If you find yourself in a situation where you lost your car keys and you need to start your vehicle, then hotwiring your car is probably a reasonable solution.
Hotwiring is the process of bypassing your car’s ignition system and starting it without a key.
While we don’t advocate hotwiring a vehicle for reasons other than an emergency, having the ability to hotwire can prove advantageous in certain situations.
Modern cars today use an immobilizer which interacts with the transponder in the car keys to start the vehicle, meaning that hotwiring is likely not going to work.
However, there are a couple of ways you can bypass the immobilizer, but this requires extensive knowledge and experience to execute.
In this article, we’ll be focusing on hotwiring vehicles that don’t come with this technology instead.
Step-by-step guide on how to hotwire a car
When you insert a key into the ignition and turn it, an electrical circuit is generated which goes from the battery to the ignition and finally the starter motor.
Once the starter motor is powered, it gets the engine running and starts the vehicle.
Hotwiring is basically generating an electrical circuit without using a key. Here’s how it’s done:
1. Access the harness connection of the ignition lock
The first thing you should do is remove the plastic cover of the steering column. Use a screwdriver and undo the screws under the steering wheel.
This should give you access to the harness connection for the ignition lock. Check with your car’s wiring diagram to identify which cables are which.
2. Find the harness connector
Take a look at one side of the wiring harness. You’ll find all sorts of cables for the lights, ignition cables, and wipers.
We’re interested in the bundled cables that lead to the ignition lock which should contain the battery, starter, and ignition cables.
You must have the right circuit diagram for your car so you don’t end up confusing the cables. Usually, the battery’s cable is red while the starter cable is yellow and the ignition one is brown.
3. Strip the wires
Wear a pair of gloves and use wire strip pliers to strip the battery and ignition cables (red and brown) before splicing them together.
Make sure to cover the splice with insulating tape afterwards.
4. Start the car’s electrical components
Once you’ve spliced the battery and ignition cables, the car’s electrical systems should come to life.
You can now turn on the lights, the radio, and other electrical components.
To start the car, you’ll need to generate a spark from the starter wire.
5. Generating a spark
This step requires a bit more caution as you’ll need to strip the starter wire to get a spark and start the engine.
Strip the starter wire about half an inch while being extra careful not to touch them since the wires are charged.
Touch the exposed ends of the starter wire together and the engine should now start. Pull the wires apart and tape them so you don’t get shocked while driving.
6. Breaking the steering wheel lock
In some cars, the steering wheel bolt can be accessed by jamming a screwdriver between the top of the steering column and the steering wheel.
Nudge the screwdriver left and right until the lock breaks open and the steering wheel is free to move.
Drilling the lock pins
There is another way to gain access to your car, though it’s an extreme option and will cause damage to your vehicle.
If you can’t hotwire your vehicle, you can drill the lock pins to start the car. The goal here is to turn on the ignition by using a screwdriver instead of your car keys.
Place the drill bit right on the keyhole until 60% of the keyhole is covered.
Orient yourself on the key’s length and drill into it until small metal pits come out.
From there, remove the drill and use a flathead screwdriver to turn on the ignition.
Because the pins are broken, you don’t need as much force when inserting the screwdriver.
The engine should be up and running at this point. Bear in mind that drilling the lock pins means anyone can steal your car.
Do this only as a last resort since replacing your car’s keyhole is not the easiest of tasks.
When to hotwire your car
Hotwiring a car should only be reserved for emergencies as it can severely damage your vehicle if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Also, you should only hotwire a car that you have ownership of. Otherwise, your attempt will be classified as car theft if you get caught hotwiring a vehicle you don’t own.
It is your responsibility when hotwiring your car so any damage you cause won’t be covered by insurance or warranty.
We would also like to touch on the topic of safety when hotwiring a car.
There are inherent risks when bypassing your car’s ignition system as the loose wires can generate sparks that can turn into a potential fire hazard.
Avoid leaving the wires in contact with metal parts and always consult your car’s manual to get a better idea of how the cables are set up.