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BMW Digest FAQ Version 4.1

Section 6: 6.0: Stereo and Alarm systems

Table of Contents:

6.1: E36

       6.1.1: Stereo tidbits
       6.1.2: Alarm installation

6.2: General

       6.2.1: Connencting an aftermarket CD to the stock head
       6.2.2: Anti-theft

6.1: E36
6.1.1: Stereo tidbits
Date: Wed, 21 Dec 1994 09:06:44 -0500

<Does anyone know if the distortion comes from the system or the speakers. I'd like to know of any experiences with replacing the speakers. Will replacing the speakers fix both the distortion and poor bass?>

The disotrtion is coming from a combination of both. The head unit, made for BMW by Alpine, is slightly underpowered and while I haven't seen any specs for thd (total harmonic distortion) on the unit, I'd say its high.

The second problem is that the Nokia speakers used in the system are total GARBAGE! It wasn't until I replaced my speakers that I realized how cheap they were. Just holding them in you hand and looking at them will tell you.

The problem with poor bass is another story. This is the point where you need to determine what you're willing to spend on the system upgrade. In my opinion, it's silly to spend $1000+ for a stereo upgrade on a $29,000 car, and even worse for the manufacturer to spec such a poor system.

Step One: if you're not willing to spend mega-dollars, forget the concept of trying to reproduce the bass you get from your home stereo speakers in your car. The power required to do this is not found in the BMW head unit. The other consideration is road noise. Most road noise is in the same frequency range as good clean base, so the two are always conflicting. The irony is that for me, part of what I like about the car is the road feedback, which includes the road noise. If I wanted to totally tune out the outside world and just hear music as I drove, I should have bought a Lincoln; so I put up with the trade-off.

Step Two: speaker replacement. Car speakers are a matter of personal taste. Again, it's what you like, and what you're willing to spend. My 93' 318iS has the 6 speaker set up. For similar systems, there are (2) 4" speakers in the rear, (2) 5 1/4" speakers in the kick panel in the front, and (2) 3" tweeters in the front doors. I decided to replace the rear and kick panel speakers.

According to the Crutchfield speaker measurement guide, the rear speaker choice is limited because of size restrictions. I found this to be incorrect, however. I have installed a pair of Polk Audio EX402's (retail $80) in the rear and had no problems. The black speaker boxes in the rear need extra insullation, so add some while you're in there.

I also added a pair of Polk Audio MM5520's (retail $120) in the front kick panels. Here again, the Crutchfield measurment guide, which is normally very accurate, was incorrect. I had to make a slight adjustment while installing them.

Final Result: for about $200, and a couple hours of my time, I've substantially improved the factory system's sound. It's not goint to impress a car audio fan, but it meets my needs.

93' 318iS
84' 318i

From: (Jimmy Shrake) Date: Wed, 21 Dec 1994 08:52:26 -0600
Subject: RE: Poor 318iC music system.

Here is a thread that I have had going w/ another list member about this. Some of the details may differ since we both have 318is and you have an ic. I know the rear setup is different. If you have any specific questions ask and I'll give it a go. The lines *not* behind the ">" symbol are from me. Since this seems to be a common complaint, I'm going to go ahead and post this compilation of stereo ramblings.

(No affiliation w/ any brands mentioned.)

Jimmy Shrake
Current: '93 318is
Previous: '85 325e (KIA _at_ 150k)

>I'd be interested in starting a thread on the stereo system. After I >installed the CD changer, the limitations of the amplifier and speakers >became very apparent.

I took the whole thing out, put in 2 amps, a crossover, in dash CD, all new speakers behind factory grills, and 2: 8" subs. Fire away if you have any specific questions, I have plenty of thoughts on the idea. Oh yeah, which year/model do you have?

>I've got a 93 318iS. <snip>
>I'd like to keep the head unit but was thinking about a speaker change and an >in-line amp. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Since the amp is in the head unit, you cant get around it. You could come off the speaker outputs of the BMW head unit, through a step down transformers, to the amp inputs. Some amps will take speaker level inputs but not many and not the better quality ones that I know of. The down side of this is any distortion coming from the head unit will go right into the amps and the transformer itself will probably add some, don't get a cheap-o one. The key would be to set it up so that the amps hit peak power when the volume knob on the head unit it about 1/2 way or less (before distortion gets too bad). I saw a spec on the 325 stereo, and at the rated wattage, it was at *10%* total harmonic distortion :-(.

