The typical automobile today has a lock so the hood can be opened only by pulling a lever inside. That keeps intruders from getting into the engine compartment.
When I was in college, such hood locks were rare. You opened the hood by flipping a lever somewhere around the grille outside.
The clunker I drove had few frills, anyway. Most of my money went to tuition, books and popcorn (I dreamed about ramen noodles), so the only car I could afford was a decade-old Dodge two-door sedan.
It was the base model, very plain, and even its paint showed my college poverty – a faded turquoise that approximated seasickness.
The owner before me had installed a big V-8 engine and a four-speed manual transmission. It was a loud, gas-guzzling hot rod that would have been fine if I was in the racing business, not commuting to class.
You know what they say, though: Sophomores can’t be choosers.
One day I tried to drive to class but found that my battery had been stolen during the night. Someone just opened the hood with the latch in the grille and took my battery.
It took a few days to replace the battery, and after that, I made sure the thief wouldn’t be back. With a hammer and a big screwdriver, I pounded a hole in the front of the hood. I got a heavy chain enclosed in a plastic sleeve, ran it through the hole and the grille, and secured it with a stout padlock.
It wasn’t pretty, of course, but in addition to protecting my property, it was to be a warning: Don’t mess with my car.
Nobody ever stole my battery again, and when I traded in for a nice little car with a hood lock, the dealer didn’t think the chain looked any worse than the rest of that seasick Dodge.
That college memory came to mind last week when I received an e-mail from the CSRA Metal Theft Task Force. It was a notice to the media to warn residents that there has been an increase in automobile battery thefts in recent weeks.
Investigator Kendall Brown wrote that batteries are being stolen from vehicles “at residential and commercial properties, new and used car lots, and automotive repair shops.”
He went on to say that thieves are striking all sorts of vehicles: cars, trucks, semis, dump trucks, and construction and farm equipment.
The investigator said motorists need to make their batteries less attractive to criminals who plan to sell them to metal recyclers. He suggesting engraving your initials or other markings on the battery.
Another idea is to spray the battery with neon-bright paint that will make identifying your battery easier if it is stolen.
Of course, locking your car is the first step to keeping your car battery – and the car – safe.
If all that fails, however, don’t give up: There’s always the chain.