How to Locate Tracking Devices on Your Vehicle
By Rianne Hill Soriano
The most common reasons for putting tracking devices in vehicles include easier reporting of journeys of delivery trucks, stolen vehicle recovery, field service management and valuable asset tracking. However, these devices are generally considered invasion to privacy, especially when they are placed without your permission. A tracking system can either use a passive or active device. The passive device must be recovered after a few days or weeks to retrieve data in it. An active device offers real-time GPS reports of a vehicle's whereabouts.
Searching Your Vehicle Manually
Look for the tracking device in both easily accessible and hard to reach parts of your car. A tracker has a very compact size, and anyone who secretly placed a tracker in your vehicle would make sure you don't find it. Since a tracker would most likely be placed in areas that won't get your attention, look for it in the most unexpected places.
Check if a part of the tracking device is lit as many devices have an electronic light indicating that it is functional. Depending on the specific tracker used and where it was placed, there is a chance that you can see it in the dark.
Search the cigarette adapter of the car. Since most trackers require enough power, there is a chance that the one in your car is hooked up in some way to the cigarette plug-in adapter. However, determining a tracker in this way would require thorough knowledge in auto mechanics and electrical parts. You may have to seek help of a professional to determine if a tracking device is hooked up in your cigarette adapter.
Using A Signal Detector
Buy an RF scanner/signal detector, a device that is sold in many stores. Unless the tracking device doesn't use radio waves, an RF scanner can be quite helpful, especially if manual searching didn't work.
Park your car in a remote area far from electronic interference from nearby electronic devices. Since RF scanners monitor radio waves, make sure you turn off all electronics in the area including your mobile phone and your car's battery. Get a wrench to disconnect the battery cables from its terminals to prevent any kind of interference that may be caused by the car's electrical system.
Turn on the RF scanner to look for the tracking device.
Move around with the RF scanner and start looking for the tracking device in various parts of the car. Place the RF scanner on each significant part of the car for a few minutes and wait to see if a signal is detected. Scan the edge of the engine compartment, the floor of the trunk, over and under each seat and along the floorboards.
Search more carefully in the area where the RF scanner detects a signal. Check its surrounding location more carefully and move the scanner towards the spot with the strongest signal. Ideally, this brings you closer to finding the tracking device.
- Bring the car to a professional if you still don't find the tracking device and you still want to be sure that there is no device in your car. Go to a car service shop specializing in searching for tracking devices or a GPS service company offering that can determine if a car has a tracking device in it. You can find these service companies online. You may also call your car dealership to seek advice.
- Search around the car with your RF scanner several times at varying intervals. Since a tracking device typically broadcasts intermittently, the GPS signal may not be on all the time and you may not be able to detect the device with just one pass with the RF scanner. If you check at the wrong time, the scanner may not pick up anything at all.
- There are a few tracking devices that don't use radio signals for transmission. In such cases, they can be virtually undetectable without professional assistance.
Rianne Hill Soriano is a freelance artist/writer/educator. Her diverse work experiences include projects in the Philippines, Korea and United States. For more than six years she has written about films, travel, food, fashion, culture and other topics on websites including Yahoo!, Yehey! and Herword. She also co-wrote a book about Asian cinema.