Installing tweeters behind the factory grills on the door is quite do-able, but not real easy. The speaker and the grill are all one piece and must be cut apart. Expect to pay $50-100 for a shop to do it. If you decide to do it yourself, let me know and I'll tell you how I did it. I installed 4" MB-Quart stealth mount speaker in the back in the existing enclosure. If you are not going to do subs, you may want to look at how you could get some 6 1/2" speakers in the back (would require cutting.) The biggest problem in these systems is no Bass, which is no wonder w/ only 5 1/4's up front and 4" in the back.

Oh yeah, MB-Quart has a 3-way set designed just for the BMW 3 series now. The tweeter and midrange both go into the size hole that is the tweeter on a 318 or the midrange on a 325. It is the same speaker I put in the back of my car, but it has a grille and mounting hardware for 3 series doors. It is black, but you could have it custom painted to match if you wanted. A 5 1/4 in the kick panel goes along w/ the door-mounted mid and tweeter. They would be a breeze to install, sound great, but be fairly expensive I'm sure.

>IMHO, Alpine shouldn't let BMW spec such a wimpy unit. The Nokia >speakers are another disappointment.

Could not agree more, the system is far below what one should get in a $27,000 car.

>The MB-Quart's sound interesting, but my knowledge of home stereo is 5 times >what I know about car audio.

They are high-end speaker, made in Germany I believe. On the level of a/d/s, Canton, Klipsch, etc. if you are familiar w/ any of those.

>My largest exposure is Crutchfield!
Catalog is a good source of information, but watch out its expensive.

>been wrong about the amp being in the head unit in my car. I was told by a >dealer parts man that my car had the "middle" system, and that the amp is >under the rear deck near the driver's rear speaker. I've got six drivers, 2 >rear, 2 kick panel and 2 in the upper section of the door, about 3.5" in >dia.

I'm pretty sure the amp is in the head unit. Originally I simply replaced the factory head unit w/ the Alpine head unit w/ no external amp and stock speakers. The Alpine has a 15x4 RMS amp built in. I took the outputs from it and wired them to the same wires that the factory head unit was outputting to. It worked perfect. If there was an amp in between the factory head unit and the speakers, it would have caused problems. (We have the same car by the way, '93 318is)

>I thought the drivers in the door mounts were tweeters? You mean they're not?

Yeah, they are. I'm talking about if you want to replace them with some better after market ones. As a side note though, the Quart 3-way I was talking about replaces the door tweeters with a 3 or 4" 2-way. The mids and highs come from the doors and the low freq's go to a 5 1/4 in the kick panel.

>I didn't realize the opening <in back> was that large. I'll have to look at it.

To be exact, it seems to actually be some metric size because it was a little to big for the Quart 4". I sealed the small gap up w/ silicone and it worked great.

>My biggest question is how to you get those back speaker enclosures open or >off?

Pop the rear speaker grills off. There are two phillips head screws going though the sheet metal of the rear deck into the boxes (you'll need a "stubby" screw driver because. of the window being in the way.) Once the screws are out, there is a spring type metal clip that keeps it from just falling into the trunk.

>The MB-Quart's sound interesting. Is there a mail order outlet or is this >strictly high end stuff.
Some of the companies that advertise in Hi-Fidelity and other audio mags have them I believe.

>Worst case, I could use line output converters.

This is indeed what it will take. A friend of mine did this in a Mazda MX-6 and it actually sounds quite good.

>If this doesn't produce a reasonable improvement, then I'd go for speakers. >Rear ones first, they're the worst.

Yeah, but they are much less important than the fronts in terms of sound quality.

  • - I would recommend new front speakers as your first upgrade. Installing something like those Quart would make a BIG difference.
  • - An amp as the second. Will much better at high volume levels.
  • - New rear speakers as the third.

>how about instructions for accessing the kick panel and door drivers.

Its been a while since I've been into the kick panels. As I recall it was fairly straightforward. You *may* need to remove the under dash panels first. Here is what I remember

Under dash panels:

driver: screw up by steering wheel, one underneath, there are a couple of clip like things on the top, cant explain, pull wiggle'll figure it out.

passenger: 2 screws underneath, pull down, slide forward.

On the kick panels themselves there is only a plastic 1/2 turn screw, then they are just kinda wedged in there. On the driver's side you will have to remove the hood release lever, screw is under the plastic cap.

Door panels: slide off "plate" that goes around door handle, also 2 two little plastic caps w/ 2 torx screws underneath, lots of pop on/off type clips around edges from here.

>Isn't it the inability of the amp to power the mid-low range that causes the >distortion and lack of depth in the front speakers?

