Buy tough locks
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Defeat bolt cutters
The Master Lock Magnum Shrouded Shackle keyed padlock and the combination padlock both resist bolt cutters, which can help you stop casual thieves.
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Ball-bearing locking mechanisms are tougher
Padlocks with ball-bearing locking
mechanisms are harder to pry
open, and those made of boron
are 50 percent harder than
hardened steel. Master Lock
Magnum laminated boron locks
are available at home centers.
“A determined thief with an angle grinder and
enough time can cut through nearly any lock,”
says Master Lock's Justin Matuszek. “But more
often, the thief has a bolt cutter and is trying to
work fast.” He says the thicker a lock's shackle and
the less it's exposed, the more secure the lock is
from bolt cutters. And the kind of locking mechanism
makes a difference in how easily a lock can
“A locking mechanism with ball
bearings provides a higher level of
security,” says Matuszek. “It’s harder to
pry open than a lock with levers
because there's more material engaged
with the shackle.”
Chain your ladder
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Use a secure storage hook
(sold at online
50 lbs. and comes
for added security.
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Stop thieves with welded eye bolts
Welded stainless steel
eye bolts are pry-proof
and won't rust (available
at online retailers).
An unlocked extension ladder stored outside can help a
thief break into your house. Secure it to your shed or
garage with a specialized
hook, or run a welded
eye bolt through one of
the studs and lock your
ladder to it with a chain or
cable lock. It will at least
slow down someone who
might want to grab your
ladder and go.
How to manage a passel of padlocks
To avoid a confusing jangle of keys,
buy padlocks that are “keyed alike,”
which means they share the same
key. Or you can buy locks that come
with a master key, which means
different keys open different locks but
one master key opens them all. You
can also have existing locks keyed
alike for $5 to $10 per lock (depending
on the type) at a home center,
hardware store or locksmith. Or, for
about $15, you can buy a kit and do it
yourself. Type “rekeying a padlock” into
your search engine, or visit
changealock.com for more
Jeff Pappas, Field Editor
An Easy Way to Remember a Combination
You can write your
without giving it
away by using this
trick. Just add a
specific digit to
each number. For example, if your
combination is 44 77 34, add 7 to
each number so you end up writing
down 51 84 41. As long as you
remember the secret digit, you'll
remember your combination.
The best chain has hexagonal links
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Hexagonal chain is a great way to stop thieves
The Trimax THEX33 THEX Super Chain (sold on Amazon
through our affiliate program) has 10mm hexagonal links to
foil bad guys with bolt cutters. The 3-ft. version
weighs 5 lbs., so it's not something you want
to be lugging around in a backpack.
A heavy-duty hardened steel chain with hexagonal links will stop nearly
every thief with a bolt cutter. Hexagonal links (or square or trapezoidal) make
it impossible for bolt cutters to get a grip. You may be tempted to buy chain by
the foot at the hardware store, but it's designed for lifting and towing, not theft
resistance. Even the thick stuff is likely to have round links, and frankly, if a
hardware store clerk can cut the
chain easily, a thief can too.
Cheap chain and cable cut easily
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Grade 43 home center 3/8-in.
high-test hot-dipped galvanized
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5/8-in. vinyl-coated flexible
braided steel cable.
A $20 bolt cutter is plenty powerful enough to cut easily through chains, cables
and padlocks up to 3/8 in. thick. We used a common 24-in. bolt cutter to see how
long it would take to snip through hardware store chain and cable. The chain was
a piece of cake. The cable took a bit longer because it didn't sever as cleanly as
Cuff your bike
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How to stop thieves in their tracks
Master Lock's Street Cuffs (available through our affiliation with amazon.com
) get rave
reviews from users. The links
pivot to prevent a thief from
getting leverage with a bolt
cutter, and the cuffs are
compact enough to carry in
As a retired police
officer, I discovered
an easy and
very secure way
to lock up a bicycle:
You can lock two
bikes up with one set or literally
cuff the frame of your bike to most
anything. The cuff key is small and
easy to carry, and standard, good
steel cuffs can be obtained easily
and cost about the same as a cumbersome
Kelly F. Scott,
Use the shortest chain possible
Don't use an overly long chain or
cable to lock your stuff. Slack in a
chain makes it easy for a thief to
pry off the chain or smash the lock.
Use the smallest U-lock possible to lock bikes
A U-lock is lighter than most chains
and stronger than most cables, and
it can be attached to your bike, so
you don't need to carry it. Just make
sure it's not oversized for your bike.
Otherwise, a thief can insert a crowbar
and pry it apart. Also, a square U-lock
(as opposed to the traditional round
version) renders bolt cutters useless.
Make some noise
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This lock can't talk, but it can scream
The Rittenhouse lock alarm
shrieks when the cable is cut.
It's available in 15-ft. and
8-ft. versions at rittenhouse.ca
Want to know how to stop thieves from stealing larger items such
as motorcycles and trailers? Use
audible alarms on cable locks.
Also use alarms on gate latches
and shed and garage doors.
Alarms are available with
many options, including
movement sensors you
can mount on a door
and angle to cover the
windows, too. There
are many DIY alarms
ultrasonic (key fob)
and solar operated.
Add an eye bolt to your concrete projects
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Anchor valuable trailers and equipment
Pour concrete in a Sonotube concrete form in the ground and leave a U-bolt sticking out of the top to loop a chain through. This works great for trailers, mowers and generators. I run a heavy 5/16-in. chain through everything and padlock it to the concrete anchor.
When you're pouring new
steps, a driveway, a patio
or a footing for some other
project, embed an eye bolt
in the concrete. Place it so
it won't interfere with daily
foot or vehicle traffic, but
also where it's accessible
to serve as a secure anchor
for hooking up your trailer,
generator, motorcycle, grills,
bikes and other items. You
can find stainless steel and
galvanized eye bolts at home
centers and marine suppliers
(used for dock building).
If you don't want to sink a
permanent concrete pier,
you can buy screw-in ground
anchoring products instead.
Secure sheds with screws
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Stop thieves with better screws
One-way, Torx and hex-head cap
screws and bolts can't be removed
with standard tools. They require
accessories that a thief is unlikely
Your locked shed seems secure, but a cagey thief can bypass the lock by using
a screwdriver to remove hinges and other hardware with exposed screw heads.
Stop thieves by using Allen head, Torx head or hex-head cap screws instead of
standard Phillips head screws. You can also order tamper-proof security screws
that require special removal tools that an opportunistic thief is unlikely to have.
Prices start at about 25¢ a screw, depending on the type and size. You'll also need to buy
the special bit or tool. Visit marshallshardware.com or
tufnutworks.com, or type “security
screws” or “tamperproof screws” into
your search engine.
Bike Locks Work for Trailers Too
I've found that
bicycle cable locks
work the best to
protect my trailer.
I put a cable lock
through the “spoke”
holes of the trailer
wheel, then through the spring. In
really dicey areas, I put cable locks
on both wheels. This prevents theft
of the wheels and the trailer.
Throw away wimpy screws that come with your hasp
Many hasps come with tiny screws that
take all of 10 seconds to pry off. Replace
those screws with beefier screws, or buy
a security hasp with nuts and bolts that
can't be pried off easily.
Secure shed door hinges
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Two ways to secure hinges
To secure your hinges so a thief can't pop out the hinge pin and remove the door,
either buy a security stud hinge with a built-in locking tab (right), or make your own.
Shed doors usually swing out, so the
hinge pins are accessible from outside;
all a thief has to do is pop out the pins
and remove the door. To stop this, buy a
security hinge with tamper-proof pins
and a locking tab at a home center. Or,
you can retrofit an existing hinge by
removing the center screws on both
sides, inserting a finish screw through
one side and allowing it to protrude
about 1/4 in. Drill out the receiving hole
slightly so that when the door is closed,
the finish screw head engages the other
hinge. That way, even if the hinge pin is
removed, the door can't be taken off.
Use more than one type of lock
Make a thief work harder to try to steal your
motorcycle, trailer or bike by providing
multiple levels of security, such as a disc lock
used in combination with a brake lock with
an alarm, as well as a U-lock anchored to
Make a trailer hard to steal
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Trailer security tip
Park a trailer backward so backing up to it isn't possible,
and put a chain with a lock around the tongue and/or tire.
Now it's just too much work to try to steal a trailer parked
outside. I park a trailer with a six-wheeler this way in one of
my barn run-ins.
Burglarproof your alloy wheels
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Locking nut and key
Install a locking nut in place of a lug nut to make wheels more difficult to steal.
Many late-model vehicles come with alloy wheels and low-profile tires (there’s a
shorter distance between the rim and the tread). Because the rim rides so close
to the pavement, shops are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of bent
alloy wheels. Since new factory wheels cost upward of $300 each, vehicle
owners usually opt for a used wheel from a recycling yard. And that’s creating a
shortage of used alloy wheels.
And the result is ... you guessed it. Alloy wheel theft is on the rise. Police reports
show that thieves can strip all four wheels from a vehicle in about five minutes.
If you have alloy wheels, install locking lug nuts to deter the crooks. Locking lug
nuts aren’t foolproof, but it takes a special socket to remove them, and that slows
down the thieves.
You can buy a set of four locking nuts from any auto parts store. Remove
one lug nut from each wheel and install a
locking nut in its place. If you want more security, add two per wheel.