Neils

Neils

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Hello CCF,
(just added On-Star below)

I mostly hang out in the C8 section (patiently waiting for my allocation call to come in), and was about to post this info in the C8 section, but figured I would do so here so that others can benefit from my experience in this area. Not claiming to be an expert, just a hardcore tech geek combined with some paranoia in this day of high car thefts (due to lack of dealer inventory and high used market prices). Many people have a similar reaction, chill, if my car gets stolen I have insurance, will just go out and get another one. I don't think I have to tell many of you what that will look like today, if it's a newer C8 good luck with the wait, if it's a collectible older model, good luck finding another one like it, if it is customized, good luck doing it all over again.

My days of using vehicle tracking dates back to the 90's when I had a highly customized Nissan 300ZX, converted to the 25th anniversary Steve Millen SMZ, with a custom competition sound system worth a lot of money (think 5 figures). It was a show car to say the least. Back then the goto tech for tracking was Boomerang, a cellular based service and hidden black box, you paid a monthly fee and when the car was stolen you called the tracking service and they were able to pinpoint the car's location almost instantly.

Boomerang in Canada (head office Montreal) was sold to LoJack back in 2004 (for $48m), they already had operations in the US, Europe, Latin America and Africa, so figured they would add Canada to their list. Unfortunately LoJack pulled out of Canada just recently in 2020, leaving very little options for people to obtain vehicle tracking services in Canada.

So here are a few options that are either known or that I have tried with success:

TAG
This is a Canadian owned business, I believe they have been around for about a decade. The business model and tech is quite interesting. There are no monthly fees, you pay one fee upon installation of the system, and that fee covers you for service for 5 years, about the amount of time the batteries will last. That is correct, the system is made up of several self-powered modules (transponders) that are hidden during the install, and you the owner will not even know where those modules are placed. Because the transponders are self-powered, it gives them flexibility to install the modules in more hidden locations, where a power feed from the battery is not required. Don't quote me on this, but I believe the cost to install the system is somewhere around $600-$700 + tx. we transferred ownership of the system when my wife purchased her Lexus IS F-Sport, so did not pay the install cost for the system, just the transfer fee.

You get a plastic card with a membership number, when the vehicle is stolen, you must have a police report to confirm the theft. The report, along with your membership number will begin the tracking process, where TAG will send their own truck out, equipped with a laptop, tracking app, and antennas on the outside. They are usually able to pinpoint the location with precise accuracy, and from what I have read (both online and talking with people) they seem to have a high recovery rate.

Here is the best part, if you call your insurance company, and tell them you have a TAG system on your vehicle, you get a substantial discount. In the case of my wife's Lexus, about $300-$325 per year, which means the system pays for itself in just 2 years of insurance rebates. Win-win !!


TRACKI
While having the TAG system above is re-assuring, you are at the mercy of the people doing the tracking, with no real-time info available to you in terms of where your vehicle is located, if it is in one piece, or if it is even in the same province or country. So I researched several GPS tracking services, and this one kept coming up as one people really liked with dependable service and coverage. You have to purchase the unit, it is about the size of a Tic Tac box, so very small, cost for the tiny box is dirt cheap, $27 CAD on Amazon. It comes with a small self-contained rechargeable battery, if you want to hide the thing somewhere, but the battery only lasts about 2 days. You can increase capacity a few ways, purchase the optional magnet mount box and extended battery (kit), which will give you around 10-12 days of tracking, and allow you to hide the unit with the waterproof magnetic box under your vehicle. You can also have the unit hardwired to your vehicle's battery, and since the unit barely draws much power, will not drain the battery. You can also purchase an optional OBD wire to pull power from the port.

The unit uses GPS to identify it's location, but you have to pay a service fee since that info is then relayed over a dedicated cellular line to their servers. Their monthly cost is $26.97 USD, and if you prepay for 6 months or 1 year you save even more. It is one of the cheaper GPS tracking services out there btw.

On top of being able to track your vehicle in real-time (well 1 min intervals is the quickest you can do), you can also setup GEO-fencing, so if your vehicle leaves or enters a defined area, you will get a notification on your mobile app or PC app. You can also setup speed notifications, so if your vehicle was lent to someone (child, dealer, friend), and they go over a defined speed limit, you will get a notification on your app.

This is the unit and service I use, and cannot be more satisfied with the map visuals, the configuration possibilities and the app notifications. Am using this GPS tracker in combination with the TAG service above.


ON-STAR
I will be honest with you, I have never signed up for this service so cannot comment on the speed and success of recovery. The pricing online indicates $29.99 CAD for basic GPS tracking (GPS data relayed by dedicated cellular line), where they track the vehicle for you (somewhat similar to TAG above but assuming they do not send out a company truck to track and recover the vehicle, so assuming this is more to provide info to either the owner or the police). For $10 more ($39.99 CAD), you get something closer to the Tracki GPS app/service mentioned above, where you can track your own vehicle within their app, set GEO boundaries etc.

I guess if the vehicle is equipped with the On-Star service it is worth a try, but I do prefer having the recovery service of TAG above, at least the tracking data is being put to immediate use, before the vehicle gets shoved into a metal container and sent to the shipping port. And since I like to know where my vehicle(s) are at all times, I would opt for the $40 plan to be able to track it live on a map. Which means the Tracki service above is slightly cheaper when you take into consideration the exchange rate (you pay in USD), and if you pay for a 1-year plan up front, monthly price goes down to $18USD, so much cheaper than On-Star.