Yeah, the amp is a problem, but.... It has been my experience that replacing the speakers in BMW's makes a big difference. A friend of mine has a '85 318i, we replaced the stock speakers w/ 4 Sony 6 1/2" coaxial speakers and w/ only that his system sounded much better than a stock '93 318 system. I installed the 30X4 Alpine CD first in my system and it did make a noticeable difference but nothing drastic.

Once again the biggest problem is lack of bass and the problem trying to fix it is that it is tough to get any larger speakers into the factory locations. 4" speakers dont make good low bass, period, even the Quarts I installed, they will play tight, hard mid bass, but you cant get a warm low bass sound from them, they are just too small and that it as big as you can get into those enclosures in the back.

I dont know what magnitude of improvements you are looking for or what you want to spend. Subs are ideal, but system prices skyrocket when they are involved. I'm going to assume you do not want to do this.

Here is what I would do knowing what I have learned thus far:

Try to get something bigger in the back, trash the little black boxes. To do it right you will need professional help, it will involve cutting metal and building some sort of mounting plate, be sure and choose a very high quality shop. My first choice would be a Quart 6 1/2" stealth mount coax. I read about something made by Quart that appeared to be an 8" setup for the rear of our cars. If this animal exists, it would definitely be the ultimate w/o subs, but very expensive I'm sure, ~$500.

  • - If you dont want to go this far, put the 4" Quarts into the enclosures, put the Quart BMW E36 3-way front setup in if you can afford it, if not, go w/ a high quality 2 way separate, Quart makes others that would do this well also it would just involve custom mounting the tweeters to get them behind the factory grills.
  • - You might try leaving the door tweeters and just replacing the kick panel speakers to save a few bucks.
  • - Go w/ a 30X4 to 50X4 amp, stick w/ top brands, it makes a difference.

From: (John Boer)
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 1995 10:16:27 -0700

Here's what I did for my '95 M3's Stereo and Alarm:

My local stereo shop also installed a "T-Switch" for the sunroof enabling the "Express" roll-up feature found on windows. i.e., sunroof now opens and closes with one touch!! Now my alarm locks doors, rolls glass on doors, AND shuts sunroof...Works great. Sorry no part number here.

Now for the stereo. I did extensive research on replacement systems for the car so when (or if) I sell the car, stereo switching will be seamless. The bad news is, you can't use a third-party amplifier with the stock head unit without using a line-level converter. BMW uses a proprietary connector incompatible with all third-party manufactures other than Alpine or Pioneer (Yuk!)

The stock amp is located in the left side of the trunk behind the "carpet" For the connections, there is a speaker connector and a head unit connector. The speaker connector consists of a 26-pin BMW-style connector with 20 speaker wires extruding. 10 speakers, 20 wires, makes sense. For the other head connector, another BMW-style connector with 12-pins, and 11 wires extruding supplying power, channels, power antenna operation etc. You can get a wiring diagram from your dealer if you must. (They're pretty good about that here in SJ)

Rear Deck
The stock system definitely needed more bass and power, and as I said in my first message, the free-air system was my only choice. My stereo shop took 7/8-inch MDF covered in the same "carpet as the trunk, and created a rear-deck baffle from the trunk hinge back, to house the amp and sub. For rear deck references you're looking into the trunk from behind the car. They created another sub mounting board about three inches larger than the sub on the right rear portion of the deck. The hole in the deck was cut there and grill placed next to the existing grill on the right. The sub doesn't fire directly into the grill, but it serves more as a port.

In this configuration, be careful which amp you buy since it will have to mounted upside-down. I originally went with the A/D/S 850MX 6-channel, but had some overheating and engine noise problems. The Macintosh MC440 is a much better amp (big surprise!). It also has fan-cooling. ON ENGINE NOISE!!! Make sure they run all line wiring away from power wiring, to avoid engine noise. The M3 is an especially "noisy" car, the best route for line/speaker wiring is up the middle, through the console, to grandmothers house we the head unit.

The A/D/S sounds good, but I couldn't mount the set in the stock location without cutting or rigging the grills. The MB Quart QM325.21 (for 2-door) are a drop in solution with matching grills, crossovers and sound awesome. The set is a 3-way system consisting of a 5.25" woofer (kickpanel) and 4" midrange with coaxially mounted .75" tweeter for in-door mounting. They come with 4" mounting adapter with grill for factory location. Leave it to the Germans. By the way if you noticed, I used a coax front satellite solution leaving the stock tweeter unused.

