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3 Simple Methods To Hotwiring A Car In An Emergency

While I don’t want to teach you to do something that is illegal or would get you locked up, I want to make sure that if you find yourself in a life or death situation and need a car to escape, or if you have misplaced your keys you know how to get it started.

So, in this article, I am going to describe for you three methods for hotwiring a car. This is the process where you start a car without a key. You see it performed in movies very often but how do they really do it. Be aware that forced entry will set off an alarm if the vehicle is equipped with one.

Before I start, I want to cover both my butt and the butts over at Fight Fast: While hotwiring a car is an important skill to have in your bag of tricks, it’s also illegal and can land you in jail if used for nefarious purposes. We are not promoting any such activities here.

The methods I am about to teach you are best suited for older model vehicles, especially the ones that don’t need microchip activation to start.

Here is something that most don’t tell you or show you in the movies:

Most hotwire methods will only work on cars older than the mid-90s. Newer models are equipped with locking mechanisms to keep you from hot-wiring the car unless you’re intimately familiar with how the particular model works. If you try this on a 2002 Toyota Camry for instance, you’ll likely end up setting off alarms and locking the starter.

When you are learning how to hotwire a car in an emergency, it’s good to know about certain parts of the car and how they function. You want to know what to touch and what not to touch so you won’t short out something or get shocked.

One of the first things you need to know are the tools that you will need to get the job done. Every car owner should have these on hand in case of an emergency. If you don’t, go to the store and grab the things from this list and put them in your bugout bag or in your trunk.

  • Insulated gloves
  • Wire stripper
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Drill and drill bit (battery powered)
  • Electrical tape
  • Driver’s License
  • Proof of ownership (these two items are for if you are hotwiring your own car and get caught. It won’t help you if you are “borrowing” a car to escape in an emergency)

The Screwdriver Method:

This method is the simplest, so I will start with it, and you should try this method first. While this method is relatively effective for disabling the lock pins, using it will permanently damage the cars key mechanism. So, think twice if you are doing this to your own car. Any screwdriver, key, or even flat piece of metal will be able to start the car using this method:

  • Drill about 2/3 of an inch into the keyhole, where the inner flap starts
  • Remove the drill bit and let the lock bits fall into place
  • Repeat as needed, until all the bits are in position
  • Insert a flat head screwdriver into the keyhole and start the car normally

If you don’t have a drill, on some much older models, you can break the locking pins in the ignition by hammering a flathead screwdriver into the keyhole and turning it over.

Don’t worry if this method doesn’t work. You can use the screwdriver again for method two as long as it didn’t get stuck in the ignition cover.

The Literal Hot Wire Method:

For this next method, it is important to note that you must use extreme caution when doing this. Take your time so you will be sure to avoid getting a painful electrical shock. If you choose to use this method, you will have to rewire the car and bypass the ignition system, hence the name. Here are the directions:

  • The first thing you must do is to figure out if you can disable the steering wheel lock. Simply, remove the steering shaft from the back of the steering wheel. Next, look for a little disk that looks like it can fit a key. Remove this disk if you can.
  • Use a screwdriver and remove the access cover that’s beneath the steering wheel.
  • Next, look for two red wires, remove ½ inch of insulation off of each end with the wire cutters and twist the wires together, making sure that the exposed wires aren’t touching any metal. In order for the car to continue running these wires must stay connected at all times, so put some electrical tape around them if you have any.
  • Find the brown wire and strip about ½ inch insulation of the end.
  • Touch the end of the brown wire against the twisted ends of the red wires until the engine starts.

Once you have the engine going, it is important that you keep the red and brown wires separate, to avoid sparks that can drain the battery.

There is one more important thing that you must do. You are going to have to break the steering lock. While the car may be started, the steering column will probably be locked, meaning that you’ll have to break it to be able to steer the car.

  • On some models, all you’ll need to do is pop off the metal keyhole which will release a spring and break the lock. If you already tried to jam your screwdriver in there earlier because you’ve got a mid-70s to mid-80s vehicle, the lock is probably already broken.
  • Some models will respond when you crank the wheel hard to either side as if you were trying to twist it free. You can also use a hammer to fix in the wheel and use for leverage. You should hear it break and the wheel will be free, so you’ll be able to drive normally.

Powering the Dash:

This is the final method. For this method, you have to know a little bit about the components under the hood of the car.

