Detecting Tracking Devices on Vehicles

44 comments

We’ve written a bit about GPS-tracking your car, and the latest post as of today is about the tracking devices that the FBI uses to keep tabs on…well, those that they feel needs keeping track of. Those of us who own a vehicle should definitely go for the first option, but how do you find out if anyone is using one of these devices to track your car without you knowing (or wanting) it?

The question is perhaps not as irrelevant to you as you might think. The FBI can, according to a 9th Circuit court judge, place these devices on any vehicle they see fit, no warrant or warning necessary. Also, there’s that jealous girl-/boyfriend, controlling parent, etc, etc. that might want to keep tabs on your whereabouts – what do we know. In any case, a GPS tracker is the method most used to track a vehicle, and though there are other methods out there (plain following you, radio beacon, etc) it’s by far the most versatile and cost effective way to do it.

So here’s how to find out if your car is being tracked – a.k.a. “Where to Look for It”. Please remember that this write-up is for a “manual” search – no fancy electronics, expensive or otherwise. Those won’t help you find a passive, GPS/GSM module without radio transmitters anyway.

One thing to remember is that a GPS tracking device needs to “see” the sky in some way. While GPS signals will penetrate thin (-ish) plastic or similar materials, they will have a tough time with metal. That’s why the device will have to be placed in a location that will both protect it and still provide a semi-clear path to the satellites above. So where should you look? Take a look at the picture below. We’ve put some helpful arrows on a cut-away view of a relatively normal car – the locations are transferable to any car that rolls on the roads today, at least.

Search Locations

Okay, those arrows might be a little bit confusing, so here’s a bullet list of what they mean – we’ll start from the front, and work our way back to the rear end of the car, and outside points first.

- Front Bumper Area.

This is an unlikely place, since it is a risk to whatever device is placed there, but it’s not impossible. Take your flashlight and get a good look in all the nooks and crannies that are up under there. One thing that speaks for this location is easy access to your car’s battery, in most cases. This would provide a device with uninterrupted power, and it could stay there, running, for weeks. Look for wires that doesn’t seem to fit, small black boxes and other things that look placed there. If it’s bolted to the car, don’t remove it – it could be something that’s supposed to be there. Keep in mind that wires in this location can be power for your lights, external temperature sensors, etc. Be sure before you remove anything.

- Wheel Wells.

This goes for all four of them, of course. Again, this is unlikely, but not impossible. Look for boxes, cylinders, etc. that doesn’t seem to be doing anything. The only things that should be behind your wheel (yes, you should remove the wheels to look in here) are brakes (there might be a wire going to a sensor behind the brakes – don’t touch that), springs and your dampers. That’s it. You can even see some of that in the above cut-away. There will be some kind of load-bearing structure under there too, but you won’t be able to confuse that with a tracking device. If you manage that, you should get a diploma for…something.

- Rear Bumper Area.

Just like with the front bumper area, there might be wires under here. In most cases they’re powering lights and external sensors that tell you stuff when you drive. Some people even have cameras mounted here, but in most cases those go in the rear door. Look for the usual suspects, and be careful not to remove anything that actually belongs there. You should be aware that most equipment in and on a modern car is interconnected in some way, and removing things that you should have left alone might make it hard or impossible to operate the car – i.e. get it to start…

-General Areas.

You should go over all other “outlying” areas of the car’s undercarriage. Remember that satellite signals won’t pass through metals of normal thickness, and so any antenna needs to “see” the sky in some way or other. Make that flashlight work for you, and make sure you’ve seen the whole “outer square” of the car’s underside.

- Internal: Dashboard Area.

There’s a lot of room under the fancy dashboard inside the car. There’s stuff in there, sure, but there’s plenty of room to hide stuff too. The easiest way to gain access, in most cases, is through the glove compartment. Remove the “compartment” itself – in most cars, this is a matter of opening it, unscrewing some screws and pulling out the whole thing (mind the cables for lighting, etc). Shine your light in there. There will be a lot of wires. Those that are installed in the factory, however (the car’s “harness”) will be taped together, or held together with plastic strips. You should check any wire that has a strange color or is loose inside the dashboard. Feel with your hand up underneath the dashboard – are there antennas up there (most of them can be glued to any flat surface)?

Next, do the same for the driver side. It should be possible to take off the panel under the steering wheel. Make that flashlight earn its keep – it’ll be dark and dusty up there.

