How to hotwire a car

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Many interesting associations spring to mind when we think about car hot wiring. We may imagine some breathtaking moments in cinematography when a group of crooks so simply steals the car without having the car key. By twisting and connecting the colorful wires, the thieves could start the car really fast and so easily. But we do not have to forget that there is a difference between hotwiring in movies and reality.

So now, let’s find out how to hotwire a car in real life.

What is car hotwiring and why do we need it

Hot wiring the car is the way to start the engine without a key, only by connecting the ignition wires. But do you have an idea how this works from within? To turn on the engine, we have to insert the key into the ignition. By twisting it three times, a special connection between the main components of the ignition system appears. These main components are the starter motor, the battery, and the ignition. All these elements are connected by hot wiring. Further, you will know about where these ignition wires are located and what to do with them.

The process is not so complicated; the only thing you have to do is to follow the right instructions and know all the details. After reading this article, you will get familiar with the main points of car hot wiring and will know how to put this know-how into practice. 

Generally, we may think, why do we need this knowledge in reality (if we have no plans about car theft, of course!). But let’s imagine a crazy situation: we are being late for a serious event, and the key to our car is lost. Exactly in this situation, we would need to know how to hotwire a car. 

Many fine points are connected with the process of hotwiring. For instance, there is a popular opinion that hot wiring is possible only with cars that were produced before 1995. Actually, that is not that correct. Cars that were made around 1999 also are possible to open without any car keys, and in this tutorial, you will read about this method. In comparison to an old car, the car that was made in around 2000 is also possible to start without car keys, but it is more complicated and will take much more effort. 

Unfortunately, the newer model cars are impossible to unlock without a key. Autos that were produced after 2004 have another locking mechanism. So taking into the automated security system of the new vehicles with electronic locking systems, a special technically equipped hack is needed.

So, as we can notice, everything depends on car models and the time of the production. Different car models can have different locking mechanisms. Knowing the features of each car model we can make the process of car hot-wiring much easier and faster.

Some tools you might need

There are several ways to hotwire a car, in this article we will concentrate only on one method, which is possible to use if you are stuck in an emergency case (we hope that won’t happen :). In order to hotwire a car by using our method, you will need a minimum amount of car opening toolkit. Unfortunately, the whole process is impossible to do only by using your hands, at least you will need a knife to be able to successfully hotwire a car. But also you can need some other tools like pliers, strength, and screwdriver.

By the way, if you have ever thought about the necessary tools you can need when SHTF, you can read about it here.

Before starting to explain how to hotwire a car, we want to make a little notice that hotwiring, not your own car, is totally illegal. So we hope you are not going to steal cars and you won’t use this article as a tutorial for vehicle theft.Related topic: 12 Essential Things You Can Scavenge from Cars when SHTF

How to Hotwire a Car Tutorial

Before going to the more particular explanation of each point, we think it will be useful to set out all the points shortly:

  1. By drilling lock pins with an insulated screwdriver remove the plastic panel under the steering column.
  2. Get the bunch (the one that is connected with a steering column) of five wires with an ignition key barrel
  3. Recognize three main wires
  4. Connect an ignition (usually a red coil wire) with a battery one
  5. Connect the starter wire with ignition and the battery ones.
  6. Put back the plastic panel by using the lock pins and a flathead screwdriver.

So now let’s move on to the description of the method itself.

Step 1: How to remove a plastic cover

After we have opened the car door we need to take a look at the space under the steering wheel. First of all, we need to remove a plastic cover that detects under the steering wheel. Under this panel the ignition wiring system is located, we will need it to hotwire a car later. Theoretically, the cover is hardly possible to remove only with your own hands without any special instruments, and in this case, there is a risk to break it, however, you can give it a try. Still, it will be much easier to use a Phillips-head screwdriver. 