For the rear fill, I used the 100.20 KN-S, 4" coax. A larger speaker would probably fit, but you would lose the plastic enclosure for the smaller stock speakers. Without these boxes you could have some cancellation with the sub. The 4-inchers fit perfectly and sound great. With the coax set-up in the front a larger speaker could move the stage too far back for most tastes.

Here's the complete system with approx. prices:

Macintosh MC440 - 400 watt, six-channel Amp $1,000 Eclipse ESD-430 - 12-disc changer $ 450 Eclipse ECD-415 - CD-Tuner, changer controller $ 550

MB Quart QM325.21 - Front Speakers per set       $  200
MB Quart QM100.02 - Rear Speakers                    $  400
Oz Audio OZ-250H - Free-air sub                        $  165

Hope this helps,


6.1.2: Alarm installation
From: (Jimmy Shrake) Date: Fri, 13 Jan 1995 10:48:48 -0600

That said, guess what I did all weekend recently! I thought I'd relate some of my install experiences to the list so that everyone will have a sense of what's involved in order to be better able to determine whether to go w/ the BMW/Alpine unit or an aftermarket brand and whether to tackle the install themselves or let a pro do it.

Aftermarket vs. BMW alarm in hindsight:

  • - There was no starter kill on the connector on my car. According the '94 BMW accessory catalog, this feature was added for 1994 and later models. This is probably the best reason I've found not to go w/ the BMW unit, assuming the car is a '93 or less. W/o this, defeating the alarm is as simple as cutting the siren wire under the hood. (See tip below on hood lock.)
  • - Warranty issue. Anytime you add _any_ type of aftermarket accessory there is always the chance that it could effect a warranty claim.
  • - Install ease. Assuming the aftermarket alarm has decent instructions and no additional features, with the information below, it should not be much more difficult to install an aftermarket alarm compared to the BMW unit.
  • - Features. One interesting revelation was that a hood lock and backup battery backup could be added as easily to the BMW unit as to my Alpine once the connections were figured out. No way to add more sophisticated features like a motion sensor, tracking, anti-carjacking, etc...
  • - Ease of defeat. Knowing what I do now, defeating the BMW alarm, or a similar unit wired in the same way, hot wiring the car, and driving away would be real easy and real fast. More sophisticated features would make it take longer, could leave the siren running longer, and would make it a more risky proposition for a knowledgeable thief. Tips:
  • - For a cheap hood "lock" remove the handle that opens the hood. On mine at least, it is a one screw affair and will work fine by just slipping it back on w/o the screw. This way you can keep it hidden away in the car. It won't stop a determined, well equipped thief, but it will prevent them from being able to quickly silence the siren by popping the hood and cutting the wire.
  • - Hide the siren and its wiring as well as you can. I mounted mine just below the headlights. (wasn't easy.)
  • - When working with the starer wire (pre '94), be sure to remove that large aluminum "knee guard" thing under the steering column. Getting to the wires is a breeze w/ it off.
  • - Mount microphones, LED's, etc... in blank switch plates.
  • - I hid my valet pin switch under the shift boot.

The Anti-theft connector:


x                                         x
x     1     2     3     4     5     6       x
x                                          <x
x    12    11    10     9     8     7       x
x                                         x


Pin #       Function
- -----       --------
 1          Domelights ****
 2          Trunk sensor (negative type)
 3          Central Locking System, Unlock (+12V triggers)
 4          Central Locking System, Lock (+12V triggers)
 5          Hazard Lights (negative trigger)
 6          Siren Connection
 7          +12V Constant (Battery)
 8          +12V Switched Through Ignition
 9          Ground
10          Passenger Door Sensor (negative type)***
11          Driver's Door Sensor (negative type)***
12          Empty on my '93 318is

            Hood switch (if available) is violet/green/yellow.****
  • - On E36 cars at least, the BMW siren is mounted in plain sight, between the strut tower and the firewall on the passenger side. The empty plug for the siren connection is right there also. Test between this pin and the connector to see for sure. One should be ground and one to this pin.
    • - Do not connect pins 10 and 11 together to the same alarm input on models where the windows lower and raise automatically when opening the doors. If connected, both windows will operate when opening only one door. Guess how I figured this one out!
      • - Information provided by

Note there was no starter/fuel system kill connection. This is the case w/ pre '94 models. If you have a '94 or later you could locate the factory connection or do it this way if you cant figure out the factory wiring. I you have a pre '93 you'll have to do it this way:

The starter wire is underneath the steering column. On my car it is black w/ a yellow stripe (14-16 gauge), goes through a connector identical to the Anti theft connector, and is next to a red and green wire of the same gauge. You will need to cut this and run it through a relay connected to the starter kill on your alarm.

