Tracking devices remind most people of criminal investigators, but a suspicious partner or ex is the more likely culprit. They tend to use cheap tracking devices that look like an elephant out of a haystack. You can still find most of the smaller devices, but that requires a thorough search.
Table of Contents
- 1 Examine the outside
- 2 Search the interior
- 3 Take more steps
- 4 Tips
- 5 Warnings
Examine the outside
Grab your flashlight and the user manual.
The cheapest trackers are fairly large magnetic boxes. However, not all devices are so conspicuous. In some cases, the only sign is a wire misplaced. Have the manual handy to save you from ripping out a crucial part if you’re not exactly familiar with your car.
Check the chassis.
Lie on your back and shine your flashlight under the car. Most trackers connect to GPS satellites and won’t work deep under your car where the metal is blocking the connection. Focus on the outer edge of the bottom, looking for suspicious boxes, taped objects, and antennas. If you see anything strange, pull it gently. Most tracking devices are magnetic and come off easily. Check the gas tank first. Its large metal surface makes it a convenient spot to attach a magnetic device. A second direction-finding transmitter can also be installed as a distraction since the search for a second one is often neglected. So make sure it’s just the one.
Examine the wheel wells.
Check under the plastic bezel of each wheel well, especially if it feels loose or bent. Any tracker should be obvious here – your car didn’t have any weird boxes in this spot before. If someone had extensive access to your vehicle, you could remove the wheels and check behind them, but that’s not a very likely location. If you do check there, be aware that there are wire sensors behind some brakes that go there.
Check the bumpers.
The front and rear bumpers are the least common places one would hide a cheap tracker. Check behind them anywhere someone might slide a device in. A device under the front bumper could be wired to the car’s electronic system. Always check the wiring against the manual before removing anything.
Leave the hood for last.
The front of the car is a hot metal box that is regularly inspected by the driver. That makes it a terrible spot for a tracker. It’s not impossible, but the average jealous partner or paranoid neighbor probably won’t try them. Take a quick peek inside and proceed to the interior. Unusual wires to the car battery could lead to a tracking device. Compare the wiring to the illustrations in your manual before jumping to conclusions.
Search the interior
Check the upholstery.
Unzip seat cushions and headrests if possible. Look under all removable parts.
Check under the seats and under the carpet.
Shine the flashlight under the underside of the seats. Note that some seats have a built-in heating mechanism. Compare the appearance of the two front seats to find anomalies.
Gain access to the area under the dashboard.
On most models, you can unscrew the glove box and the cover below the steering wheel. Look for a loose wire that isn’t glued or soldered to other wires and try to trace it back to where it came from. Run your fingers along the underside of the dashboard to feel for an antenna taped there.
Check the stern.
Keep in mind that most trackers cannot receive signals through metal. Focus on areas just below the rear window before checking the metal trunk. Take out the spare tire and have a good look in the tub.
Take more steps
Hire a professional.
If you still haven’t found a tracker, chances are there isn’t one. If you still have suspicions, hire someone to frisk the vehicle again. Try these professionals:
- A car alarm installer who sells GPS trackers
- A mechanic experienced in searching for trackers
- A private investigator
Frisk the car electronically.
Devices that are actively broadcasting your location can be found with handheld detectors. If you’re willing to pay a significant price, look for a company that sells technical surveillance countermeasures. The beacon may transmit only occasionally and/or when the car is moving. So test it out while your friend drives it somewhere far away.
Remember to always lock your vehicle and leave it in a safe place when not in use. This doesn’t eliminate the risk of being followed, but it does reduce the risk. Most trackers must be retrieved within a fairly small window of time, either to replace the battery or to retrieve data. Point a camera at your parking spot and you might spot the culprit. Higher quality trackers have longer lifespans and active transmitters, so there are no guarantees. Find GPS product deals here.
Do not cut or damage any part of your vehicle unless you know exactly what you are doing. Almost all beacons are visible without disassembling any parts. Locating other people is not permitted and is a punishable offense.