APPLE AIR TAG
There is a misconception that the very affordable Apple Air Tags is the easiest and most affordable way to track a vehicle. Air Tags rely on a bluetooth connection (short range), and only works with Apple products. The Air Tag sends a signal to any nearby Apple device via Bluetooth to identify it's location. With a moving vehicle, that means you would need to have Apple mobiles close the vehicle to identify it's location, not ideal. Your only hope is that the thief is carrying an Apple mobile and not an Android one, and only then will the Air Tag device be able to pickup the signal and forward it's location. Battery life is a non issue here, as Apple claims it can last up to a year. In other words, not an ideal tracking solution.

Keep one thing in mind, car thieves are now using these devices to follow you home. It has become known that a thief will spot your nice car in a parking lot (say of a mall), and would like to eventually steal it. They will slap an Air Tag on it, and then follow it home, either trailing you not too far back while following your path on their Apple device, or hoping that someone in your house has an Apple device that will re-route the device location to them. Once they have your home location, they can plan out the theft.

HOW YOUR VEHICLE IS STOLEN TODAY
One final note on car theft, some of you may think back to the old movies where you see the thieves using coat hangers to unlock the door, and then going under a dash to pull out the wires, finding the starter wires, hot wire it (spark, spark), and voila, engine starts and the thief makes off with your ride. Let's fast forward to the 21st century of tech.

If you come home, and hang your keys anywhere near your front door (talking more modern cars with digital key FOBs), you might as well leave your vehicle doors unlocked and the engine started, because it is the same thing. Thieves now have the tech to walk right up to your front door with a small computer in their pocket, hold up a wire above their head to act as an antenna, and instantly grab the signal from your key fob hanging near your front door. They simply copy the key fob code onto a dummy fob, and can quietly open your vehicle door and for push-to-start cars, hit the button and off they go. Total time to do this, from what I was told by the police, is about 60-120 seconds, definitely under 5 min, while you are asleep.

NOTE: to avoid this happening, you can either store your keys far away from the front door, or do like me and purchase something called FARADAY BAGS, these bags are made of carbon fibre, and will block the key fob signal, I have tried it and it works. Stick the key in the Faraday bag, and try to push the button to unlock your car, will not work. These bags are cheap about $10 on Amazon. They come in different sizes in case you have many keys with your FOB.

Some other ways I have read about is them using the VIN number to acquire the key FOB code, to then copy the code and try it out, most likely a hit and miss thing, like trying to program a universal remote control with TV codes, eventually you will get it.

Another way I was told is about reaching in thru the front grille to either find the horn wire, or pop the hood to then disable the horn. With the horn disabled, they can then work on getting your door unlocked. Even if they set off your vehicle's car alarm, the lights will flash but no sound will be heard (assumes stock alarm). In the time it takes for you to turn over in bed, the thieves will have their computer patched into your OBD port, extract the key FOB code, copy it onto a dummy one, and with the FOB signal now live in the vehicle, push to start will work and they drive off, in a matter of minutes. This one I can confirm as I have some police friends, and they showed me footage of exactly this scenario playing out from some security camera footage. This is why OBD locks are all the craze right now (and sold out online in most stores).

I hope this info was useful to you !!

Neil
(waiting patiently for my C8, first time vette owner, previously JDM owner and fanboy)
 
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Murray20c8

Murray20c8

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If you come home, and hang your keys anywhere near your front door (talking more modern cars with digital key FOBs), you might as well leave your vehicle doors unlocked and the engine started, because it is the same thing. Thieves now have the tech to walk right up to your front door with a small computer in their pocket, hold up a wire above their head to act as an antenna, and instantly grab the signal from your key fob hanging near your front door. They simply copy the key fob code onto a dummy fob, and can quietly open your vehicle door and for push-to-start cars, hit the button and off they go. Total time to do this, from what I was told by the police, is about 60-120 seconds, definitely under 5 min, while you are asleep.

NOTE: to avoid this happening, you can either store your keys far away from the front door, or do like me and purchase something called FARADAY BAGS, these bags are made of carbon fibre, and will block the key fob signal, I have tried it and it works. Stick the key in the Faraday bag, and try to push the button to unlock your car, will not work. These bags are cheap about $10 on Amazon. They come in different sizes in case you have many keys with your FOB.
Thanks for doing this Neil.
One thing to point out is (at least) the C8 key fob sleeps after a few minutes. I'm not sure of the exact time. So hanging it by the door is relatively safe as long as you weren't followed and the fob copied immediately upon hanging the keys. If you are walking with the fob in your pocket it can be copied by someone following you, so in an unknown area one might want to use a faraday bag.
 
Murray20c8

Murray20c8

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BTW, I just saw a cop on CP24 talking about cars being stolen and he said one of the most common ways is using the OBD port as Neil suggested. So An OBD port lock might just be an easy way to add some peace of mind.
 
Vettman

Vettman

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Thanks for the info . I miss my 2021 as I could shut OnStar off and I still had maps . My 2023 I can’t shut it off comes with a contract with OnStar . If you do shut it off you lose maps and a few other things . And I know the only reason they got this set up so they can sell information and gain more income . Having a total of five GM’s . OnStar’s pricing is getting totally ridiculous but again them selling our information to third parties is a dealbreaker . The old style steering wheel lock bar is still the best deterrent . I ran into one of the founders of tag in Brampton many years ago . Seeing it was more for the transport industry back then . I really like that system along with the fact thy do multi vehicle packages .
It’s nice that’s OnStar has given us all these features of tracking but it still from what I understand easily disabled . No in my book Onstar has Gone to far . I know I’ll never get my Z06 C 8. As GM will black list me because I wont buy there OnStar . The only way I could stop them from taking money from me , was to cancel my credit cards . I might have to do it one more time to stop them on my 2023 .
 

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