- Internal: Consoles and Such.

If you have a sunroof or if your car’s a convertible, the devices and antennas can be installed in other locations than under the dash. Check for wires, unscrew any covers that you can (remember, these were, in most cases, made to be removed if necessary – you won’t break anything unless you use force). Check for odd wires under the carpets in the car, and under the rear seats, and follow them to their source(s). Be careful not to damage any seat heating equipment.

After The Inspection – What Next?

If you’ve done these checks and found nothing, but that feeling is still there that something is going on, there’s only one thing to do, really. Get someone else to look over the car. The people who should be doing this if you’re looking for something that shouldn’t be there are car alarm installers. Find a reputable installer, and call’em up. In most cases, they’ll be very helpful, and it’s even likely that they’ve had the same kind of request before, and have had some experience with the problem. These people also know how to install tracking devices, and know what those gadgets need, so they know where they’ll be.

Still nothing? Chances are that there’s no one tracking you, buddy. Rest easy.

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Emma April 2, 2014 at 8:57 pm

My ex suddenly one day gave me a speech about how he knew where I’d been because of ‘something I took with me all the time’ and then left with another woman. That morning, I went out to my car and saw like a red laser type light shooting out backward from my rear driver side tire, and it was flattened. Also since then, my car will appear the next morning in another parking spot, and have some missing gas, I’ll find things like broken fingernails (twice) and just filth on the windows and seats. Since this has been happening, I’ve lost everything to the spyware in my phone, I’m terrified. Photos from my gallery disappear and reemerge alerted. I’m ready to kill myself, and plan to do that the day before I’m evicted Friday. I’m so afraid. I can’t live this way anymore. Can you tell me what you think with the ref lights?

misty December 8, 2013 at 6:42 am

Is there anything I cam buy to stop them tracking me. I’m so pissed. You have no idea.

misty December 8, 2013 at 6:33 am

Thank you this has given me some onsite yo my problem. Its not the FBI its my husband and his gay lover. They have hacked my phone my wireless network and now I’m going to check out my car. My husband is always pulls down the visor looks into the mirror and acts Luke he fixing his eye lashes lol. I’m thinking they girl it somewhere in the back next to my brakevlight or I’m I way off key. Oh yeah so how is it they can get inti your dish network. One night we were watching you tube a old movie I have seen many times and this black blob came out if no were. I went back. The next day and watched that part not there.

Nicole December 4, 2013 at 7:27 am

What if I did find something?

SS October 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Well, noname… you gotta take context into account. ;)

SS October 26, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Hi Taryn.
The sticker itself probably isn’t a tracking device. I’d go for noname’s advice too, but it’s more likely that your ex is tracking tech you already have – change your FindMyiPhone password if you’ve got one of those – research if your phone or tablet has a tracking ability, and either disable or change passwords. That said, a check under your car can’t hurt.

noname October 25, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Taryn,
a) he wants to spot your car in a lot more easily or on the road (is it a common make and color?)
or b) he wants you to be upset with overt clues that he’s following you around.
(but it could be for some dummy who cant match a plate number to find the right car in your workplace like I said earlier, to change batteries underneath)
Remove it and put a webcam on your car from where you live so it’s always watched. :)

noname October 25, 2013 at 1:02 pm

for Taryn,
the sticker on your antenna looks more like an aid for a stranger he hired to come change batteries on an undercar tracker. They need that once every week to ten days. ;)
Just remove it and park somewhere else while at work. Or have someone look under the car for you. (He would have to use that if he has no access to your car after youve split up to put it inside/hardwired).

noname October 25, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Interesting site.
Webmaster, you commented to a man above (too late to help 2 years old), “no such thing as DNA tracking”. He said, there were STICKERS that said that all over his car. Sounds more like gang stalking (look it up, youtube, also a fave with gangs and some clubs like mason), in retaliation for suing and winning about the unlawful tasering. Probably the riled cop who caught trouble for it.

When someone whistles, flashes lights, and makes late night stalking apparent, it is meant to intimidate, not to covertly follow. It is called gang stalking. Not very nice to suggest batty and be more careful in future to someone like that, they’re already a victim. :) Its a revenge crime.

taryn October 23, 2013 at 6:28 pm

My soon to be ex-husband (child custody battle) seems to know where I am all the time. I’ve searched my car twice and found nothing. He works in the area so conveniently he could remove or replace a tracking devise while I’m at work. Today I noticed a very secure dime size yellow sticker on my antenna, could this be a tracking device?