  • Open the hood and locate the red coil wire. Both the plug and coil wires are located at the rear of almost all V8 engines. Four-cylinder engines have them placed on the right side, near the center of the engine. Six-cylinder engines are on the opposite: left side, near the center of the engine.
  • Get your hands on some jumper cables. Run a jump cable from the positive battery terminal to either the positive side of the coil or the red wire that leads to the coil. This is going to provide power to the dashboard, which is required for you to start the engine.
  • Locate the starter solenoid. On Ford cars, it is on the right-side fender well, near the battery. On GM cars, it is on the starter under the steering wheel.
  • Unlock the steering wheel. I told you how to do this in the last method, but here is another method. You can place a flat blade screwdriver in the top center of the steering column, pushing between the wheel and the column. Next, roughly push the locking pin away from the wheel.
  • The locking pin will not break or set off any alarms, and you should be able to find the solenoid underneath.
  • Connect the solenoid to the positive battery terminal. You will see a small wire at the top of the solenoid and the positive battery cable below. Remove the ignition switch wire from the solenoid and, using an insulated screwdriver, short the solenoid’s positive post to the terminal where the ignition switch connects
  • When you do this, you will apply 12 volts directly from the battery. This should activate the solenoid, and the starter should crank the car.

Important Considerations:

I have given you 3 methods to hotwire a vehicle. Again, I want to emphasize that you will need to try to locate an older vehicle. If you are traveling in a foreign country you will be surprised by the large number of older model American cars you will see. Choose one of those.

The actual process of hotwiring a vehicle is easy. But there are certain precautions that you should take to ensure you are successful:

  • Use caution when you are messing with the wiring and if there is time, check with the Owner’s Manual for specific instructions about the wires and color coding for that specific model.
  • Always wear insulated gloves when you are working on wires, as their exposed ends carry a powerful live current which can hurt you.
  • After you get the car started initially, pull the wires apart and tape your ends to avoid getting electrocuted when you are driving.
  • Modern cars feature microchip and transponder systems for getting the ignition unlocked, and if you try to hotwire them, it may set off an alarm.

You are probably thinking I am crazy for sharing this particular special agent tip with you, but there’s nothing worse than being in a terrifying situation, where you have to move quickly, and you have to “acquire” a car. This could very well happen during a terrorist or disaster situation. Before you start to panic, take a step back, breathe and remember this lesson. The information I provided in this article should provide you with all you need to hotwire a car in an emergency where staying put is just not an option. Be informed and be safe.

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50 thoughts on “3 Simple Methods To Hotwiring A Car In An Emergency”

  1. Very good. On new cars with the chip if you have a problem with YOUR car you can bypass it also. What you want to do is as if you were replacing the starter cylinode, essentially when you break everything with the screwdriver that’s what you did. You can actually pull the entire part the key goes in. Now at the end in the car ignition is a flat head slot. Take your screwdriver and chipped key in the middle and turn it. You may have to move the key a couple times but it’ll start and stay on without the key in the car. A stepfurther would be to take the part the key goes in and use a screwdriver or something else to break the pins. I used a Dremel and cut them out. Then put the part back in as if you had replaced it. Take your chipped key and start the car. Be careful as the key can come out of the ignition. On long trips it’s great b/c I leave the car running but lock it with the key. Beats paying for a new chipped key and ignition.

  2. Great information in any case if things get crazy the older cars will probably be the only ones that will survive they were built better back then Thank you

  3. I can truly appreciate the fact you have taken time to teach such a major necessity in order for the average person (law abiding) to get away in exigent circumstances. Especially if they have small children or an injured person to help along. I would like to think most crooks are not looking to this type of site for ways to easily violate a person and their property simply for self gratification or the choice to take without the desire to earn. I would have never even thought of this as part of a bug out plan so thank you for this. I think the ways you have explained it are simple and easy to understand and when used for the right reason u have really saved some people’s lives and provided a means of escape. Thanks again!

  4. Only if SHTF is should this be an option
    Great advice and information if you’re desperate to get away fast.

  5. Bless you for sharing all information for the ones of us that are naive. I’m too old to remember it all but one NEVER knows when something may come in handy. Thanks again😚

  6. This is all very good information. I have been aware of for some time now, but very nice to hear it again from another source. I luckily have never had to use it, so this just reaffirms what i have been told before. THANKS.

