Updated: Jun 2
Imagine coming back from the shops and somebody has stolen your house! Most people never have to worry about things like this as it is very hard to steal bricks and mortar.
Unfortunately for van lifers this is a real problem, peoples homes with all of their worldly goods in can easily be stolen or more commonly broken into by experienced criminals in a matter of seconds, you could loose literally everything you own. The worst thing about it is no matter how well your van is secured by locks it's never really going to take longer than 2 seconds for a determined criminal to get in your van. They can just smash a window or bend your drivers door in half!
Basically what i'm saying is if somebody REALLY wants to break into your van there is NOTHING you can really do to stop them.
When it comes to keeping your van safe and secure the best things you can do is stop people wanting to break into it in the first place and if they do break in make it as hard as possible for them to steal your van and belongings.
So today thats what I am going to talk about. I hope you all like it and find it useful.
Where to park
Most of this will be pretty obvious but I have to start somewhere and this is the logical place to start.
Gravel is always a good place to park is it makes in next to impossible to make a silent approach, this will automatically put thieves off if it is on a driveway or somewhere they know there is a good chance of getting seen. It is also good if you are in your van full time as there is a good chance you will hear them coming if you are a light sleeper. The further the distance they have to walk on gravel the harder it is for them to go unnoticed.
Buildings With Lots Of Windows
Parking near buildings with lots of windows that face towards your van isn't great for being stealth but it will make you a lot safer. For instance if you are parked outside a block of flats, hotel, halls of residence etc and lots of windows faced you a thief would hopefully bypass your van for something a little bit more in the shadows. There should be at least a few lights on at all times and open curtains in dark rooms, this is a big deterrent to a thief as they can't see if they are being watched or not and know if they make a noise people will be at windows in seconds checking on their own vehicles. As well as that big buildings almost always have a cctv system so no many people would want to risk it.
With Other Van Lifers
There is a lot to be said about safety in numbers and if you have not noticed already, van lifers take care of van lifers! Well thats certainly true with the UK van life community anyway, and guess what... Other van lifers like to feel safe too. There are thousands of solo and not so solo van lifers out there would probably benefit from parking near others too so why not seek them out. If you're traveling somewhere new pop a post in a van life group on facebook and find people in the area. Be careful not to become an encampment though as you can loose your van to the fuzz.
Under An Obvious CCTV Camera
Again this option isn't very stealth but it will keep you a bit safer. Criminals like to avoid CCTV cameras at all cost as it is clear evidence against them if they get caught. Even if they have their faces covered there is always a chance somebody is watching the footage live in a CCTV control centre somewhere (mainly city and town centre) and they can follow them with the cameras as they make their escape and guide police to them.
Park Against Walls
If you park with your back doors right up against a wall it will make it impossible to open them leaving them less options to get into your van. If you are not staying in the van at the time park with both your back doors and sliding doors as close to a wall as you can get it (inches not foot) this will stop anybody getting into the living apartment of your van if you have a solid bulk head (partition between cab & sleeping area). Side doors are easy to bend in half its called a peel & steal. The closer you can get to the van the less leverage they will be able to get! Dont park a few foot away as this will give them leverage and cover from being seen.
Well Lit And Busy Areas
Criminals like to work in dark isolated areas! If you park in a well lit busy area this will hopefully keep you out of their prowling areas, if not there are more likely to be distractions and witness about that will hopefully make the move on. parking near anything that is open 24 hours a day is also a good idea. Good examples of well lit busy areas are service stations, hotel car parks, 24 hour gym car parks, beach fronts, city centres, etc
How To Deter Criminals
The next thing you should do is make your van as unappealing to criminals as possible. There are many ways of doing this and the more techniques you use at the same time the less likely you are to be chosen by thieves.
If you are in a big city residential area at night or parked in a layby in the middle of nowhere you are most likely to be targeted by opportunist thieves and these are the worst! They will smash your window just for the handful of change you have in your tray. They usually walk the streets late at night when everybody is in bed trying car door handles and stealing from gardens. If they see ANYTHING in your vehicle worth any money they have no problems doing a smash a grab and they will be gone in seconds. What should you do?