If anyone has any more detailed questions, feel free to mail me.

Jimmy Shrake
Current: '93 318is
Previous: '85 325e (KIA _at_ 150k)

6.2: General
6.2.1: Connencting an aftermarket CD to the stock head
From: Jeff Moser <>
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 95 21:58:56 EST

I have gotten many positive responses on my CD Player post earlier this week. It seems that many of you are interested in CD players, as long as they don't cost $750.00. I'm glad that I could help out in this area.

Also, I forgot to mention that Peter Rhim provided much assistance in figuring all of this out. Peter and I worked on this for several months before we finally got enough information to know what to do. Thanks again Peter!

By the responses that I got from some of you, I might not have made one point exactly clear, and I would like to try and clear it up. If your car has radio BMW P/N 88 88 1 600 183 you can use a Pionner M-Series CD changer in the place of CD Changer BMW P/N: 88 88 1 600 186 or 82 11 1 467 699 by either installing the CD control cable that comes with the M Changer, or by fabricating some sort of adapter, similiar to the one that I made. If your car has BMW radio 88 88 1 600 183, but needs some other BMW P/N CD Changer, THE ADAPTER BELOW will NOT WORK, but you can still connect an M-Series Pioneer CD Changer to your radio by using the cable supplied with the CD player.

Check the back cover of your radio manual to find out what BMW P/N's you have. If you don't have a manual, then pull the radio out of the car and read the label on it, or ask a BMW dealer about it. This is the only CD ready BMW radio that I have ever owned, and I am sorry, but I don't know what will and will not work with other BMW radios. I know that some of the radios are made by Alpine, and I doubt very seriously that a Pioneer CD changer will work with these radios. I also noticed that Bavarian Autosport sells both Pioneer and Alpine CD changers, and there must be a reason for this.

With that said, I will try and explain the gory details of the adapter that I made.
NOTE: Construct and use this adapter at your own risk. It is easy to get confused when wiring this adapter, so make sure you double check your construction before trying to use the adapter. IT WILL ONLY WORK IF YOU HAVE BMW RADIO 88 88 1 600 183 AND NEED CD PLAYER BMW 88 88 1 600 186 or 82 11 1 467 699. Use of the adapter on any other radio/CD player combination will surely result in damage!

To figure out what kind of adapter that I needed, I made continuity measurements on the CD data cable in my car (1989 735i). The cable has male "DIN" style 13 pin connectors on each end, and is connected as follows (viewed looking into each one of the connectors):

Radio End Trunk End CD Player Cable

       A                         B                        A
B  C  D  E          A  C  D  E         B  C  D  E                (These
should look like
F  G  H   I            F  G  H   I          F  G  H   I                  one
row of one and
J   K  L  M          J   K  L  M         J   K  L  M                 three

rows of four pins)

NOTICE: That the A and B pins are switched between the Radio and Trunk ends of the cable that is in the car!

The goal of the adapter is to 1) Mate 2 male connectors together, and 2) correct the cable swapping done by the cable in the car. When the adapter is installed between the CD Player Cable, and the trunk end of the car cable, we want the Radio end of the car cable to look exactly like the CD player cable end.

Materials Needed:

  1. 26 Connector Socket Contacts. I used some surplus Military style contacts that I got from the junk bin at work. The part number of the socket contacts is: M39029/56-351, or ITT Cannon 031-1250-00. I know that these are not easily obtainable, and I am sure that other styles of sockets contacts can be used. You are own your own here. Choose something that fits the pins in the cables snugly, and leaves room for each socket to be covered with heat shrink tubing.
  2. About 3ft of heat shrink tubing to shrink over the above contacts (approx. 0.062" unshrunk Diameter).
  3. 13 Pieces of equal length 20AWG wire, approximately 2-4" long.
  4. Tube of 5-Minute Epoxy


When the above items are assembled in the proper fashion, you will end up with a short adapter cable with a "homemade female connector" on both ends. This adapter cable will be plugged between the trunk cable connector and the CD Player connector as shown above. The socket contacts will be arranged as follows when finished (as VIEWED LOOKING INTO THE SOCKETS ON EACH END).

End 1 End 2

       A                               B
E  D  C  B                E  D  C  A
 I   H  G  F                 I   H   G  F
M  L  K  J                 M  L  K  J

BEFORE you try to use this adapter make sure that you verify that the adapter is connected in the exact pattern shown above with an ohmmeter. If the adapter is miswired, you might damage the CD player, the radio, or both!


