How to hotwire your own car

Ignition switch
Picture this scenario: it’s 2 AM, you’re stuck somewhere you’d rather not be, and you’ve lost your car keys. If you can’t call the Auto Club, what do you do? Hotwire your own car, of course. Wired.com has a wiki article detailing all the things you need to do to get that car running: how to identify which wires to connect, potential pitfalls of newer cars that require an RFID chip in the key, and so on. Of course, hotwiring a car that doesn’t belong to you is illegal, but this is one of those skills-like lockpicking-which just might come in handy in an emergency.

[Photo: D.B. Blas]

Comments

  1. TJHooker says:

    I was once obsessed with this subject.

    Since the mid nineties even cars like Honda preludes started getting RFID keys. The 2000 integra didn’t have it though. It’s always been like this. Some cars didn’t get them till after 2005 or later.

    The GM PASSKEY system was actually resistor based at one time.

    Also, since the ’70s, a lot of vehicles got anti theft circuits based on relays that made hot wiring harder. It was an actuator circuit under the hood based on current coming from two or more circuits on the switch block.

    Criminals use slide hammers and screwdrivers on the lock cylinders of the ignition switches though. The crypto on Megamos, TI etc systems has been cracked, but not published. It takes fast computing.

  2. Fate says:

    No mention about the dangers of triggering the air bag? Or frying the ECU? A used ECU can sometimes be had inexpensively, but on many vehicles needs to be reprogrammed to have the correct mileage data which may require you to report the errata on your vehicle title significantly lowering the value of your vehicle.

  3. cerberus says:

    Oh I forgot to mention… the steering lock will stop you dead in the car park unless you have the minerals to break it.

  4. TJHooker says:

    The steering lock isn’t a problem when you pop the lock. When you hot wire you can usually break them by hand. It takes twisting the wheel hard till the lock gear breaks.

  5. jumpinjackflash says:

    Just as a curious note.. I have found that most rfid chips do nothing more than disable the fuel pump on most vehicles like the dodge neon for example.. a plain cut key will crank the car and it will die out with out the rfid key.. but run a hot wire to the fuel pump and viola!

  6. Desterado says:

    This is so useless. This will only work on much much older cars, and even if it does, why would you go through all of this hassle! Let alone if you lock your car whenever you leave it how do you plan on getting inside of it!? GM starting using passlock chip systems in their vehicles in 1998, many other companies did too. I cannot think of one situation where I would take the time and risk damaging my car by disassembling the ignition cylinder, stripping wires, and starting my car which would then have to be put back together AS OPPOSED TO calling AAA or something.

    Most car manuals DO NOT tell you which wires are for which positions in the ignition cylinder either, who the hell came up with that idea?

    Christ, this is a mess.

  7. ClutchDude says:

    Actually, for a friend who broke his Maxima’s key off in the ignition, it was VERY simple to remove the steering wheel lock.

    They used snap-off bolts that had a then piece of metal connecting the head to the rest of the bolt. once it torqued, *SNAP*.

    Was pretty easy though. Just used a dremel, cut some a slot, screwed it out and down fell the lock.

    He started it with a self starter that’s actually on the inside panel. Never knew that myself actually. I think it was a ’95.

  8. XED says:

    I highly doubt you could pull this off on any newer cars, especially euro cars(I drive a VW GTI).

    Mine has a lasercut key, and its nearly impossible to get into unless you have that key fob.

  9. Shawn says:

    In 92′ I started a girlfriends Chevy Luv with a safety pin by pushing the safety pin through one side of the wire ribbon. As I passed it through each wire after the power wire lights would come on until I hit the ignition wire and the truck started to turn over. Once it started I backed it out of the ignition wire and presto we had a running vehicle. This was used for ~ a week until she found her keys.

    I have yet to be able to reproduce this feat….grrrrr

  10. been there says:

    their methods would work on a 77 mini cooper, but I’ve found it’s easier just to take the ignition switch loose at the main harness at the bottom of the steering column, as there’s 5 wires down there that are controlled by the switch, and there is actually an entire wiring diagram, all labeled and everything, in the manual, making it very easy on that car. my 1990 eagle talon is a whole different story though, it’s nearly impossible just to get the bottom cover off.

  11. Nonyms says:

    2001 Buick Century simply has a 30 ohm resistor in the key.

  12. rob says:

    2001 buick has one of 7 resistors in the key 30 ohm being on of them but there was 7 different ones for each year

  13. miles says:

    Oops, I just forgot, my moms old Ford Escort MK2 already is like this, the “key” can be a paperclip, dime, small screwdriver, or even your thumb if you can get enough grip.

