15 Tips to Prevent Tools From Getting Stolen

Updated: Aug. 01, 2023

Tool thefts are on the rise. Prevent your tools from being stolen by following these tips.

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fluorescent marking paint

Give your tools an ugly makeover

Used tool buyers gauge the value of a power tool by its appearance. That means they look for the familiar “Milwaukee red”, “DeWalt yellow,” “Ridgid orange”, “Makita blue,” and “Bosch blue” brand color as well as name plates and the visual condition of the tool. Your new job is to rough up your tools’ appearance, making it far less valuable to the crook and their buyers.

Start by removing the brand name plate (but leave the plate containing the tool’s serial number). Next, buy a can of bright neon colored green or pink spray paint,  and spray the entire tool with that neon color. Finish the job with clear coat to protect the paint, and take pictures of your unique works of art to help police track them down if they’re stolen.

Bottom line: Thieves don’t steal tools they can’t fence and they certainly don’t want ugly tools that can be traced because of their unique look. Mark tools to prevent theft!

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engraving tool

Engrave personal information right on the tools for added security

The only thing worse for thieves than an ugly tool is one that has some personally identifying marks permanently engraved into the tool. Find a prominent spot on the tool and add something like: “Stolen from Joe’s Plumbing, Scranton, PA Call (507) 456-XXXX for REWARD.” Just like an ugly paint job, marking and engraving a tool lowers the tools’ resale value and increases the risk of arrest to the thief.

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milwaukee power drill

Remove batteries and charger to deter thieves

Used battery-powered tools sell for much less if they don’t include the battery and charger. If you’ve done your homework by defacing the look of the tool and engraving it with your personal information and you remove the battery and charger, the tool definitely isn’t worth stealing.

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van tool box mounting

Lock them up in a secure cabinet or attached locked toolbox

Tool thieves know they have a limited about of time to break in and scoop up your tools. Your job is to make them spend more time, make more noise and break a sweat if they want to get their mitts on your tools.

If you store your tools in your work truck, have the truck outfitter install a locking cabinet with heavy-duty hinges and locks to store your power tools (while you’re at it, invest in the right truck tool box, too). If you store them in your shop or garage, buy a secure storage cabinet and several carrying bins. Load your tools into the bins so you can move them easily into and out of your work truck.

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lock and hardened chain

Lock them up with security chain

A bolt cutter can easily defeat cheap padlocks and aircraft cable locks. But hardened-steel security chain and high-quality padlocks provide much better protection. Thieves can cut through them with a grinder, but cutting hardened-steel chain takes a long time and burns up several grinding wheels. Thieves don’t have that much time or battery power. Use hardened-steel security chain and padlocks to protect your ladders and all heavy-duty electric and gasoline-powered equipment. If you drive a truck consider using a truck tool box mounting kit to attach them directly to the vehicle itself.

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trackable deWalt battery pack

Invest in lockable power tools with apps

The newest professional power tools can be disabled though a smartphone app. Once locked, the tool is worthless. But it’s not enough to buy those tools, you must advertise that fact by posting warnings on your work truck and trailer that you’ve disabled all your tools. Find trackable and locking features on Milwaukee, DeWalt and other professional tool brands.

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Milwaukee vs Tile tracking tags

Add GPS trackers to your tools for additional security

Several companies make GPS tracking devices. They attach to your power tools with epoxy, screws or rivets. Once you notice your tools are missing, activate the app from your phone and find their location. Tool trackers are visible deterrents and once the thieves realize your tools have them, they’re more likely to leave them and find another target. Thieves can’t afford to spend the extra time to pry off the trackers while they’re at the scene of the crime. And they don’t want to take the risk of being tracked while they head home with the “goods.”

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internal deadbolt on truck

Add interior deadbolts to your work truck

Factory door lock cylinders attach to the door sheet metal with just a spring clip. Even a novice crook can pop those out in a few seconds. But interior sliding deadbolts make the job much harder to defeat. You can buy manual or electric sliding deadbolts to fit your truck. The electric versions cost more, but since they connect to your vehicle’s remote keyless entry system they lock and unlock with just a button push from your key fob.

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aftermarket truck alarm

Install a truck alarm system

According to contractingbusiness.com, “an estimated 90% of work truck break-ins and power tool thefts take place between 6 p.m. on Friday and 6 a.m. on Monday.” Since you can’t babysit your work truck 24/7, protect it with an alarm system. You can buy alarm systems for less than $100, but the better models sell for around $400 installed. Those systems offer 2-way communication that confirm the system is armed. And they send alerts to your smartphone if the doors are opened. You can even add sensing modules to detect glass breakage and report if someone is trying to jack up the vehicle to remove expensive components or enter it from below.

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wheel chock for anti-theft

Prevent trailer theft

Many contractors store their tools in a work trailer and use a hitch lock when they leave it on-site. But tool thieves can cut off a hitch lock in seconds using a battery-powered grinder. Then, the thieves hook up your trailer and drive it to a remote location so they can break in without being caught. Make their job much harder by lowering the trailer as far as it will go and then removing the trailer jack handle. Next, slap on two trailer wheel locks. If you’re parking your trailer at the job site, jack it up and place it on blocks so you can remove the wheels.

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puck locks for trucks

Add exterior puck locks to your work truck doors

Puck locks provide a strong visual deterrence to less skilled thieves. And they cost much less than electric sliding door locks. They’re not as convenient as electric sliding door locks because they require a key. Plus, you have to keep track of the puck lock every time you remove it. But they provide much better security than factory locks.

Some puck locks and hasps require drilling, while others, like Slick Locks, install right onto the door latch fasteners. Order multiple puck lock kits “keyed alike” so you can open all of them with a single key.

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heavy duty truck tool box

Invest in a heavy-duty job box

A heavy-duty job box is perfect for storing tools at the job site. Load in the tools and lock it up. But don’t buy a cheap unit, as thieves can get into those in just a few minutes. The better units are built with 14- or 16-gauge steel, so they can’t be opened with tin snips. Buy casters to roll the job box into position next to a pole. Loop the chain around a metal pole and thread the ends through the slots in the back of the box. Secure the chain ends inside the job box with a heavy-duty padlock. Remove the casters and set the box on the ground. That way thieves can’t roll it away if they compromise the pole or the chain.

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warning signs

Add stickers and warning signs

Invest in warning signs and stickers to let thieves know that your tools and vehicles are protected by GPS trackers and alarm systems and the entire area is being monitored with surveillance cameras. Thieves generally move on to lower risk opportunities if yours appears too intimidating.

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lockable heavy duty truck tool box

Get a truck bed toolbox to keep your tools safe

Never leave your tools in the back seat of your car or truck; they’ll be gone in an instant. Instead, lock them in the trunk or protect them with a heavy-duty truck bed tool box. Truck bed tool boxes mount on the rails right behind the cab. The best units are built with heavier gauge metal and can’t be pried open with a crow bar. They’re also fitted with better locks. Yes they’re pricey, but they protect your tools better than the cheaper units and the nice ones often come with mounting kits included for secure fitment.

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safest place to park work truck

Park in a well-lit area away from buildings

Tool thieves work in the dark and avoid well-lit areas. If you have a choice of parking your work truck next to a dark building or blocks away in a well-lit parking lot, choose the lot! Never park your work truck so the side or rear doors are shielded by a building.

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