Solder a socket contact on each end of the 13 wires. Then cover the entire length of the socket and solder joint on each end with the heat shrink tubing (not over the entire length of the wire). Shrink the tubing.

After all 13 jumper wires are complete, insert one end of each of the 13 jumper wires onto each of the 13 pins of one of the cable connectors to get the proper spacing. (The cable that comes with the CD player works well here, because you can take it in the house!) Leave the other ends of the wires unconnected at this point.

When all 13 jumper wires are inserted into the cable connector, bond the part of the socket contacts that are OUTSIDE of the cable connector together with the 5 minute epoxy. Work the epoxy down in around the center sockets with a toothpick.

  • NOTE: Be sure to bond only the part of the socket contacts that are outside of the cable connector so that you can remove the bonded assembly from the cable. When the bond cures, you should be able to remove all of the sockets as a unit, and this unit should sort of resemble a 13 pin female connector.

After the bond is cured, remove the "homemade female connector". Next insert the free ends of the jumper wires into the cable connector in the proper positions, this time making sure to have the pin arrangement shown in End 2, above. (i.e. make sure that the "A" wire on End 1 is placed in the "A" position of End 2 ...) When all of the contacts are inserted in the proper positions, bond these sockets contacts together like was done above.

  • ----- NOTE: Be very carefull when connecting these wires here. It is easy to get confused. Follow the diagram under the Description section above.

After the second bond has cured, remove the "homemade female connector". You should now have a completed adapter. VERIFY that the adapter is wired correctly by checking the continuity per the diagram under the Description section. End 1 "A" should go the End 2 "A", End 1 "B" should go to End 2 "B", etc.


After you have properly verified that the adapter is wired correctly, you should install it between the CD player cable, and the cable in the trunk of your car. It does not matter which end plugs where. You will probably have to remove the radio and plug the radio end of the CD cable into the radio. Mine was not connected by default.

Well That's It. It certainly is gory, but it works.

Would anybody be willing to swap a new driveshaft for a 1989 735i for a couple of these adapters already assembled? If you would, lets talk!

Jeff Moser
1989 735i
1985 325e

From: Peter LaPine <> Date: Thu, 15 Jun 95 14:06:50 EDT

this just in:

the June issue of 'car audio' magazine's Down the Road column notes a company called PIE (Precision Interface Electronics) makes wiring adapters that will allow the owners of 'Acura, Honda, BMW or some other car' to use an aftermarket model from Alpine or Pioneer. The author, Bill Neill, apparently saw these folks when he recently attended the MES (Mobile Electronics Show) in Phil., PA.

this may be the item so many of you have been looking for!

  • -- Peter

6.2.2: Anti-theft
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 1996 13:11:09 -0500
Subject: Anti-Theft Devices

I've been following the thread about alarm systems and I figured I'd address the the issue from the other side of the fence. Yes, that's right, I am an experienced car thief! If I want your car bad enough, sooner or later, I will get it, and there isn't very much you can do about it. I have personally"stolen" thousands of cars in the past ten years, but there were only a handful that I couldn't get, because I was foiled by some kind of security measure. But this only meant I didn't want the car bad enough, so I gave up.
Now before you fire-up that "Finger" program and get the FBI on my case, allow me clarify my position. What I do is NOT in violation of the law. I drive a Tow Truck for a living. Part of my duties involve REPOSESSIONS and TRESPASS towing, so technically it isn't really stealing, but some of my methods are the very same as the ones utilized by "real" car thieves. The major difference (aside from legalities) between me and them is; If I take your car, I am responsible for any damage so you bet your ass I'll take good care of it{*1}. When you get it back (after you pay of course) it's ready for you to drive away. (unless it didn't run to begin with - this has happened) No hacked ignition cylinder{*2}, no broken windows or sheet metal damage to your doors, and your stereo is still there.
I do have the advantage of the truck itself, as do some real car thieves, but I don't have to fear the law. The cops don't bother me because they know that what I'm doing is perfectly legal. Here's a list of what won't stop me.............

