hotwire a car

A guide to how to hotwire a car

This is a step-by-step guide on how to hotwire a car. Hot-wiring a car without the owner’s permission is absolutely illegal unless the car is impounded (in which case the car no longer belongs to the owner anyway).

There is a great risk of electrocution when shorting, and it does not work in some cases. Newer cars have the components hidden in such a way that you can’t get to them. Others have circuit breakers that turn off the engine so it can’t be started, even with the key. Other models, such as hybrid or electric cars, will work.


method 1

Open the hood.

Find the red wire spool.

The ignition coil sits behind most V8 engines. Four-cylinder engines have them on the right near the middle of the engine. Six-cylinder engines on the other, left side, in the middle of the engine.

Locate the battery (it’s square with a red wire and a black wire).

Pull a wire from the positive side of the battery (not the negative!)

Either to the positive side of the coil, or the red wire going to the coil. This provides power to the dashboard, which is essential for starting.

Find the starter relay.

On Ford cars, this is on the right fender next to the battery. On GM cars at the starter under the steering wheel.

When under the wheel, get in the car without turning off an alarm.

If it has normal transmission, make sure it’s out of gear and the handbrake is on.

Unlock the steering wheel by taking a flat head screwdriver and applying it to the top center of the steering column.

Push the screwdriver between the steering wheel and the steering column, then push the locking pin away from the steering wheel. Don’t worry, you can do it with force. The spigot will not break off or trigger an alarm. The relay should be underneath.

You’ll see a small wire on top of the relay and the positive battery wire underneath.

Using a screwdriver or pliers, bridge the two pins these wires connect to. This starts the engine and you can drive off. Congratulation.

hotwire a car

method 2

Get in the car.

Don’t break into someone else’s car, only if you can prove it’s yours. If the car has an alarm, forcibly entering will set it off.

Determine if the steering column and gear selector can be overridden.

Forcibly disengaging these anti-theft mechanisms can cause serious damage.

Look under the steering wheel.

This may require removing a cover. These are usually held in place with clamps or #2 Phillips screws. Remove if necessary.

Check to see if there is a clip or harness connection that allows you to gain access to the wires behind the ignition.

Find the two wires that are the same (usually red), strip them bare, and twist them together.

One of these wires is the main power supply for the ignition switch, the other connects the vehicle’s circuits that receive power when the ignition key is turned. Connecting these provides power to the ignition components, allowing the engine to run when the starter is cranked.

Strip about an inch of insulation from these wires and twist them together tightly.

Wrap them in electrical tape and don’t let them touch metal vehicle components and cause a short circuit.

Take the ignition wire (brown in many cars), strip about 1cm of insulation, and touch the end of the exposed wire to the connected red wires.

Do not twist the brown wire to the red, just touch the wires together until ignition has occurred.

Let the engine rev enough that it doesn’t stall and you’ll have to do this again.

hotwire a car

method 3

This is the most effective method as it doesn’t require you to tie any cables together, open the hood, or unlock the steering wheel.

If you just short the wires, the steering wheel will NOT rotate unless you break the steering wheel lock. The classic screwdriver method, where you stick a screwdriver in the lock and turn it, doesn’t work because you can’t use your bare hands to develop enough force to break the tenons in the lock without prying the lockout of its housing, causing the car becomes unusable. Use this method instead.

Take everything you need to hand:

1 flat blade screwdriver with insulated handle, 1 cordless screwdriver, and a small drill.

Take some expert advice:

There is a flap at the end of the keyhole. Place the drill about 2/3 the length of the keyhole and drill into it to about key length. This destroys the lock pivots and the key switch can be turned on and off without a key. Each tenon has two sections followed by a spring, so drill more than once, taking the drill out each time to allow the pieces of the lock to fall off.

Position the screwdriver as if you were going to insert your key, it doesn’t have to go deep because the tangs have already broken off.

Use it just like a key, just turn it.

Warning: this method will destroy your key switch, and anyone with a screwdriver or strong fingernail can steal your car.

hotwire a car


You risk significant damage to the vehicle if you short-circuit it. Never leave the ignition wires twisted together when the engine is not running. This can burn out the car’s ignition system and at the very least drain the battery. Vehicles with a computer chip in the ignition switch cannot be shorted out, the chip turns on the ECM, and without it, the car will not run. Use this knowledge responsibly.


Wear insulated gloves. If the spark plug wire comes loose while driving, the engine will stall immediately and you will have no power, steering, or brakes. Do not use this in an illegal way.

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About the Author

Eddie Miller

Eddie is an Associate Editor in London, UK. He coordinates client content and sponsored articles. Eddie has two Masters in language and spent half his life in the teaching field. He now owns an Amazon business and runs a wooden DIY workshop.