Tool Shed Security: How to Stop Thieves From Taking Your Outdoor Equipment
Don't be a victim. Stop thieves from stealing trailers, motorcycles, ladders and equipment from your yard with these simple how-to tips.
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Defeat Bolt Cutters
It takes effort to stop thieves.
“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.
Ball-Bearing Locking Mechanisms Are Tougher
Padlocks with ball-bearing locking mechanisms better resist an attempt to pry them open. Those made of boron are 50 percent harder than hardened steel and are more likely to stop thieves.
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.
The Best Chain Has Hexagonal or Square Links
A heavy-duty, hardened steel chain with hexagonal links thwarts nearly every thief with a bolt cutter. Hexagonal links (or square or trapezoidal) make it impossible for bolt cutters to get a grip.
Chain sold by the foot at the local hardware store performs lifting and towing well, but not theft resistance. Even the thick stuff likely uses round links, and frankly, if a hardware store clerk can cut the chain easily, a thief can, too.
Cheap Chain Cuts Easily
A $20 bolt cutter cuts 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 a Grade-43, home center 3/8-in. high-test, hot-dipped, galvanized zinc link. You will not likely stop thieves with these chains; they may not even break a sweat!
Cut Through Cheap Cable in 60 Seconds or Less
A 24-in. bolt cutter can 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.
Cuff Your Bike
Advice from a retired police officer to stop thieves: 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, you can easily obtain standard cuffs made of good steel and they cost about the same as a cumbersome bike lock.
Master Lock Street Cuffs Lock get rave reviews from users. The links pivot to prevent a thief from getting leverage with a bolt cutter, and the compact cuff size allows you to carry them in a pocket.
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.
There are many options for alarms 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 FJM Security SX-776 Cable Lock Alarm shrieks when the 24-in., retracting cable is cut.
Add an Eye Bolt to Your Concrete Projects
If you pour concrete for new steps, a driveway, a patio or a footing for some other project, take the time to embed an eye bolt in that concrete.
Place the eye loop so it won’t interfere with daily foot or vehicle traffic (and choose one with a welded loop), but also somewhere 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
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.
Two Ways to Secure Shed Door Hinges
Shed doors usually swing out, which most often leaves the hinge pins accessible from outside. A thief only needs to pop out the pins and remove the door. To stop thieves from attacking your hinges for easy entry, buy a security hinge with tamper-proof pins and a locking tab.
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.
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 now see many more bent alloy wheels than before the low-profile tires became popular. 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. Remove one lug nut from each wheel and install a locking nut in its place. Want more security? Add two per wheel.
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. Just insert the ball into the coupler and slide on the U-bracket. Unless there is time to unbolt the entire coupler and install a new one, you will stop most thieves.
Of course, you want to make sure you hook up your trailer correctly in the first place, too.
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.
You can choose from many styles, but we liked this particular model 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.