How to Hot-Wire a Car

No keys and no help in sight? Here's how to get your car moving again.

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Up next in Driving & Car Safety (28 videos)

Stay safe on the road with the important information in this car and driver video series.

You Will Need

  • Proof of ownership of the vehicle
  • A hammer
  • A flat-head screwdriver
  • A Phillips-head screwdriver
  • Your car's manual
  • Insulated gloves
  • Wire cutters and strippers

Steps

  1. Hot-wiring a car is dangerous and is likely to damage your vehicle. Never hot-wire anyone's car but yours and be prepared to show your proof of ownership.

  2. Step 1

    Try a screwdriver

    Pound a flat-head screwdriver into the ignition and turn it like a key. This will ruin the ignition cylinder, but it's effective on many cars manufactured before the mid '90s.

  3. Step 2

    Remove the ignition cover

    If the car doesn't start, pull the screwdriver out of the ignition and remove the screws in the panels on the top and bottom of the steering column. Next, use the flat-head screwdriver to pry off the plastic panels and expose the ignition cylinder and the wires running to it. Be gentle to minimize damage to the steering column.

  4. Step 3

    Identify the battery and starter wires

    Identify the battery and starter wires. Generally the two red wires handle the car's power, and the one or two brown wires connect to the starter. Consult your car's manual to learn its specific wire color code.

  5. Step 4

    Connect the power wires

    Put on the gloves, and use the cutters to cut the power wires from the cylinder. Then, strip the ends and connect them by twisting them together to provide power to the lights, radio, and other electrical systems.

  6. Step 5

    Connect the starter wires

    Cut the starter wires from the cylinder and strip the ends. Be extremely careful not to touch the exposed ends as they carry a powerful live current and will shock you. Touch them together, and as soon as the car has started, pull them apart and tape the ends to avoid getting shocked while driving.

  7. If the car has only has one starter wire, touch it to the exposed part of the connected power wires to start the car.

  8. Step 6

    Deal with additional security

    Deal with additional security. In some cars the steering-wheel lock's bolt can be pried open by jamming a screwdriver between the top of the steering column and the steering wheel.

  9. Newer cars have complex wheel locks and electronic key systems that are nearly impossible to circumvent without tools and in-depth knowledge.

  10. Step 7

    Turn the car off

    Turn the car off by separating the power wires from each other. Now it's time to find that extra set of keys and head to the repair shop, pronto.

  11. In 2008, vehicle thefts in the U.S. declined for the fifth year in a row.

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