How to Hotwire Cars and Motorbikes

Hotwiring a car other than one you own is a criminal offence and for newer models may not even work. These days manufacturers often hide the components or wires and include cut-off switches – which means the engine won’t start even with a key. It may also require a chipped key (hint: if there’s an RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip in it stick it to the steering column before trying the following). But for older models you’re good to go. If you find yourself stranded in a hostile environment like a desert or suburban housing estate you won’t give a damn that it makes you look like a car thief.

Be warned: the following techniques could cause electric shocks or serious damage to the engine, internal components and your car. Use with caution.

Screwdriver in the Ignition

Take a flat-head screwdriver and use it in place of a key. Simply insert into the keyhole and turn. It’s not the most flash way to do it but it’ll save you a whole lot of trouble. If it doesn’t work don’t worry, you can use the screwdriver for the next solution.

The Old-Fashioned Way

Right, make sure you’re in neutral then get yourself under the steering column and remove the ignition cover – sometimes clipped on, sometimes screwed on. Typically you’ll now see three pairs of wires. Each one corresponds to one turn on the ignition key so the first is the battery-on position, next lights, radio and electrics and the final one the starter motor.

Unfortunately there’s no standard colour-coding system for these wires so you’ll need to look in the manual to find out which pair is which. However if you’ve lost it or there’s a bunch of hoodies banging on the window you could try the following.

Find the matching power wires, usually red. Disconnect them, strip the ends and reconnect by twisting them together. Bingo: the dash should light up. Do not touch them to anything metal in the car.

Now locate the starter wire or wires, often brown. WARNING: Do not touch the bare ends of these wires: they carry live current and you may be electrocuted. Now that you know this and have taken full responsibility for whatever happens next, strip the ends of these wires and cross the brown and red together. Just like the desperate hero in the movies. You should see a spark and the engine should start. Once the car is running, separate the live wires and cover the bare ends to protect yourself while driving.

Give the car a few revs to prevent it stalling and your having to repeat this procedure. Now put your foot down and get the hell out of Dodge.

Motorbikes are even easier. Just take the ignition cover off and twist the battery and ignition wires together (check the manual to find out the exact specs for your machine or opt for red and green if you’re in a jam). Now start the motor and drive like the devil himself was chasing you.

You never know when disaster will strike, so here’s how to do it when you’re stuck in a desert.


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