    I think it is just worn out, don’t know why. Maybe somebody removed the tumbler pins?

    Too bad it won’t run anymore, it developed a horrible mixture problem (the exhaust smelled like rotten eggs), so you couldn’t drive it if you wanted too. I would have repaired it if I had the equipment (fuel pressure gauge, ignition oscilloscope, compression tester, Ford ECU computer reader.)

  14. pepe prawn says:

    wasn’t going to comment on this at all until i saw cerberus’ post. this article is complete trash. being a mechanic, i have intimate knowledge of the wiring and theft deterrents of most modern vehicles.

    reading the article is a waste of everyone’s time.

  15. miles says:

    All my VW’s from 95 up have an alarm, it checks the hood and immobilizes the car :)

    Unfortunately I am not a VW mechanic and not privy to that system, but here are some ideas that should work on most older cars.

    Find a point that the ignition power will surely be, AKA the coil. Connect the Coil to the battery with something that won’t fall off as you are driving.

    Find the solenoid wire and clip a temporary alligator clip to it, touch to battery power(which can be found at the alternator if it is closer) and it should start. Clip the alligator somewhere you can reach it again (that won’t touch power) so that you can start it again (or on an old ford use a sturdy screwdriver to short across the solenoid).

    Use a black dusty wire and chances are you can claim you needed to check the oil if somebody bothers you.

    I had to use this once actually, a friend had the transmission interlock wires melt and ground on his exhaust shield. This meant no start and stuck in 2nd gear. I just disconnected the wiring harness on his nissan (right near battery), and clipped the jumper to the wire on his solenoid, it fired right up.

    you can do this on any car, but you ought to be a professional mechanic, and ideally a factory certified technician of every model that has alarms/interlocks.

    No reason to steal a car if you are this good, you can make a very good living as a mechanic without doing anything illegal. (near three figures if you are intelligent and good at troubleshooting, maybe more if you moonlight or run your own shop)

  16. BigD145 says:

    For those of us that don’t buy new cars every 5-10 years, yeah this article is useful. I’m sure it’ll work on my ’91 Toyota.

  17. neorazz says:

    for everyone whos a naysayer
    wait till the day rour iginition breaks when you stop for gas on the way to work (running late)
    i impromptu hot wired my 91 using my bare hands to rip off the sterring colum covers and cut the wires with a knife there are only five main wires (look for the big ones) it was only a matter of minutes to have the car running and with with only a clip holding the wire toghter …so learn before you need to know ..cause when the axis of evil blows out those EMP’S your gonna want to know how to start the only cars without microprocessors

  18. K1ngfunK says:

    My dad just bought an ’07 BMW 335i, and with whatever package it has, he simply has to have his key near the car, push the clutch in, and push the button to start it. Quite frankly this worries me, because it appears to be a simple RFID or wireless transmission of some sort enabling this feat. Perhaps these days car thieves must be more tech-savvy than mech-savvy.

  19. laptopleon says:

    I own a Toyota Celica 2002 with a non-standard alarm system that reacts to movement of *anything* in the car (so don’t let a butterfly in..) AND changes in the angle and speed of the car. Beside the screeming noise and blinking lights, it blocks the ignition. Besides that it uses RFID in the key.

    So hotwireing is not really an option, I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it would take far too long.

  20. Orv says:

    Hide a key under your car with one of those magnetic key box things, and you’ll never have to worry about doing this and causing damage to your car. Works for lock-outs, too. A thief isn’t going to go hunting for the key, since they don’t care about doing damage and can steal the car just as quickly without it.

  21. Austin Leavitt says:

    Thanks now i dont have to spend my money on a locksmith this will help me alot

  22. Tim says:

    Y’all r fukin stupid all u need ya do is pop da inition an cut does two wires an put dem togetha an then it will start fukin fagits wea y’all from I’ll cum get er car

  23. wiseguy says:

    To the guy with the BWM worried about the remote starter (push button start), rest assured that this system uses an RFID and a transponder. That is to say, the car send out a signal which “polls” for the key FOB (it needs to be within a few feet of the car). Without the digitally coded key FOB in proximity, you got nothing. Ultimate safety.

    Most of the reply’s in this thread are totally bogus, and BS, some of which are simply made up.

    Yeah, you can hot-wire the older cards that use a standard ignition switch on the column, but not the newer cars which use key fobs with RFID, and transponders.