  7. What about cars that have transmission locks hose do you over come these so you can put if in gear to drive I know you could just look for a manua transmission but what if all you can find or you own is a automatic

  8. I would like to see a video of the basic techniques,for those of us who aren’t gear heads.I appreciate having the info for emergencies. I have been in medical situations as a physician where this skill would have been beneficial.i was sojourned by hurricane Maria and this would have been handy.

  9. another method…..

    older Chevy,s with tilt steering….”Screwdriver method”…

    same side tilt steering lever is on …..use a screwdriver to snap off the column cover (snap on screwdrivers are seriously tough they don’t hardly ever snap…
    you will see a ring “snap the ring off” usually square shaped

    under the ring you just snapped off there is a pin ( 1/4′ x 3/8″) slide it towards you …dash lights come on ….(stop here)
    break steering lock ” turn steering wheel (force) left to right “repeat until its free” (lock brakes)
    pull the pin back to you all the way “car starts and your off n running!…

    great trick to know if your in a serious jam……(I had an interesting child hood growing up in the 80,s)



  11. Pretty informative but I think on the Chevy starter and solinoid are not under the steering column but on the passenger side rear of the engine where the motor and transmission Meet ! On older GM’s with no locking steering wheel ; take about two feet of wire with alligator clips on both ends attach to + of battery and + side of coil then with a screwdriver or most any metal bar ; rod ; cross up the small start wire with the main + lead on the starter use caution not to ground out the main positive post to the starter or chassis of the vehicle ! You should be running in a few cranks of the engine always apply e brake when trying this and if a standard transmission place in nuteral w/ ebrake on ;

  12. Knew the ignition wire one wasn’t familiar with the last one. Good job. Nice to have emergency exfil info

  13. would have been nice to know after house fire with keys left inside. finally found keys in debri melted/distorted

  14. Good advice, but what are the odds of finding a car that old especially in an emergency. It is a rare thing to see cars that old even just driving around.

  15. Very good article. However, I believe that these methods only work with some older vehicles (pre computer chip era). Newer vehicles have either a computer chip in the key, which the cars computer must authenticate; or, the ignition switch has a pair of matched magnets embedded in it, and if the ignition is forced, it will destroy the magnets and disable the vehicle.
    So these methods will only work on basically 1990’s vehicles and older (which are becoming rarer all the time), with a few exceptions for newer models, and those get less and less every year.

  16. Thanks for this helpful intel, I have a reasonable amount of military and survival information in my head to help kit me out when the shit hits the fan again as it always dose, this skill has long been on my list of things to acquire, but no body I knew had the nohow and in the event I would have had to highjack some one or equip my self with the keys to an occupied vehcle… So now I’m going to go to the wreckers to see if I can get a vehicle their scrapping for practice, thanks team!!😎

  17. To #17, IIIPERCENTER…
    On vehicles with a shift lock, you just step on the brake pedal and shift out of park like normal. The only thing that locks the shifter is the lack of electrical current to complete a circuit in a relay after the vehicle ignition is turned off. Once the car is running, that electrical current is present, so it will operate as normal.

  18. Excellent informationwritten in easy to undersand language except for method which is not easy to follow.

  19. This os great info to and i am sure it will without a doubt work. I think i should practice these on my sons car.

  20. Thanks for this emergency helpful tool of knowledge for down the line,in case being needed,but what about the newer and 2019 models from the 90 s through the present year ? Is 1 of the 3 methods useable in the situation where it is needed or do you have to go beyond this and call up a road side assistance or TOW truck?
    Thanks again
    James M.

  21. Thank you for the information. You can never know enough information during a SHTF situation. The thing is, is that your survival is contingent upon a compendium of knowledge and skills you have acquired during your quest for tradecraft over the years. In other words, you never stop learning and you never know enough when it does hit the fan. I retired over twenty years ago but it only seems like yesterday that I was in the game, doing whatever my country needed me to do. Today, it’s my family and helping them to prepare from the onslaught of what is to be, is one of the best feelings one can have. Stay vigilant – Musketeer

  22. This is very good info to have in case of a Nation Disaster or War. Depending whether Trump gets back in. Thank You!

  23. THANK YOU for this….I’ve always wanted to learn this. Been trying to find an old model vehicle for years now and it seems they don’t exist anymore.