Jak Schit October 16, 2013 at 5:38 am

Thanks for the advice. I looked all around my vehicle tpo no avail. I’ll take my vehicle to an alarm installer to see if they can find it.
I have suspecte my boss of tracking me for over a year. More so now because a few days ago i heard this ticking noise from under my steering column. At first I thought it was vibration. Then when my car door locks started popping up and down yesterday while i was driving and i heard a ticking noise when my windshield wipers were on, i was convinced that a tracking device is installed. i’m going to find that thing and get his ass fired if i can prove he did it.

SS September 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Unfortunately, you’ll have to use your eyes and hands. Just remember that a GPS unit has to “see” the sky, with no more blockage than thin plastic/window. That means the places to look are limited. Under dash, center console, behind glove compartment, etc.

Beverly Heavrin September 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I’m looking for a device that will find a GPS tracking device in my car. Is there such an animal?

Caldwell Billie July 27, 2013 at 6:34 am

Someone has loosened nut on my seatbelt , turned airbag system off ,cut wires under driver seat hacked into car computer .

naveen July 24, 2013 at 1:46 pm

hello,i wnt to know,how we can find tracker,and and destroying it,in hideen bags

cherry July 23, 2013 at 5:20 am

I tgibk the sbi is tracking me cause my boyfriends family recently hoy into trouble for trafficin drugs thrre is a for f350 put side my hotel with XIX big antannas on it could that be them listin thro

HoTh20 June 29, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I just found a GPS tracker in my car. Not sure if its cops or wife, def one of the two. Is there any way to find out who?

Matt Montgomery May 1, 2013 at 5:48 am

Yes I was released from prison on jan 4, 2013 for manufacturing methamphetamine and possession of more than 200 grams and I just paid $16,000 cash for a truck. Now I haven’t noticed anything prior to getting the truck but about two weeks after I took the title to have it transferred into my name I started feeling like I’m being followed and I live at the end of a coulda sac and there seems to b a lot of traffic coming and turning around when I’m home. Also when I go out there isn’t a road in Texas that I can turn down without another car coming. Now they don’t follow but for a minute or two and then it seems like they honk or give some kind of signal to another car to follow. IVe only seem a couple of the cars more than once and now I seem to run into an unmarked police at every gas station. Also it seems like every time I sit in the driver seat of my truck it makes a faint tone that I had mistaken for a squeaky sting in the seat but now thinks its more of a faint tone that sounds two or three times. The AT&T truck with one guy is also hanging out a lot outside the shop where I work. Do think I’m under some kinda 24 hr surveillance cause the IRS was alerted when the previous owner deposited that $16,000 or maybe when I took the title to the tax office. If I pull out my driveway at three in the morning I will see at least one persons walking and within 45 seconds I’ll have at least one or two cars behind me and one coming towards me turning to the left or right as soon S they pass by.

SS April 24, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Hi Justin.

That video sounds like the tracker we’ve used before. The easiest way to trace the sound is simply to start taking off panels where you think the sound is coming from, and see for yourself. If you do, snap a pic of what’s making the sound and email it to us. We can probably ID it for you.

justin April 24, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Hi, not really, just beeps 10 times, short pips
Uploaded to youtube

see
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3QVDox3eo8

A mechanic did find a small black box velcrod to the panel above the drivers foot well, when fitting a final stage resister.

thanks

SS April 24, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Hi Justin.
That sounds a little like a GPS tracker we’ve got mounted on a couple of vehicles ourselves. It’ll beep (or “blip” – very short beeps) 10 times when external power kicks in (i.e. you turn on the car, and it doesn’t run on its batteries anymore) when there’s an antenna problem, or when it has some other trouble it needs you to look at. Do you have any more info than just “10 beeps”?

justin April 24, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Hi, every time I start my X5, I get 10 beeps from the drivers (rhd) footwell.