  24. decotrain says:

    i have a 91 ford i paid $250 for, the ignition is messed up and i am not about to pay a couple hundred in parts to fix it so i am just hooking up toggle switches. only thing is i am not sure what wires go to what. i have bat. 1 and 2, ign. 1 and 2, starter, and acc. i am guessing i connect acc. 1 and 2 with bat. 1 to give me all my dash lights, then touch bat. 2 to starter to start the car. anyone know for sure?

  25. souljah says:

    HEY WELL I GOT A 07 JEEP SAHARA DAT I CANT START IF ANYBODY KNOWS HOW TO DO DAT DEN HIT ME UP AT cloverleaf_souljah@yahoo.com

  26. puzzlepiece says:

    reral simple take a wireless drill put it in the keyhole drill til the tumblers break the your car can prettymuch be started with a simple flathead or household kitchen knife

  27. ZACH says:

    I have a 2006 chevy 3500 ambulance. This vehicle is in iraq and the ignition and steering wheel is locked up. also the battery is dead (easy fix). i have the key, but its locked! i am working w/ government and cant disclose what ambulance is used for but need it to run! any advice.

  28. JOHN says:

    all you really have to do to start a car is break off the top thing from the steeering wheel and snap off rhe switch and pull on taht switch and your good to go……duh

  29. Jayson says:

    I have an eagle talon 1990 awd tsi and I have unlocked my door with slim jim, but I have indeed lost my keys and really dont have the funds to go get a lock smith, and I cant get a key off my vin# any more was told to old, can some one please tell me how to get the lock cylinder out with busting the hole colum and how to get it running ?????? please in need of help

  30. Bob says:

    adsfsdfsdfjkhakljsfghkshgf i like cheeeeeeese!!!
    hahahahahaha do you like cheeeeeeese? i also like pie.

  31. Bob says:

    rofl

  32. erik says:

    i have a 1972 black chevelle

  33. erik says:

    i i have 1972 ss chevelle

  34. alex says:

    The general methodology described in the article is correct. I just hot-wired my 93 escort, there are still plenty of cars around with simple ignitions.

  35. XeScience says:

    Hey guys, I was in this situation, I lost my keys, and decided to hot wire my Dodge Neon, 2000. It worked just fine, and the steering column was not no trouble. But, I could not get the car into gear. The shifter seems to have some sort of bar through it, and I don’t think it’s controlled by a relay, it seems to disengage when the key is turned. Any ideas?

  36. Farva says:

    There should be a small cover somewhere near the gear shifter. Just pop that cover off with a flathead, and their will be a button that will release the gear shifter. Tow truck drivers use it to put a car in neutral.

  37. siberthug says:

    To those of you who believe a key fob or rfid will prevent any car feom neing stolen, hate to say it, but its a very simple bypass procedure. I’m a mechanic and repo guy, and anyone who knows a decent mechanic, repo business, or has an internet connection and a few bucks can buy programmable fobs, rfid readers/coders, code scanners, download auto security bypass programs, etc. Its really as simple as the waiter having the credit card scanner when you pay for your meal. Also, any “real” car thief is typically 2 or 3 steps ahead of car manufacturers, police, anti-theft companies, etc. They will typically have the actual security/dealer programs and tools before they are released to actual dealerships. Crime is a financial business, and lots of people are willing to take a few extra bucks offered to them for minimal risk. You should really be concerned with the guy at the dealership who sold you the car, or the parts guy at the counter who makes minimum wage. I’d be willing to bet that if I could get say $2500 for your car at a chop shop, 85% of those parts/service guys would order me a programmed key for $500-1000 waved at them. Also, In the real world, in any type of security (home, auto, internet, etc), its usually the security companies trying to play catch up to the thieves and hackers. For every security system out there, there’s a person with a computer and/or tools that are smarter…

  38. robert says:

    A 95 chevy blazer you just run a screw driver across the brass pins in the black plast box under the column cover on the right side. A newer bmw or mercades you use a key proggremer hook it to the plug in slot on driverside and program key then program car and thats it. a 90’s modle chavy with the basic column you snap the cover on the left side and pull the cast alluminum ring down to unlock column then push the bar that was in the ring down to start the vehical.

  39. robert says:

    there are two hot wires (red) you cross with two other wires diffrent for every vehicl (90 chevy truck pink, to run orange for accessoiry) then the last wire just tap to the hot wire to crank moter over diffrent on all vehicals ( 90 chevy truck purple.)

  40. robert says:

    order your key coders online and pay way less for them.

  41. Alison Jones says:

    how can i get my truck 96 blazer to start without key

  42. Zombie slayer says:

    well how do you actually do it?

  43. Wooder Good says:

    how do i Hotwire a 1970 Nova 350

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