Hide anything of value at all, this means everything... Small change, bags, electronics, tools, clothes, carrier bags (they tempt them as they can't see whats in them), cigarettes, etc
If your still in the planning stage of your build I know its not perfect for everybody but I would build a solid bulk head (partition between cab & sleeping area) to prevent anybody thats not invited from entering your living area. Maybe also build an escape hatch into it that can only be opened from inside your living area.
If you are worried about your van being stolen and not just broken into adding some obvious locks to certain things in your van will probably deter criminals from even trying, a lock takes time to bypass (and they can bypass them) and multiple locks will take even longer.
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It's pretty hard to drive a van without an accelerator, brake or clutch. If you put one of these on any of your pedals it will render your van underivable. It will be a lot of effort to remove one of these huddled over in the dark in your footwell, if you had one on each pedal its a win to you.
Steering Wheel Disk Lock
These are one of the best steering wheel locks on the market and they are police approved. They are quite pricey but that is because they are good and harder to bypass than most. There are cheaper options that look the same but they are nowhere near as good. If a thief saw one of these through the window he would know it wouldn't be an easy job.
If you are not living in your van full time and will be parking it somewhere for long periods of time then you might want to think about putting a lock or 2 on your wheels. These are very obvious to see and hopefully that will be enough to put people off. If not they will certainly have to take the time to get them off and that takes time and makes noise. If have have locks on your steering wheel, pedals and wheels that would be enough to put anybody off.
Another thing you can that is very effective is to add some stickers to your van. Im not talking huge decals or anything like that just little stickers that will make any criminal stop and think before trying to steal from you. Don't overdo it though as it will be obvious just choose one, two or three you like and strategically place them around your van.
DOGS IN TRANSIT MAGNET
Would you risk breaking into a van with this magnet? This magnet is the perfect size to fit all the way across the bottom of one of your back doors. You don't even need a dog (or a transit 😂) just the threat of one is enough. As it's magnetic you can remove it when your not parked up
BEWARE OF THE DOGS STICKERS
If you are going for I've got dogs option then these will go well with the sticker above, they are the same size as a small ruler and are prefect for the bottom of van windows.
TOP TIP - If you decide to go for beware of the dig stickers why not back it up by leaving some beefy chain dog leads and massive studded leather dog harness. If you are not bothered about being stealthy at all you could leave large dog bowls outside your living area door.
GPS TRACKER WARNING STICKERS
Let the criminals know or think that your van has a GPS tracker fitted to it. These are small and are meant to go on the side windows of your cab.
As I said earlier in the post CCTV is a major deterrent to thieves and with social media and people naming and shaming them stickers like this could help you keep your van safe. It will be even better if you have the cameras to back it up but just the threat of them should help a lot.
MOBILE MONITORED CCTV STICKERS
You can take the CCTV idea one step further and make them think that they could be being watched live.
How To Stop Your Van From Being Stolen
If the thieves are not deterred by any of the above then there are a few more things we can do to stop them in their tracks, one of the best things you can do is add a deadman switch to your van.
A deadman switch is basically a switch that once turned off stops your van from starting up at all like it has a completely dead battery. You need to hide the switch somewhere only you know where it is and not somewhere obvious.
There are various things you can add a deadman switch to but I recommend adding it to your ignition and it really couldn't be simpler.
The first thing you need to do is look in your vans manual and find out which fuse is you ignition fuse. You then want to remove that fuse and replace it with one of these.
You will probably use the one on the right but it's a pack of 3 so will fit any fusebox.
The next thing you will need is some male & female connectors the same size and connections as the piggyback fuse above.
You will also need an inline fuse holder for the ignition fuse that you took out of the fuse box to complete the circuit when the switch it turned on
This 12v 25 AMP 2 Pin Toggle switch will be the perfect switch
The last thing you will need to complete the circuit is enough 12 gauge cable to reach your deadman switch from your fuse box and then back again. If you wanted the added security of having the deadman switch hidden in your sleeping area you might need 3, 4 or more meters each way.
Once you have everything you need and your piggyback fuse is in the fuse box you will need to cut two lengths of 12 gauge cable both long enough to reach from your fuse box to where you would like to place your toggle switch.
