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How to Hotwire a Car

When your life is in danger, you need to have as many ways to escape as possible.  Learning how to hotwire a car could be the life saving decision you make.If you are jumped in an alley but get away, having the option of taking a car to safety is better than being on foot.  If you are trying to flee a wildfire, a vehicle is always better than being on foot. Unfortunately, these vehicles do not always belong to us.

Please keep in mind that the purpose of this article is to teach you how to start a vehicle without a key in order to save a life.  Stealing a vehicle is a felony, but that is probably better than being dead. We do not condone crime in any way. This information will also give you a better understanding of how to protect your car from theft.

Can I Hotwire Any Vehicle?

Technically any vehicle can be hotwired.  However, as vehicle technology has improved it has gotten exponentially more difficult to steal a car.  For any vehicles built after 1999, you would need advanced tools that only a car thief would have.  You should stick to cars that are 99 or older.  As a general rule, the older the car is the easier it is to hotwire it.

Also, be aware that many hotwiring methods do permanent damage to the vehicle.  There are times you may need to break pieces in the steering column or cut wires.  This could affect the electrical systems or make the car impossible to drive.  If you are ever going to practice hotwiring a vehicle, make sure it is headed for the junk yard.


If you intend to hotwire a car, you are best to just bring all of the tools that you might need.  If you don’t, you could start a fire or give yourself a good zap.


Electrical Tape

Wire Cutters

Wire Strippers


Flathead Screwdriver

Philips Screwdriver


Jumper Cables

The Hammer Method

The easiest way on how to hotwire a car in most vehicles is to break the ignition with a screwdriver.  Just put a flathead screwdriver in the ignition like a key would fit in.  Try turning it like a key.  Sometimes you will get lucky and it will turn fine.  If not, firmly strike the end of the screwdriver with the hammer to force it in further.  It may take a few whacks before you feel a pop and the screwdriver moves in further.  Then, you should be able to turn the screwdriver clockwise like you would turn a key.  It should fire right up. If it will not turn, use the pliers to turn the screwdriver.

True Hotwiring

When I think of hotwiring, I picture the guy pulling wires out from under the steering column that you see in movies.  This method is more difficult and riskier.  You also need insulated gloves as you could be electrocuted.

First, use a flathead screwdriver to pop off the panel underneath the steering column.  There should be lots of wires behind the proper panel.  Do not be intimidated by this.  Most of these wires will just be pushed to the side for this process.

If you see two brown wires, cut both of them.  Strip all of the ends of the wires with your wire stripper.  Touch the two brown wires together to start the car.  Move the wires so that they do not touch again.  This would send sparks flying or ruin the electrical system.  Instead, snip off the bare wires and wrap both ends with electrical tape.  This will prevent fire and injury.

If there is just one brown wire, look for two red wires.  With your gloves on, cut both wires and strip the ends.  Twist the ends of the wires together.  You should see the dash light up like you had put the key in the ignition but not started the car yet. Next, strip the brown wire and connect it to the set of red wires.  This should fire up the car.  Then you can cut off the stripped ends and wrap with electrical tape.

Jump the Starter

Unfortunately, this option might require you to get up underneath the car.  First, open the hood and find the red coil wire or the wire running into the positive side of the ignition coil.  Use jumper cables to hook that up to the positive battery terminal.  You should now have power lighting up the dash.  This is just like you put the key in the ignition but did not fire up the engine. Next, hook the negative jumper cable to the negative battery terminal.  Hook up the other end to the solenoid.  If you have good connections, this should fire up the vehicle.

Unlock the Steering Wheel

There are times that you may get the car started, but the steering wheel is locked making it impossible to steer.  In this case, one option is to turn the wheel as far as it will go and then force it further.  You are breaking a pin, so it will take some force.  You may need to use a board or pry bar.  You can also insert a flathead screwdriver between the steering wheel and steering column.  Then just push the locking pin away from the wheel.  You will need to push it with some force as these pins may not break.

Getting into the Car

If you cannot find a car that is unlocked, you may need to break a window.  You should always break the driver’s side window as these are designed to shatter.  The windshield and rear window are designed to hold together in one piece.  You must assume that there is no electricity, so there would be no power locks.  Therefore, you should bust out the driver’s side window even though you will be sitting in broken glass.

To bust out the window, never punch it with your fist.  Your hand will go through exposing your wrist to shards of glass.  You could bleed out in minutes.  Use a tool to shatter the glass in the front bottom corner or rear bottom corner.  This gives you the least possible opportunity for injury.  Many survival tools have a glass punch built in to make this process easier. You can also buy power window punches that just require you to place it on the glass and push a button.

The sad part is that finding abandoned cars in a disaster is never tough.  As people panic and try to flee the cities, highways become parking lots. People start abandoning their vehicles to seek help on foot.  Just be sure that the vehicle is actually abandoned.  Ask any people in the area if they know who the car belongs to.

The fact of the matter is that taking an abandoned car can be dangerous.  Never try to take a vehicle by force.  It likely will end with people getting hurt, and that is not necessary.  If you mistakenly start looking over a car and the owner approaches you, just apologize and move on.

Also, keep in mind that you might have one of the few working vehicles in any given area.  This is a resource that other people will attempt to take by force.  Try to avoid large crowds and big cities.  Watch for chokepoints where you could be ambushed.  Always be careful who you trust. learning how to hotwire a car might save your life, but it could also put your life in more danger.  It is still nice to have the option of traveling by vehicle.

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