Its driving me crazy. Any thoughts?

thanks

SS April 16, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Hi Winit. Send a pic to contact@snallabolaget.com, and we’ll take a look at it for you. :)

Winit1 April 15, 2013 at 11:25 pm

I found a 1/2 inch loop of a bare wire sticking out from the seal on the side of my car battery.
Any thoughts? How do I send you a photo. A bit scary because my headlight has been working on and off recently (clearly an electrical issue), until now has gone out. I disconnect the battery during replacement today and found that peculiar wire, however, now the headlamp won’t work at all.

rob January 12, 2013 at 6:10 am

the guy on this site, ken gordon, hearing whistling is under surveillance by people affiliated with police … that’s one signal they use for communicating. other signals are blinking lights/colored lens sometimes red (my unit was issued this standard equipment for similar use so i am familiar with it when i see these)..? ken has been going through this for a year but i have been going through it about 5 years. ken will also experience vandalism on auto, small thefts made to seem amateur to avoid appearance of police activity . he is probably not aware of the hidden listening and video devices, and not so covert laser cameras etc… they want to case him up criminally. i have a private detective compiling info as to events pertaining to me. i wish him the best and feel his pain. its not in his head, america has changed in a bad way

tamara December 30, 2012 at 8:44 am

The SRS light for safety restraint system came on all of a sudden a while back. He works for honda and said that sometimes when you bump poles and anything it might activate a sesnor warning you that it may not work in an accident. the light is still on and he has never even looked at it. my clock light is out, my car battery somehow got drained over a few days. it starts but barely and one night i had no cables and he opened the hood and touched something and it started. i figured it was a mechanics secret. today i did some surfing aboutl this tracking they can do legally and also listen in. lets just say my friend has friends that do things and they have all been in trouble. i wouldn’t be at all surprised if the cops are tracking me because i drive him everywhere because i’m legal. and when we talk on the phone it’s like he puts me on mute, it’s just weird. today there were two calls to my school that i didn’ t make because i was getting ready for work. I’ll check my car real good and take my phone in. Maybe it is just paranioa but i’ll likely trust him more if i don’t find anything. thanks for the suggestions and information.

SS September 23, 2012 at 11:28 am

That’s not a bad idea, but not necessarily a good one either. A jammer would be illegal, it would be detectable in itself and it would also mean you wouldn’t be able to use your own GPS or phone. That solution will also not work if it’s a radio tracker… a radio jammer would have to jam the receiver, not the sender.

John O September 19, 2012 at 6:32 pm

If you’re really paranoid, just get an easily available GPS L1/GSM jammer. That would block both GPS and the GPRS data packets sent through the GSM/3G network, and are available for less than 50 dollars.

SS August 29, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Hey Lollercopter.
That sounds weird. Usually, alarm systems have mics to detect breaking glass, etc, and in some cases they’re covered simply to filter out the sounds that shouldn’t set it off. So that might be all right.
The rebuild and the new-looking components are something else, however. If you like, go ahead and send us a couple of pics, and we’ll ID the components for you.

lollercopter August 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm

My hunk-of-junk car was broken into a few weeks ago. My car has many cosmetic issues, including both rear windows held up by door stops. :( I noticed after getting in my car from work one night, that the screwed on-flashing light-theft deterrent that was mounted near my hood latch had been unscrewed and missing. Also the cover for the fuses where missing from same location.
Since then I’ve been experiencing what seems like people following me. I even tested this theory, and baited 4 cars to a dead end, far from houses.. Making this theft even more suspicious.
An alarm system was found in my car recently. In the same area as before, but hidden in the wiring under my dash.. The car is old, and durt-covered.. Yet the 2 devices looked new. After opening the case, I find a microphone that seemed hidden.. Cylinder mic: cylinder plastic glued to the circuit board, covering the mic..

My question to the knowledgable…

Anyone know if the Mic in an alarm system is supposed to be covered for a particular reason? Or does it sound as if it’s been tampered with?

Thanks,
Lollercopter

SS August 26, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Hi Curiois.
If there’s some kind of tracking device in your car, one would think whoever put it there would make sure it was quiet. It could be any number of things – some kind of status beep from your radio, your gps system, mirror heating on/off, perhaps?
- Find out where the sound is coming from, under what circumstances. If there’s a beep, there’s a speaker.
- If you don’t know what the device is when you find it, take your car to a dealer, or check a workshop manual. Many of those can be downloaded online.
- If you do find something unknown, and you don’t want to draw attention, send us a pic and we’ll find out what it is for you.