On one of the cables attach female connectors to both ends.
Connect one end of it to one of the pins on the piggy back fuse
Connect the other end of it to one of the pins on the toggle switch
Attach a female connector to one end of the cable attached to the inline fuse holder
Attach a male connector to the other end of the inline fuse holder
Connect the female end to the other pin on the toggle switch
Attach female connectors to the end of the 2nd length of 12 gauge cable
Connect one end to the male connector on the cable of the inline fuse holder
Connect the other end onto the other pin on your piggyback fuse
Put your ignition fuse in the inline fuse holder and you're finished.
It really couldn't be any simpler once you have everything you need.
The Bate Switch
Now you have a deadman switch installed you have the perfect opportunity to add another layer to your security, this ones a little bit funny too. It's guaranteed to either make the criminals either abort the the theft, poo in their pants a little or at least rattle them enough to slow them down.
Imagine this situation...
Somebody has stolen your van keys in a pub, they know what vehicle you are driving as they watched you pull into the car park. You are enjoying your meal and they sneak out to the van and try to start it. They can't get it started (because you have installed a deadman switch in the living area of your van at a previous date). They are not stupid and realise that there must be a switch somewhere and start looking for the switch, they don't have to look far because just by the ignition they see this switch.
12V Car Engine Start Push Button
The van will not start but there is a button next to the ignition that says ENGINE START of course thats what the problem is they think to themselves... I need to press this button! So they do but the problem is it doesn't have the desired effect, instead starting the engine it activates your hilarious outrageously loud musical airhorn. The beauty of this is the button on the switch is momentary so once they have pressed it they can't switch it back the other way to turn it off the horn will play the whole tune until the end, if they try and press the button again to stop it it will start again from the start. If you are close enough to hear it you will be in no doubt that your van is under attack but the chances are by the time you get out to it they would have pooped their pants and run away.
FIAMM Musical Air Horns With Godfather Tune
I'm pretty sure the godfather tune instead of the sound of an engine staring up would be enough to freak anybody out.
FIAMM Musical Air Horns With La Cucaracha Tune
Or you could go a little bit more traditional and let them know you think they are a sneaky cockroach.
These are also very easy to install and come with pretty much everything you need to install it. Anything it doesn't come with you should have left over from when you installed your deadman switch except for black ground 12 gauge cable.
You will need
An inline fuse holder (you should have got 5 in the pack from the deadman switch so no need to buy more)
12 gauge cable Red (you should have left over from deadman switch)
12 gauge cable black https://amzn.to/304I63Q
Female connectors (you should have left over from your deadman switch)
30 AMP Blade fuse https://amzn.to/2N9BLyJ
Make sure you wire your horn set to your leisure battery so it always has power going to it.
As I said they are pretty easy to install yourself, I'm not going to go into exact details as it will depend on what horn and switch etc you buy but basically its 4 wires, an inline fuse, and switch. The instructions will be included with the airhorn.
Key Signal Blockers
Some criminals are more advanced than others and use technology to steal your vehicle. Now they have a device that can fire your key fob from a distance unlocking your van without you even knowing it has happened. DO NOT let this happen to you. You can block the signal with these pouches, they also stop you accidentally unlocking your van in your pocket.
Motion Activated Mobile Monitored CCTV
As I have mentioned a few times in this post criminals really don't like cameras at all. It's actual evidence that can be used against them and none of them want to get caught. So instead of just putting stickers on your van claiming you have motion activated, mobile monitored CCTV installed in your van why don't you actually install some.
This Blink XT2 system is amazing it comes with 3 cameras and even works with Alexa. The cameras have an up to 2 years battery life, the sync unit can be plugged into any usb socket and it also has 2 way audio see you can both see and talk to whoever is on the camera.
To use these cameras in your van you will need WIFI in your van. For more information on how to get wifi in your van please check out this blog post.
As you get three of these cameras with this pack I suggest you strategically post them in your van so they can capture the whole cab, the views from the cab windows and the whole of the living area. Don't put them on the outside of your van even though they are waterproof unless they are well hidden as they will get stolen.