Van Security Guide: 10 Essential Tips for Preventing Break-Ins


Vans get a lot of attention on the road and also in the parking lot. I always wonder what’s inside one of these large buggers; brand new LCD monitors, pepperoni pizzas, expensive tools?

And I’m not even a thief, it’s just human curiosity! If it’s a camper van, people usually assume that it’s carrying a lot of everyday valuables (perhaps cash and documents as well?).

Regardless of whether you have a camper van or a cargo van, larger storage capacity will draw unwanted attention from thugs looking to make a buck.

So how can you prevent a break-in? Or even worse, getting robbed not only of your expensive tools for example, but the van itself?

For example, if you have a keyless entry system you’re still exposed to relay theft. Truth be told, keyless locks are safer than regular ones, and you can reduce the risk of stealing your key’s signal by using these methods.

When it comes to regular locks, they can be easily manipulated from the outside by drilling them out. There’s also always the option to smash the window in order to unlock the van from the inside, unless you’ve invested in stronger glass or window security film.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. There are some really effective van security methods that you can start to implement immediately. So let’s check them out:

1. Rear door lock

Rear doors are the easiest to break into by using force or breaking the lock. The security of rear doors on a van can be improved by using this van lock from Amazon. It’s a unique lock that links the two doors together.

It can also be used to better secure side doors and sliding doors. It’s simple to install by using the bolts that come with the lock. You’ll just need to drill a few holes to put it in place and then you can lock it or unlock it by using a key that goes along with it.

2. Steering wheel lock

If a thief manages to enter your van, you can prevent them from driving it by placing a lock on the steering wheel.

This is a very powerful low tech security device. It’s basically a bar that keeps the steering wheel from moving when its placed on.

It’s also a good deterrent since someone looking through the window will notice it and probably switch to a different vehicle knowing full well how difficult it is to cut through these steel bars to release them.

A steering wheel lock doesn’t take much space so it’s easy to store when you’re not using it. It’s one of the more affordable security devices as well especially when you consider the fact that it can last you a lifetime (and longer!).

The lock that I frequently recommend and personally use for securing my shiny new Ford EcoSport is the Club 1000, which costs less than $50. In fact it’s on a 20% discount on Amazon at the moment so I hope you catch that offer in time.

3. Vehicle tracker

A GPS tracker will not prevent van theft from happening, but it can help in locating the stolen vehicle and retrieving it.

A tracker is typically placed in a hidden spot in the vehicle so that the thieves don’t have time to find it. You can log into the app and see the current location of the vehicle and report it to the police.

Some trackers will actually send you a notification when the vehicle leaves an area that you’ve selected on the map so that you can act quickly. The Vyncs GPS Tracker from Amazon has this option and it’s the most popular tracker on the market.

One downside to using trackers is the recurring cost of the service. First you buy the tracking device (which is not expensive), but most of them use an app that is funded through a subscription model.

You can discontinue paying for the service at any time.  I’m just saying, if you want full functionality it’s not a one-time payment.

I think it’s especially worth it to get a tracker if you’re carrying expensive tools or other items regularly and have a habit of keeping your van open. Many people do this on construction sites and similar areas where they need to enter the van often.

It can also be a good investment if you’re living in a van, so you’d end up on the street if it got stolen. In that case you’d be foolish not to use a tracker.

4. Secure the ladder

If you’re driving a ladder on your van’s roof, you’re probably aware how easy it is to steal it. Unless you’ve secured it properly. There are two devices that you can use for this.

First option are the Rhino Ladder Clamps which allow you to lock the ladders to the roof so that they can’t be removed without being unlocked first.

The second option is to use a thick security cable or two. The ones that are typically used for securing bicycles can be used for this purpose. This can be a bit clumsy and it depends on your van’s roof design if it can work or not. Rhino Ladder Clamps are the most convenient solution.

5. Portable safe or secure toolbox

The only thing that can protect your valuables from being stolen from inside the van is a strong lock on the door. But what if someone manages to break through that first barrier? Then they’ll have access to everything.

To prevent this from happening, many van owners use a portable safe or a lockable toolbox to increase the security of their most expensive items.