Curiois August 26, 2012 at 1:41 am

i drive a scion and.hear an occassional beep that sounds lile it comes from the left side door mirror but I could be mistaken since I drive with the windows up. Theres a small speaker on the.upper part of the left door (driver side) and maybe the beep comes from there.

Very curious to know what this single beep is. I am suspiciously thinking theres a tracking device

SS August 22, 2012 at 6:46 am

;)

omgyall August 22, 2012 at 6:35 am

put the pipe down fools lol

lights blinking – yeah they were going to such stupidly elaborate lengths because your so interesting to follow.

jeesus.

omgyall August 22, 2012 at 6:32 am

Man!!! Toward the end you fools really started sounding 100% tweaker mental cases LOL ! Calm down Beavises. Christ! I was like “whaaa?” “ugghhh lol” Listen dudes – get yourself into a child custody dispute and then comeback and tell me about what people will stoop to. No one cares about your crap enough to track you lol. And WTF man – “DNA Tracking” ?? LOL that’s retarded not real – and they were “stickers” ?? you sound geeked or actively manic lol go chill the fuck out your delusional

small fry June 11, 2012 at 2:44 am

So ya lets just keep bulding freeways .i and co will give um something to name them hahahahaha rest in piss pigs.

Carla January 19, 2012 at 1:47 am

So glad I found this site. I have been fighting with a BHPH dealer while filing Chapt 7. He is insisting on installing a GPS on my vehicle. My car has been sitting somewhere he may/or may not know where, if found on private property could GPS have been installed during the night while homeowner was sleeping and would disconnecting the battery for about a week disable it if it were?

morgan October 21, 2011 at 11:48 pm

I’m not being paranoid lol but I think a repo guy has a tracker on my car we are filing chapter 7 and they keep finding my car is there any way for me to pick up the signal they have on my car with out paying 300 for a decetor thanks

Kris October 9, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I just fouund this website.I am glad i did.I havebeen in a few car accidents hit from behind.I have a lawyer.I see people outside with camara,s and taking pictures and wrighting things down.They even sit outside my home.If i go any were they come out of no were.I was at a stores parking lot and with in 5 min a car was their the same one.I have the plate numbers and they are the same.I looked for a tracing device but cant seem to find one.i notice the my clock light in the cariis not working,I did look on the right cback tire under the frame of the car and did feel and see were a piece of a rubber plug was removed pushed up in the cage.Impossbile i say.Have any thoughts of were to look.Are they using my cell phone to track me?I guess since i have lawsuits pending they are doing this.I feel like these people need to get a life.I did drive by a school last night and they have a electronic display board.It was flashing lights.I find this very weird.Any thoughts or advice?

SS July 12, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Yikes.
A good rule of thumb is that if you’ve got nothing to be paranoid about, your paranoia is just paranoia.

There’s no such thing as DNA tracking – well, there is, but that’s when you use DNA profiles to track meat shipments and batches… not Cadillacs. It’s highly probably that you (and your girlfriend) would be better off if you saw a professional (i.e. a psychologist or counsellor of some sort) to help you with your paranoia.

This is SnallaBolaget, saying; Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not following you! But see a shrink just in case.

Ken Gordon July 12, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Yes I have been having people following me each and every day, and if they are monitoring me. I moved out of my girl friend place because I told here that when ever I go out side and people look for me and take off. Like late at night I would take the trash out maybe 11pm and there is a school in front of my girl friend car port, and there would be a flash of light of some one young and they would make whisling noised, and people always taking pictures of me as well and following me each and every moment, and this has been happening for over a year now. At first I thought it was my job because of wrongful termination. But also I had a issue with the sheriff dept where they used a taser on me while having a siezure and I sued them but we settled, and my attorney said that it would not be them becaused we settled. But I am being tracked and the police will not help at all with the pictures that I have.

Now also I did purchase the car and I did notice after a few weeks it had “DNA Tracking” sticker and a lot of them in the arm rest, and then I started noticing them everywhere under the trunk/engine hood, all of the doors and this a cadilac cts. I will use the pictures as describe and if you know of any electronics places let me know. thanks

SS June 22, 2011 at 5:51 am

Hi Rich. What’s your car’s make, model and year?

rich bennett June 20, 2011 at 10:33 pm

driving car certain times of day you can hear three faint beeps. drive car and park and you can hear the beeps again. any ideas.

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }