Off Road Security and Anti-Theft Buyers’ Guide
Photos: John Cappa and Courtesy of the manufacturers
Once you’ve invested time and money to modify your 4×4 truck or SUV, the last thing you want is for thieves to make off with your new parts. There are also several aftermarket upgrades that can help keep tools, camping equipment and other gear out of sight and out of the hands of would be criminals looking for something easy to steal. With smash and grab and other vehicle burglaries on the rise, making your 4×4 less of a preferred theft victim can be done with key aftermarkets parts. If your 4×4 is well protected, in most cases thieves will simply move on to find an easier target. So read on to find out how to protect what’s yours and keep your aftermarket parts on your truck or SUV.
Jeep Hard Top
Everyone loves an easily removed soft top for the summer season, including thieves. Soft top vehicles are among the easiest for thieves to break into. Consider yourself lucky if they actually take the time to carefully peel open the soft top to steal your things, in most cases a quick soft top slash with a box cutter or pocketknife is the preferred method to get to your goods. Making the switch to an aftermarket hard top and doors can help prevent such a costly and destructive crime. Several different aftermarket replacement hard tops are available for all the popular Jeep Wrangler models and we suspect 2021 Bronco hard tops will be sure to follow. As always, the best defense is to keep valuables out of sight or simply remove them from the vehicle when it’s not being attended.
One of the first modifications that 4×4 enthusiasts make is a tire and wheel upgrade. With new tires and wheels often costing a couple thousand dollars or more, it makes sense to protect them. The easiest and most effective way to do this is with the use of locking lug nuts. Lock-style lug nuts use keyed or splined lugs that require a special tool for removal. Once the locking lugs are installed, don’t just toss the key tool in the glovebox or center console. These are the first places a wheel thief will look. Hide the key somewhere in the interior where you won’t forget it. When your 4×4 is due for a tire rotation or other service, leave the wheel lock key in plain sight for the mechanic, such as in a cup holder.
You wouldn’t use just four bolts to secure a piggybank full of cash that is paraded around town on the front bumper of your 4×4, right? When you consider the value of some electric recovery winches it’s hard to imagine trusting their security to only four often easily accessed bolts. To prevent someone from unexpectedly freeing your winch from its home, consider installing a winch lock. The Factor 55 winch lock replaces one of the original winch bolts. The winch lock features 3/8-16 threads so it fits most common recovery winches. It’s made from 1045 carbon alloy steel and heat treated to Grade 5 yield strength. The key patterned head bolt is proprietary. The winch lock bolt cannot be removed with ordinary screw drivers, pliers or commonly sold security bits.
The Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator are perhaps the only modern vehicles without factory underhood security. The engine compartment of these vehicles can be accosted without a key or even accessing the interior. It’s not at all uncommon for thieves to steal the batteries from these vehicles. Fortunately, this potential problem is easily avoidable. Several companies offer keyed hood locks that prevent the hood from being opened by thieves and vandals. Most of the hood locks simply bolt in place and provide underhood security regardless of if you have your doors unlocked, top on or top off. Your engine compartment is arguably more secure with an aftermarket hood lock than any other vehicle currently available with a traditional keyless interior hood latch.
Those that tow a trailer or several different trailers often have a fortune wrapped up in trailer ball mounts and trailer balls. The billet aluminum and adjustable ball mounts add even more expense. You don’t want these components just walking away from your vehicle. It could be expensive to replace and incredibly inconvenient if you only notice your trailer ball mount is missing the day you need it. To keep your ball mount securely attached to the receiver of your truck, skip the traditional insecure trailer pin with a cotter key. Replace it with a locking receiver pin. It’s a small investment in keeping your ball mount in place and not ruining a weekend camping, boating or UTV trip. A receiver lock is also useful for protecting heavy-duty aftermarket hitch mounted recovery points.
Pickup Truck Hard Tonneau Cover
Storing unprotected tools, equipment and other gear in the open bed of your pickup truck can be a gamble. It’s not hard for your stuff to grow legs and walk away. The real key is keeping it out of sight from prying eyes. However, the best way is to keep it out of sight and out of reach. A hard tonneau cover not only hides your gear, it keeps the gear secure. Most hard tonneau covers are lockable either by design or via the locking tailgate common on most modern pickups. Hard tonneau covers are available in a few different designs that include one piece, retractable or multiple folding panels. Which tonneau cover type is best for you will depend on your storage needs and personal preference. Avoid the soft tonneau covers. They are inexpensive and will hide your gear, but they can be easily sliced open by a box cutter or pocket knife.
Pickup Truck Bed Top
Sometimes the larger items that you want to secure in the bed of a truck just won’t fit under a tonneau cover. That’s where a truck topper comes in. While a soft truck bed topper doesn’t lock your gear down as well as a hard truck topper, they both generally keep your tools and gear out of view. Look for toppers with dark tinted windows or no windows at all for improved theft deterrence.
Interior Lock Box
Valuable items that require extra security can be stored in an interior lock box. The lock boxes are made from steel and generally feature a heavy-duty design and tamper resistant locks. They are available for many different popular vehicles and location specific applications. In many cases the lock boxes are mounted out of the view of a typical passerby, providing additional theft deterrence. Interior lock boxes are a great way to secure smaller items in an open top Jeep too.
In some cases it’s impossible to keep your gear out of the view of thieves. In these situations the best you can do is lock it up. Locking cables are available in many different designs and lengths to fit your needs. They can be used to secure a spare tire, fuel cans, a farm jack, ladders and more. Of course nothing is completely theft proof, although the larger diameter cables are much more difficult for a thief to cut through than the smaller diameter cables.
Truck Bed Box
If you need your truck bed to haul larger items like an ATV or a motorcycle, but still need secure bed storage for tools and other gear, then a bed mounted truck tool box may be the way to go for you. Truck bed tool boxes are made of steel, aluminum or plastic. They come with locking lids and allow for the secure storage and organization of large and small items. Over the rail and more hidden under the rail toolboxes are available to meet your needs and personal preference. Smaller side rail boxes are also available.
The most stolen item from a 4×4 truck or SUV is off-road lights. They can be expensive and are incredibly easy to quickly remove from the vehicle. Most lights are held in place with one or two retaining nuts. Fortunately, the aftermarket has you covered with universal light locking hardware. The locking hardware requires a special tool for light removal. Potential light thieves will surely be deterred when they see your lights are not so easy to remove. The locking hardware is available in both standard and metric threads.