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. 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]

74 thoughts on “How To Hotwire Your Own Car

  1. 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.

    1. I have an 02 pathfinder with chip key and my only copy is lost. I cant afford a locksmith or dealer replacement and my dad is in the hospital. Havr hot to get to him. Please help.

  2. 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. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

    1. Hey dude there was a team in N.Y.C. they would hook up a laptop Choose a new car and once they would do that they had complete access to the car through the laptop they would be able to turn on the headlights and whatever else they wanted through the laptop and they were doing it with luxury high-end cars

      1. Yep the lux cars have all the fancy integrated hardware, wifi, bt, and stupid schtick no car should have. I mean wtf. And these guys saying such and such is impossible are just nubes is all. Anything man does, man can undue or hack. oh noes a ‘laser cut key’ well shit we could never have a laser! nd besides theres more than oen way to skin said cat. what about injection molding or powder metallurgy possibly? im sure someone has it on lock it (lol)

        1. I disagree with “Anything man does, man can undue or hack”. Actually that’s probably true in the security business except for AES encryption. Man made it, but still CANNOT crack it.

  8. 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

    1. yeah but i bet u got laid for a month.. you could do it again but only after a few years marriage , almost certainly. what made you think to try that? very l33t btw , big ups

  9. 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.

  10. 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.)

  11. 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.

  12. 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)

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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

  18. 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.

  19. 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?

  20. 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

      1. Pretty much, the you won’t be able to access the switch mounting screws till you get at least a few steps into dissasembling the steering column. Start by pulling the horn button and pulling the wheel Pulls with a bolt puller, interesting lockplate removal procedures on early 90s Cadillac as the part that you’d use to release it is floating rather than fixed to the column, took some creativity and patience without the gm special tool. It’s possible for a skilled parts hanger to r+r the switch and be gone in 10 minutes tbh.

  21. 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?

  22. 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.

  23. 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…

  24. 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.

  25. 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.)

  26. My brother in law lost his key a Nissan pickup, I cut the two wires and bumbed the hot started up but the two wires came apart,it died. I twisted them together again and now the dash lights don’t come on.won’t start. Is it a relay and how do I know witch one? “Help”

  27. To those who say ” this is rediculous, useless and why not just call AAA” the answer: I have a nissan maxima (engine messed up leaving me 2 options, my pickup which has trans. Probs only drives in R or 2 or 1, OR, a 1997 mercury mystique which my grandpa had when he passed I sokd and have bought it back) so I’m at my moms 24 miles from my home the key breaks in the ignition I insert the broke end of key it starts for 6 months no prob. Suddenly I go to my moms again to take her to her father in laws funeral, the ignition turns forward to allow ACC. but not to turn further to instruct the starter to turn the flywheel so I’m stuck spending my third night away from home, call AAA? replace the ignition lock cylinder since I’ve already removed it? Great idea BUT I rolled a ATV on highway in 2014 I’ve had 2 shoulder replacements just told I need the third disability I’ve worked to pay for has me waiting still from 4/16/14 to present I am unable to work and have not had one cent income in 2 years literally I’d have bum a dime for a #2 pencil but I’d like go home and have a change of clothes toothbrush etc so since not everyone has the franklins to throw to AAA (in this small town we have one parts store who want $144 for new ignition lock cylinder) so long story short, this info IS useful to some people

  28. I have a 2003 Ford Expedition that I lost the keys too and it’s stuck in my parking lot and I need it out. My manager is going to have it towed and is charging us large fines! Is this vehicle easy to Hotwire? Can you please tell me how?

  29. Listen every1.. lol…… next time, take the chip out of your key, super glue key head back together. .. super glue the chip at 2pm position on your lock cylinder or close under the dash. No more problems… now take your key, rub dry erase marker on it or burn it until black and take clear tape to lay over key.. pull off… lay tape on a soup can and cut it out… now you have a spare :)

  30. My key is broke in my ignition I have the rest of it but my car won’t start but I look at this as a good thing if I can jus hot wire my car with my key being there so my girlfriend won’t be able to take my car again it’s a 2006 Nissan altima can someone please help me out

    1. W
      Remove the coil wire ur gf isnt goin anywhere.. fix ur cylinder remove steering wheel and remove the long screw that holds the cylinder in place.. new cylinder is about $13.

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