There are many portable safes available on the market. But I haven’t been able to find a lockable toolbox that’s worth mentioning. However, most of them can be locked additionally by using a chain and a padlock or a security cable.

In either case, make sure to also secure the safe or toolbox to the van itself so that it can’t be picked up and carried away. You can do this by bolting it to the floor or securing it to another heavy object or part of the van with a chain or a cable.

6. Protect your catalytic converter

Catalytic converters are getting stolen more often due to increased demand for platinum and palladium. These precious metals are found in the emissions control system, and a catalytic converter can be easily removed and sold for scrap.

Fortunately, now there’s a powerful lock for converters available online. It’s the CatClamp Maxx Kit, designed to cover the converter completely. It’s attached to the chassis of the vehicle with steel cabling.

Once it is put in place it’s very difficult to remove and that’s exactly what you want. It can be installed by yourself if you have some experience with mechanic work, or it can be done in virtually any muffler shop.  This is the only lock of this kind and it has decent user reviews as well.

7. Stronger glass or window security film

Having thick glass on your van’s windows is very important. It can prevent the thief from smashing the window and unlocking the door from the inside.

There are two ways to improve your window security; by replacing the regular glass panels with double pane glass or by covering them with window security film.

In both cases the main goal is to make the glass harder to break. Double pane glass has a think plastic between the two glass panes which keeps the shards in place if it breaks.

Window security film does the same job by adhering strongly to the glass surface. In case someone tries to smash the window to reach for the door lock, the shards will remain in place, so it will require the use of more blows and force to break in.

For most people, replacing the entire windows is too expensive and too much work. So security film is an easier and more affordable option. Check out my full guide on security films and how to install them properly.

8. Privacy film

Tinted window film

Many thieves will inspect the interior of your van by looking through the windows before break in. They will look for valuable items that make the attempt worthy of their time and risks involved.

You can make them more reluctant to break in by installing one-sided privacy film on your windows. This type of privacy film makes the interior of the vehicle invisible from the outside.

Again I recommend checking out my full guide on security film if you’re not entirely sure how to install it because I break down the installation process in full detail.

9. Dash camera

A dash camera is a in-vehicle camera that is used for security purposes and on-the-road recording. It’s typically used to record road traffic accidents and provide insurers with evidence. But you can also use it to deter and catch any would be thieves as they’re trying to break inside.

Since many of them have motion sensors, they can also send you a notification if serious motion is detected (in case someone bumps into your vehicle or tries to break in).

There are two security approaches to using dash camera: placing it out of sight, or making it visible. Because it could either deter or attract a thief, there are different opinions on this issue.

I personally think it’s not that important. The most valuable thing about it is the motion sensor and the ability to record unfortunate events. In case of a break in attempt it can help identify the perpetrator.

If you have privacy film on the windows the camera won’t be visible from the outside and you can place it anywhere without worrying about it attracting undue attention.

Furthermore, there are many inexpensive dash cameras that no thief would risk being caught over stealing. I am currently using and am satisfied with the affordable Pathinglek Dash Cam which has a great motion detector and 1080p video quality.

10. Van insurance

Using these devices can drastically improve your van’s security. However, no solution is 100% guaranteed to keep the criminals at bay. A professional criminal with years in the business could potentially outsmart these devices even if you do everything right.

Having good van insurance will ensure that in case of a theft any stolen goods and repair costs are covered. Van insurance can also help you cover the cost of a stolen vehicle.

This can be really valuable if you’re using your van for business or if it’s your place of residence.

In case you don’t have insurance, you’ll have to rely on your own savings to cover the damage, which can be a brutal hit for your bank account.

So my final advice is to use the before-mentioned security devices and to also have van insurance for increased peace of mind in case any extreme situation takes you by surprise. You can use the this van insurance comparison service to help you choose the best policy for your specific requirements.

Peter Boné

Chief editor of Security Latest with 5 years of real security work experience. I'm also a family man with wife and two sons. When I'm not turning homes into fortresses, the Boné family is usually on the Nintendo or on California's best hiking trails.

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