From Academic Kids

(Redirected from Hotwire)
Alternate meaning: Hotwire (filesharing protocol)

Hotwiring is the process of bypassing an automobile's ignition interlock and thus starting it without the key.

The classical method for hotwiring cars involves two operations:

  • completing the ignition circuit by locating the ignition wires attached to the ignition switch under the dashboard: this can be done by detaching them and crossing (tying together) the exposed ends
  • momentarily completing the starter motor circuit, so that the starter motor turns over the engine. This is done by detaching the starter motor wire from the ignition wire and touching it to a powered wire on the other side of the ignition switch.

It is possible to undertake both of these operations from within the engine compartment rather than from the dashboard, by making the same circuits as described above by direct links from the positive pole of the battery to the ignition and starter motor circuits.

Some more modern vehicles are designed to overcome the relative ease with which classical ignition systems can be hotwired, by the use of engine immobiliser devices which require a code key to provide a coded pulse to the immobiliser device. As automobile electronics advance, the utility of the classical hotwiring technique is expected to decline.

Criminals who lack the necessary skills and knowledge of electrical engineering to hotwire a car in the classical way sometimes use an alternative brute-force method. This consists simply smashing the key mechanism to reveal the rotation switch, which is operated by the key's tumbler. Typically this is accomplished with the same tool that was used to smash the vehicle's windows to gain entry. The rotary switch can then be operated by a screwdriver or similar tool. As with the classical method, this method fails with more modern cars fitted with engine immobilisers.

Although hotwiring might be legal if it is performed with the consent of the car's owner, it is usually associated with the crime of stealing the car.

The rise in carjacking has been attributed to the increased difficulty of hotwiring and resolves it by obtaining the key from the driver directly.

There is another, less-used method of hotwiring, involving some simple dissasembly rather than hacking and mucking about with wires. In this method, the cover of the steering column or a part of the dash is removed so that the key mechanism is exposed. On the opposite side of where the key is inserted should be the switch that the key activates. This can usually be removed quite simply with a screwdriver. Once it is taken out, it operates exactly like the usual keyed switch, only disengaged from the lock so you don't need a key.

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