Keep That Truck Secure
I have been selling and installing alarm systems on cars and trucks for over 30 years and because I also sell truck accessories, many of my alarm customers also drive trucks. So here are a few things I have learned along the way about protecting your truck and its contents.
Most quality alarm systems on the market today when installed by a skilled installer will give you the basic protection you need as a starting point for a pickup truck security system. But unlike sedan style cars which standard alarms system protect very well, pickup trucks generally have several other areas of concern that need to be considered. A few concerns might include a toolbox full of tools, a bed cover with with valuable cargo underneath, a tailgate that can probably be removed without tools, and a spare tire that is on the outside of the vehicle. Let's discuss how you can protect your truck with a few of these scenarios in mind.
Starting with the tailgate. The tailgate on most trucks can be removed without any tools if it is left unlocked... meaning a thief can walk off with yours in minutes and you or your insurance company are left looking at possibly several thousand dollars to replace it. So in my opinion every truck need a tailgate lock. Most newer trucks now come with them, but most older trucks didn't. If your truck needs a tailgate lock, there will generally be three kinds to choose from. First is a manual lock that locks the handle so the tailgate can not be opened and since you have to lower the tailgate to remove it, these are pretty effective at preventing theft. An add on lock to the existing tailgate handle is available for most trucks without dramatically changing the looks of the tailgate for $50 or less. The second type is an electronic lock that goes inside the tailgate and ties into the trucks door locks, which means when you lock the doors you also lock the tailgate. Plan on spending $150 to $250 for this type of lock. The last type is a lock that secures the bottom tailgate hinge to the body of the truck, so the tailgate cannot be removed. You might have seen people put a hose clamp around the hinge to make removing the tailgate more difficult, and these types of locks are the same idea, just more secure and high tech. There are a couple of types of key locks that go around the hinge that work well as well as hardened steel plates that cover the gap where the tailgate slips out when removed and secure with a security type bolt. These types of locks are generally less than $30. One consideration of the last type is that they don't keep the tailgate from being lowered, only removed. So if you have a bed cover and want the whole bed locked, you will probably want to consider one of the first two types of locks I described.
Next let's talk about your spare tire. Suffice to say when you need your spare tire, you expect it to be there, and when you need it is not a good time to find out it was stolen. Most trucks sold today have a spare tire mounted under the truck bed, making them an easy target for theft. Most hang from a manual winch mechanism that raises and lowers them. Its an easy task for someone with the right tool to lower the spare and walk away with it... even on many newer trucks that have a coded tip for the lowering tool because the thin steel cable holding the tire up can just be cut. What I recommend is a heavy braided steel cable and waterproof lock that runs thru the spare tire and around the truck frame. Think of a bicycle style lock and cable except since it is under your truck it will get exposed to lots of dirt and water so make sure the lock is waterproof and preferably has a cap that covers the keyhole, so it works when you need it to. There are also vehicle specific locks that hang thru one of the lug holes in the tire that work well, but be aware you generally have to lay on your back under the truck to take them off. If you use a steel cable be sure and get one that is plastic coated so you don't create a rattle in the back of your truck.
Protecting the door handles and locks is vitally important on today's trucks. In my stores, when we are dealing with the aftermath of pickup truck break ins, we seldom see broken windows anymore. The preferred way to break into today's trucks is thru the door handles. This is because in most cases the door handles are made of plastic and screwdrivers and other tools can be forced in around the edges or thru the keyhole to manipulate the rods that unlock the doors. Often times, especially on Fords, the actually lock cylinder can be pushed backwards out of it plastic housing and then turned with a screwdriver to unlock the door. If you have an alarm, it will go off when the door is opened but it only takes a few seconds for a thief to grab your gear and be gone. So I recommend steel plates that mount inside the door behind the door handles thus protecting that vulnerable area of the door. The most common brand are called Jimmi Jammers. These make breaking in thru the door handles much, much harder. While that doesn't mean someone won't try and end up tearing up your door, but chances are they won't be successful in getting in. Many people also replace their door handles that have key cylinders in them with rear or passenger handles without a keyhole, and just use their remote control to lock and unlock the doors. This is fairly effective, but you need to consider what you will do in case of a dead battery before taking this action.
Protecting under the hood can be important as well in some situations. If a thief can gain access to under the hood, he can possibly disable the siren or battery to get around the alarm system. Most trucks are not easy to get the hood open without releasing it from inside of the truck, but there are a few that can be opened easily. In my experience, many Chevy and GMC trucks can be opened with just a coat hanger thru the grille by an experienced person, so extra protection may be needed. There are hood locks and guards that can be installed. Other good options are a pin switch on the hood to trigger the alarm if the hood is opened or a battery backup system that will keep the alarm operating even if the truck battery is disabled.
Now on to protecting tool boxes, bed covers, and camper shells. In my experience, a properly installed pin switch that triggers the alarm is the best protection in most cases. Care needs to be taken as to how the wiring is run to the pin switch as it needs to be concealed and protected or it will do no good. Other choices could be magnetic switches on tool box doors, mercury tilt switches on bed covers or camper shell doors, or radar sensors inside the bed cover. I still think a properly installed old fashioned pin switch is the best choice to provide proper protection and freedom from false alarms.
Protecting tires and wheels. Many alarm manufacturers now offer digital tilt sensors that remember the angle the truck is parked at when the alarm is armed, and then will trigger the alarm if the truck angle changes for a few seconds. These are probably the best protection for tires and wheels if the truck has an alarm system.
So, the important thing to remember is that an alarm system is just the first layer of security if you own a pickup truck. By considering these other areas and you can have the whole package when it comes to keeping your pickup truck safe and secure.