Sirens will do more to stop a real thief than myself. (generally sirens do far more to annoy than deter{*3}) If they threaten peace with my neighbors (at my yard) I just disconnect it or stuff the thing with Burger King paper napkins. (always keep a good supply in the glovebox!) They mute the sucker out quite nicely.
Club locks. Ha, what a joke! A real thief would use a hacksaw blade to cut through the steering wheel itself (20 second slowdown) and slide the Club off.{*4} Or do it the way I do, with lock picks. {*5} It may take a little more time, but not always. Some of these things have the cheapest wafer or pin cylinder locks on the planet. Single or double sided, it doesn't matter, some of the double sided ones are actually easier. I've seen some good ones with a 4 way "X" style key that aren't worth my time, so I won't bother{*6}, but it won't foil the hacksaw method. The cheapest one of them all is the most advertised one simply called "The Club". I laugh every time I see the commercial. The truth is, these things make a far better weapon than deterrent!
However, before I can proceed with the above operations, I have to actually get into your car first{*7}. You people being BMW owners already have some of the toughest cars in the world to open!{*8} Your best entry protection is already standard equiptment{*9} Short of installing bullet-proof glass, there isn't much more you can do to keep an experienced thief out. The factory double lock is one slim-jim proof SOB! And I've cursed them many times................... Anybody feel any safer now? You shouldn't. Anybody glad I'm not on the wrong side of the law. You should be!
Bottom line, for every measure there is a countermeasure{*10}. Anything less than a locked garage guarded by vicious Dobermans, or chaining your car to a tree{*11}, will not stop a professional thief from getting your car if they wanted it bad enough. Even these things won't stop me if I want it bad enough. End of story.


*1: I Speak Only For Myself! This is an industry that sorely lacks true professionals. In general, don't trust tow truck drivers, always check your car completely for damage before leaving any tow yard. Believe me, I know! *2: Necessary damage is allowed by law on repos. The creditors don't like it because it costs them money, but if they want the car bad enough they'll authorize it.
*3: I'd like to wring the neck of the guy who invented the piece of crap siren that goes "lo-hi lo-hi, woooooop-woooooop, eeeeennhh-eeeeennhh, woo-woo-woo-woo" I bet his neighbors just love him on a windy night or when a cab drives by and keys up his two-way radio! *4: I saw this for the first time on a TV news Investigative report. Shortly afterwards I began to see cut steering wheels on recovered stolen cars towed for the police. Wasn't it nice for a national news broadcast to show everybody!
*5: I've done at least 100 of these. I take them off to prevent the wheel from spinning, hitting the windshield and breaking it. This has not happened to me personally, but I've seen the results before and I this is one of my preventative measures. We get to charge extra for it too! When towing any car from the rear, I totally refuse to trust any factory steering wheel lock mechanism. I have seen them "jump" and cause an instant "sidewinder" which can create havoc with a row of parked cars or worse, oncoming traffic. This is one of the top 5 safety rules. Any tow operator that does not do this is playing a very dangerous game. *6: It still won't stop me. On most cars I can tie-up the steering wheel with the seatbelts to prevent rotation and thus avoiding contact with the glass. Sometimes I take them off just for fun. The car owners reactions can be quite amusing when they see their club lying on the passenger seat undamaged. They leave with a whole different attitude after I shatter their false sense of security!
*7: I'll only open the car if I need to release the brake, put it in neutral, remove the Club, open the hood or tie the wheel, otherwise I don't need to get inside your car to tow it with a regular wheel-lift truck. *8: Along with Mercedes, Lexus, and the newest cars from Toyota, Honda and GM. Don't let price fool you either, some of the expensive stuff is actually quite easy (for a Pro like me) to open. Such as Jaguars, Peugeots, Range Rovers, Alfas, Saabs, Lincolns, the top line Chryslers, Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ford Explorers.
*9: It still won't stop me from taking your car. I have other methods including "GO JACKS=AE", ramp trucks, self-loading dolly wheels and other assorted tools of the trade. One way or another, if I want your car bad enough, I'll get it!
*10: It is even possible to use a computer interfaced with a remote contol transmitter to "crack" your code and transmit the correct shut-off signal to your particular alarm. The technology is currently available! *11: This has happened to me twice and it didn't stop me. First time it had a cheap master padlock, I picked it. Second time, a better padlock but I had bolt cutters!
I told you I'd get it one way or another! I wasn't kidding!

Scott Kominik
Boston Chapter
89 F-350 Diesel (when I'm looking for you!)

From: Anthony Le <>
Date: Tue, 11 Jun 1996 17:42:18 -0500

Date: Mon, 8 Jan 1996 13:11:09 -0500
Subject: Anti-Theft Devices

I've been following the thread about alarm systems and I figured I'd address the the issue from the other side of the fence. Yes, that's right,
I am an experienced car thief! If I want your car bad enough, sooner or later, I will get it, and there isn't very much you can do about it.