By turning the screwdriver clockwise you are able to unscrew the steering lock bolts in a much faster and easier way. Related topic: How to Conceal Weapons in Your Vehicle



Step:2 How to find the ignition wires

After removing a plastic cover under the steering wheel, we will need to find the correct ignition and battery wires in order to hotwire a car.Probably that step won’t seem to you like a really complicated one. Under the steering column panel, you will find a wide range of different colored wires. Maybe you will be even a bit shocked or confused with this huge amount and will be afraid to use the wrong wires accidentally. But don’t panic! We are going to tell you how to deal with this problem.


First of all, you need to recognize three different bunches with wires that are going to different destinations. We don’t need the bunches that are directed to the left and to the right. The one we need is easy to recognize by its appearance- the bunch is sealed with industrial tape and consists of 5 different ignition and battery wires. This bunch with wires goes directly to the steering column and is connected with some metal stuff, which is called an ignition switch.

Let’s see what to do with this bunch next!

Step:3 Recognising the ignition and battery wires

Now we came to the most complicated part of our “how to hotwire a car” tutorial. The most important thing for us is to connect the ignition wire and the battery wire correctly. For that, we need to understand which wires from the bunch we need.

To make the process more convenient, we advise you to get the whole bunch together with an ignition switch. That will help you to find the right wires much faster. For a better understanding of how it looks, you can see some pictures.



After isolating a bunch with an ignition switch, the main point, for now, is to find three main wires in it: ignition and battery wires and also a starter wire. You need to understand which wire is which in order not to make any mistakes, so it is important to know how to recognize them. Our advice: it is better not to recognize the wire only by its color. Each car model has its own colors of the ignition cables. However, in most of the car models, red wire indicates the battery and ignition wires. Starter wire is usually yellow or brown.

But still, there is a big risk of accidentally confusing them if you define them only by their color. Much better ist to pull out the ignition switch with all five wires. The three wires we need are the first ones and located in the right order.

Of course, in an emergency case, you may not have the opportunity to look through this tutorial again, so you can try to do this on your own before.


Step 4: Connecting the ignition switch wire with a battery one

So we came to the last step of our process. Attention: In this part, you need to be especially careful with all the electrical components, so we recommend you to use special protective gloves in order to avoid an electric shock.

Now first of all you have to cut off these three main wires from the metal keyhole. And then to remove the electrical tape from them.


Further to start the car you need to connect a battery wire with an ignition one. After that, electrical panels should start working.


After the attaching of an ignition, battery, and starter wires, the car engine must start to work. Usually, that takes no more than 1 second of time.


Before starting your way, please make sure that the starter wire won’t connect the battery one while driving. In order to secure yourself, it’s even better to cover the wires with a special plastic strip.


Related topic: Emergency Bag to Keep in Your Car in Case of an EMP.


After reading this tutorial we hope that you will find out how to hotwire a car in an emergency situation. The process is not that complicated, but you need to understand the functions of the car’s locking mechanism and be attentive to all ignition, starter, and battery cables.

Now you can use your car in its current condition or you can simply repair the upward locking mechanism, steering lock, and all the cables later.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ

How easy is it to hotwire a car?

If you are attentive and you strictly follow the right instruction, then the process won’t be so complicated and won’t take much time. The most important thing is not to become afraid of the big amount of different wires after removing a plastic cover.

If you understand how the car’s system, we think it won’t be a problem for you to hotwire the car.

Is it still possible to hotwire cars?

Yes, it is still possible but works only with cars that were produced until 2004. Newer models of cars have a modern ignition system, so it is impossible to hotwire them.

What color wires do you use to hotwire a car?

The color of wires may depend on the car model. But in most cases, a red wire indicates ignition and battery wires, and the yellow (or brown) one indicates a starter wire.

How to hotwire a car without tools?

It is quite impossible to hotwire a car only by using your hands. Still, some tools are definitely needed, for example, a knife or a flathead screwdriver.


A former USA Army sergeant and a highly educated survivalist and prepper with a degree and interest in Engineering and Electronics, Mike Millerson applies his extensive expertise in survivalism, homesteading, backpacking, hiking and hunting, spreading his deep knowledge about handling emergencies and prepping for them reasonably and effectively.




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