also really driving a car at normal speeds, you know, not accelerating hard or anything like that, will warm the engine up faster and also reduces exhaust emissions,” he said.

Other steps drivers can take is not leaving keys in vehicles, parking in well-lit areas and installing or upgrading alarm systems.

Mother’s Window and Tint in San Antonio reported that many drivers are doing just that.

“You know, most people think, ‘Oh, I don’t need one, I don’t need one.’ And then it happens. And they see that it does help,” said Chris Gries, who works at the 281 North location. “An alarm system is a deterrent.”

Remote start systems that allow the vehicle to remain locked can also be an option for vehicle owners.

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About the Author:

Samuel King anchors traffic during GMSA and reports on transportation and mobility issues across the San Antonio region. He joined the KSAT 12 news team in 2020 from KUT in Austin. Samuel was born in Queens, spent time growing up in South Alabama and graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.