That's one great article! I loved it!

So you know how to 'snuff' alarm systems, pick/cut/freeze through the club, slim jim your way through BMW deadlocks, and scan & disarm codes (sequentially or randomly) to any alarm system, but how would you disable a well designed, multilayered alarm system? I realize that if a thief really wants my car, there is not a thing I can to stop him, but I can build a simple enough alarm system to make a thief's task extremely time consuming and hard.

Now, how would you go through this hypothetical alarm system?

First, I install a cheap or most expensive alarm system on the market. A cheap one will have a starter kill & motion sensor. A more expensive will do the same plus rolls your windows up, turns on the headlights, do a little dance, and execute neat tricks on command (including sit up & beg). That's probably the only difference between a cheap alarm and an expensive one. Both will provide the same amount of protection. The EXPENSIVE one will do neat but useless tricks.

The siren is installed low low down in the engine bay out of sight (preferally inside a welded & vented metal box) with no wirings showing. I laugh everytime I see a siren mount up high in the engine bay with visible wires running to it. Pop the hood, yank the wires, no more alarm.
Inside the car, there are two Radio Shack 110DB alarm buzzers blasting from somewhere within the ventilation system. The buzzers are powered by a seperate gel-type battery with high quality (and hidden) relay to activate & deactivate the buzzer. The battery will be hidden somewhere of course. Better not be in the car when these babies go off.

The alarm brain:
The brain of the alarm is hidden somewhere in the car. Not under the dash where the stock alarm and most alarms are mounted. Maybe in the engine bay, in the trunk, or under the car. The alarm does not use factory installed alarm wirings. Those are too well documented and easy to figure out. Maybe a couple of extra leads to throw you off. Of course, the brain will have a back up battery hidden somewhere. Many alarm shops alway install the brain in the same place. Why do they do this?
Most alarms come in a flimsy plastic box. A good thief should know the wirings of most alarm systems. Find the brain (usually in the same place), cut power (wiring diagram can't be too hard to get), bust it open, close all relays (if you don't know the relay, just crack it open & short the contact). The starter kill is a relay inside the brain. Too easy to defeat.

In BMW, the battery is in the trunk. The trunk is locked and cannot be opened, except with a key. Of course, my alarm system has a back up battery safely hidden somewhere. Furthermore, I wouldn't be dumb enough to tap the power off the main battery terminal. Alot of shops do this---I asked. How dumb can you get? The tap would be a hidden H-tap somewhere on the main terminal cable. It is wired so that shorting the tail light & other things will not blow the alarm's fuse.

The starter kill:
There would be at least two starter kill relays in series. One in the alarm brain (safely hidden away somewhere), the other is an external starter kill relay armed & disarmed by the alarm.
To prevent the thief from putting the car in neutral & roll start the car, a hidden switch will disable the ignition or fuel pump. The switch can be anything, but I have to press it to start the car. It can be the little button I press to move the transmission gear lever from P to D. To start the car, I disable the alarm, press the button, and start the car normally.

Other stuffs,
I would lock my door & trunk, enable the Code feature of the OBC. Wire the alarm backup battery to the OBC so the thief can't simply pull the fuse and reset everything.

This is how the breakin would go. You slim jim my door open, or break the window. The alarm would be blaring, both inside and out. You pop open the hood & try to disable the siren. You'll need a big crowbar, time, and some contorsion to get to the siren & shut it up. But then the ones inside are still blaring. You wouldn't want to go in there with good hearing protection. How do you disable somethings (2 of them) installed deep within the ventilation ductworks?

OK try the battery. Somehow break into the trunk & disconnect the battery. The alarm & siren has 2 back up gel-type batteries. By now you would have wasted several minutes and the alarm is still sounding.

Let's say you're really sophisticated & got a hold of a computer programmed to generate deactivation codes randomly or sequentially & disabled my alarm system. If you can set up a system like that, you don't need to steal cars. Withing one year, alarm manufacturers will surely counteract that with a new alarm system. Ok, now you're in my car with the alarm off. You still have to find the hidden relay or switch to start the car. After that, you still have the OBC asking you to input the correct code. Pulling the fuse or battery for 5 minutes won't make the big, mean CODE??? go away.

The alarm system above is not hard to implement. It will not stop a determined thief with a tow truck, but it will stop a lot of them or slow them down so much that it's not worth it.

A good alarm system is not the most expensive one on the market, but it is a well thought out, well designed, and well implemted .

These thoughts are of my own. I welcome your comments.

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