How to make a bad situation worse.

“Wired Magazine” stuck some foot in a wrong pile today by releasing an article about how to “Hotwire Your Own Car“. If anyone actually follows this advice, they are an idiot. Not only will the directions they give not work, the attempt to make them work can ruin your car.

1. Their “what you need” list contains various tools and items. My “what you need” list contains 1 item: a spare key hidden somewhere on the car.

2. The screwdriver. This only works on 2 kinds of cars. The 20 year old Toyota pickup truck with the ignition so worn out that the key looks like a toothpick, and the 20 year old GM plasti-cars with the key that fits in a giant plastic wing-nut on the column, and happen to have a broken tumbler. In any other situation, forcing the ignition with a screwdriver will guarantee that when you do get the key, it wont fit anymore. End result: expensive repair.

3. Pulling off the panel. Nope, you need a screwdriver, and sometimes a special one. If your car has been sitting in a hot sun for a few years, pulling that panel down “carefully” will get it off, but it ain’t goin’ back on, cuz everything that holds it on is now powder. End result: expensive repair.  Or, adding other duct tape colored accents to your interior to match your new column. Oh, and forget the slightly painful electric 12 volt shock, how bout accidentally arc-welding the power wire to a chassis ground and blowing a super-fuse you don’t have or starting a harness fire.

4. Pairs of wires? Ha! this ain’t a phone system, they’re not in pairs, they are in one big shrink wrapped clump you’ll need to cut open. The way to tell the difference here is not the color. I have never seen a wiring diagram for the ignition key in an owners manual, except maybe for an old VW beetle. Your gonna need a Chilton book or something. A handier diagram would be directions to find your hidden key.

5. If your gonna start MacGyver-ing wires together, expect to blow fuses or possibly a computer. Oh, and expect an expensive repair bill.

6. Even if through some miracle, you get the car running, you cannot drive it, the steering will be mechanically locked. The only cars on the road without steering locks are older cars that have the keyhole for the ignition somewhere away from the steering wheel. when was the last time you saw that? for me, its usually older Porsche cars.

Others have probably edited more info into the article, but there is no circumstance in which even I, the Geekwrench, would choose hotwiring over a tow truck.

This post has been edited and reposted for those of you who base credibility on grammar (rather ridiculous to me if you know any physics majors). While I am better educated than most mechanics, including ‘The Man’ I work for, I have never seen anyone turn down an estimate for repair because the mechanic didn’t have an English major. Or for that mater, even speak English.

6 Responses to “How to make a bad situation worse.”

  1. “There are so many spelling and grammar mistakes in this post that I lost faith in the information.”

    Im sory butt if speling ang gramer are your poits of credability in an article, youve first mist the point i maid in other posts, and secent, are depending on a set ov brain cells that most mechanics do not have. — GW

  2. Great follow up! I laughed at the funny, and very true, comments you had.

    Hey, just a heads up, your last sentence has a couple words mixed case somebody wants to come in here and try to disprove your credibility…you know, the same idiots that blew up their car following the other site’s advice 🙂

    witch –> which
    chose –> choose

    1. spare hidden key….classic…..

  3. Great reality check to the article and to the first comments. You crack me up. Always have.
    I followed your advice from many years ago and always have a spare key close by.

  4. I have to admit that if a business doesn’t know the difference between “cars” and “car’s”, I go elsewhere. I refuse to patronize stupidity, especially when someone paid to place that stupidity on a sign!

    Really? where was this?

  5. Grammar? Spell errors? Nitpicking that stuff is for people who are trying to prove themselves smarter than the author… and what’s the point in that?

    You wanna prove you’re smarter? Post a set of instructions that works. Show superior knowledge of the topic. Hot wire his car and post the video to YouTube.

  6. So here’s my deal: I drive a 2000 Ford Focus, and their ignition has a known bug where one of the pins falls down all the way, and you can’t push the key into the ignition. We ended up just drilling out the ignition (thus making it use no key). You can just lodge the key in the drilled hole and turn, and it cranks right up.

    It also has an RFID fob on it. The system is ridiculous. You can actually just unplug the RFID bit inside the steering column and bam, no more need for the RFID fob. You don’t have to short anything out; if it’s not plugged in, no need for an RFID fob.

    But as for all the panic about hotwiring a car, the instructions would’ve worked semi-decently in my case. I definitely know how I could hotwire my car, just from the wires, but I could see accidentally shorting out the computer if you weren’t careful. Anyway, as someone who’s done it I disagree with the way you dismissed it out of hand. And having a spare key wouldn’t do shit in my situation.

    I of course left it hooked up so it provides some semblence of key-hood (i.e. not just screwdriver, turn, and go).

    First problem, you drive a Ford Focus. I don’t work on Fords, unless the client is unusually desperate. In any case, this car would have been fixed properly the first time, probably with an updated ignition.
    There is something special about your car if the RFID fob is disabled by unplugging a wire, because all your unplugging is an antenna. Try this: unplug that wire you mention, and then hard lock the car (instructions in your manual if Ford does such a thing, i know Jaguar and Land Rover can) or disconnect the battery for a while, and see if the car cranks and dies because the computer shut off the fuel. the actual coding is in the computer, and you cannot disable that without serous hacking. I have seen drilled out ignitions before, but usually the client does not particularly desire such a convenience, and i replace the tumbler. Of course, with a Ford Focus, such anti-theft devices probably aren’t necessary.

Leave a Reply