Who would've thought that a stupid TikTok challenge would lead to a higher rate of car thefts across America, including here in New Jersey? It's so unfortunate we even have to deal with this.

Actually, TikTok is pretty much responsible for a lot of stupid trends nowadays that only the dumbest of us would do. Common sense, anyone?

Yes, I know the platform is incredibly popular, and no, not every trend on there is necessarily dangerous or stupid. But some are, and this car theft challenge is one of them.

This trend was first reported in 2022. Those participating in the challenge would target certain cars with a mechanical key.

Long story short, it's basically a modern way to hot-wire a car and drive off with it. But instead of crossing wires, you things such as a thumb drive.

Car thief
logoff GettyImages

But wait, the stupidity gets better. You then post a video online to prove you stole the car. You really can't make this stuff up.

And this trend primarily targets younger drivers in their teens to participate. In some cases, the thieves weren't even old enough to drive yet.

That's basically a very shortened version of the challenge, which is sadly still an issue today. Even more unfortunate is that this also affects drivers in New Jersey.

But even without utterly stupid trends, car theft still occurs without the need of trying to impress others with a TikTok challenge. And with thieves getting craftier with ways around car electronics, the danger of someone driving off with your car is ever-present.


That got me thinking as to ways one might be able to deter someone from being tempted to steal your can in the first place. Something that might even stop them from attempting to try and break in in the first place?

One idea is to maybe drive around in a manual transmission. Think about how few people even know how to operate one in the first place.

More likely than not, a thief trying to make a quick getaway wouldn't even attempt to figure one out. In fact, I bet most car thieves never operated a clutch their entire life.

Thief is looking for unattended valuables left in a car
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Just one look through the car windows would most likely be enough to make the thief move on to the next car if they saw a stick jetting up from the center.

Of course, that's easier said than done. Not only are most people not taught how to drive a manual transmission anymore in this country, those who have driven one might want to steer clear of having to drive one ever again.

So obviously, forcing a Jersey driver to own a clutch isn't practical. But, what if you can fake it?

What if there was a way to make your car appear to be a stick shift when parked as a deterrent to thieves? Could it work?

Manual transmission shifter

Basically, all you would need is a boot that wraps around the stick shift and a knob at the top that one would grab while shifting. Shape it in such a way that it simply can be placed over the existing shifter.

Think of it like a decoy. Just something you'd put in the center that fits over the shifter in place to make it appear to be something it isn't.

If done neatly, it could give just enough of an appearance that the car is not automatic, making the car thief think twice before attempting to break into your vehicle.


And it really wouldn't cost much to do something like this at all. Boots for the shifters are usually found in auto stores, or you can try to get one online or from a scrap yard.

Then you would just need a knob that resembles a shifter and a way to prop it up as if it were a stick. Since it would be covered by the boot it won't matter what it looks like underneath.

But you get the idea. A decoy to place over your automatic shifter so it looks like a stick shift.

Manual transmission shifter

As for the petals? More likely than not, the thief wouldn't know what the petal setup should look like in a manual transmission in the first place so it's probably nothing to worry about.

Of course, that might seem a little too complex for some. So what else can we possibly do?

Perhaps some sort of sticker that says the car has an automatic GPS tracker at all times? Maybe it'll make the thief think twice before breaking in and driving off with the car.

Police lights
Police lights (TSM)

That's a super simple approach and might also do the trick of deterring these TikTok users who think it's cute to break into cars just to show they're up for a challenge. Again, it's sad we even have to worry about this.

The ideas are most certainly crazy, but could they work? Could faking your vehicle in any way stop someone from breaking in?

As long as these stupid internet trends continue, so will vehicle theft. If you have any idea of ways to deter these thieves, feel free to share that in the comments.

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The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 Sunday morning host Mike Brant. Any opinions expressed are his own.

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