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How to Stop Thieves

Thieves look for easy pickings; these tips will show you how to stop thieves from stealing trailers, motorcycles, ladders and equipment from your yard. Don't be a victim. Stop thieves with these simple how to tips.

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Defeat Bolt CuttersFamily Handyman

Defeat Bolt Cutters

“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 be picked. The Master Lock Magnum keyed padlock and the Master Lock ProSeries Combination Lock both resist bolt cutters. Both are available at amazon.com. Plus, here's how to choose the best security chain.

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Ball-Bearing Locking Mechanisms Are TougherFamily Handyman

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 Keyed Padlocks are available at home centers and amazon.com. Plus, are smart locks for you? Learn about keyless entry, Bluetooth, and more.

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Use a Secure Storage HookFamily Handyman

Use a Secure Storage Hook

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 like this Crawford LLH10 Lockable Looping Storage Hook (available at amazon.com), which supports 50 lbs. and comes with one-way mounting screws for added security. Here are some more garage storage ideas for hanging ladders and more.

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Stop Thieves With Welded Eye BoltsFamily Handyman

Stop Thieves With Welded Eye Bolts

Run a welded eye bolt through one of the studs in your garage and lock your ladder or boat to it with a chain or cable lock. It will at least slow down someone who might want to grab and go.

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The Best Chain Has Hexagonal LinksFamily Handyman

The Best Chain Has Hexagonal Links

Aheavy-duty hardened steel chain with hexagonal links will thwart 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.

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Cheap Chain Cuts EasilyFamily Handyman

Cheap Chain Cuts Easily

A $20 bolt cutter is plenty powerful enough to cut easily through chains, cables and padlocks up to 3/8 in. thick. It took five seconds with a common 24-in. bolt cutter to cut through Grade 43 home center 3/8-in. high-test, hot-dipped, galvanized zinc.

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Cut Through Cheap Cable in 60 Seconds or LessFamily Handyman

Cut Through Cheap Cable in 60 Seconds or Less

A 24-in. bolt cutter cut through 5/8-in., vinyl-coated, flexible, braided, steel cable in 60 seconds. The cable took a bit longer than solid chain because it didn't sever as cleanly.

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Cuff Your BikeFamily Handyman

Cuff Your Bike

Advice from a retired police officer: An easy and very secure way to lock up a bicycle, wheels and all, is a pair of handcuffs. 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 bike lock.

Master Lock Street Cuffs Lock (available at 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 a pocket. Flat bicycle tire? Learn how to change it here.

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Make Some NoiseFamily Handyman

Make Some Noise

Scare bad guys away from larger items such as motorcycles and trailers by using audible alarms on cable locks and keeping your garage secure. 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 available including battery-operated, ultrasonic (key fob) and solar operated.

The Rittenhouse Lock Alarm shrieks when the cable is cut. It's available in 15-ft. and 8-ft. versions at amazon.com.

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Add an Eye Bolt to Your Concrete ProjectsFamily Handyman

Add an Eye Bolt to Your Concrete Projects

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.

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Secure Sheds With ScrewsFamily Handyman

Secure Sheds With Screws

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. Foil would-be 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. You'll also need to buy the special bit or tool. Type “security screws” or “tamperproof screws” into your search engine.

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Two Ways to Secure Shed Door HingesFamily Handyman

Two Ways to Secure Shed Door Hinges

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.

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Burglarproof Your Alloy WheelsFamily Handyman

Burglarproof Your Alloy Wheels

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.

A set of four locking nuts costs about $40 from any auto parts store. Remove one lug nut from each wheel and install a locking nut in its place. Want more security? Add two per wheel. Is your wheel rusted on? Check out these tips for removing it.

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Foil Trailer ThievesFamily Handyman

Foil Trailer Thieves

Trailer thieves get quite a laugh out of coupler “latch locks.” They can cut them in an instant with even the smallest bolt cutter. Then they're on their way with your trailer. If you want real protection, use a coupler lock that presents thieves with a real challenge. (Shown here is the Trimax Universal Coupler Lock lock, available at amazon.com.) Just insert the ball into the coupler and slide on the U-bracket. Unless the thief has the time to unbolt the entire coupler and install a new one, you'll be well protected. Of course, you want to make sure you hook up your trailer correctly in the first place, too.

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Protect Your Trusty TrailerFamily Handyman

Protect Your Trusty Trailer

If you have a really expensive trailer, it pays to get an extra layer of protection by using a “boot”-style lock in addition to the coupler lock. There are many styles to choose from, but we liked this particular model (the Trimax TCL75 Wheel Chock Lock, available at amazon.com) because it doubles as a wheel chock to prevent the trailer from rolling. Just slide it onto the wheel and press in the lock cylinder. Buy it today.