A three-step approach to install vehicle tracking devices with ease
Shopping for car trackers? Read our guide to car GPS tracking technology.
A Google search for “how to install vehicle tracking devices” returns more hits than a Michael Jackson medley. But how do you know if a particular method applies to the precise make and model of your car?
You didn’t - until now. Here are three simple steps that you can follow to install a car tracker on any car.
Quick Tip: Portable vs Hard Wired Car GPS Trackers
There are two types of vehicle tracking devices: portable and hard-wired.
A portable GPS tracker takes no special skills to install; you can position it anywhere in the vehicle and move it at your leisure. Placing one near the base of the windscreen allows clear access for the incoming GPS signal and the outgoing Wi-Fi signal it uses to triangulate your car’s location.
However, depending on your reasons for using a GPS tracker, you might not want it to be in permanent view. Portable tracker batteries need changing every few months, so wherever the tracker is located, it should be accessible. If discretion is a priority, a hard wired GPS tracker is the way to go.
‘Hard-wiring’ sounds scary, but all it really means is connecting your GPS tracker to your car’s power supply so that it works without its own battery. That said, it is slightly more complicated than installing a cigarette lighter.
The following method explains the easiest way to install hard-wired vehicle tracking devices.
Tools Needed to Install Car Tracker Devices
- 1 x Phillips head screwdriver
- 1 x voltage meter
- 1 x pair of wire cutters
- 1 x wire pick
- 1 x ring terminal
- 1 x roll of electrical tape
- 1 x piece of double-sided tape
1. Access the Ignition and Power Wires Under the Dashboard
Start by unscrewing the plastic lower dashboard cover with the Phillips head. If there are wires plugged into the casing itself, disconnect these and place the casing and screws to one side.
Inside the lower dash, you’ll see several wires. The two you are looking for are the ignition wire and the constant power wire. They both connect to the car ignition switch; so to find them, simply follow the wires down from the ignition switch. Use the voltage meter to verify that you have identified them correctly - you should receive a reading of between 11 and 14 volts when the ignition is turned on, and a reading of 0 when it is off.
Tip: Some cars include special wiring diagrams to help you find the correct wires. Consult your car’s documentation for further guidance.
2. Hard Wiring Your Device
Use the wire cutters to remove a small section of insulation from the constant power wire.
Tip: Be careful to use the right gauge wire cutters to prevent the power wire from being cut. Or else say goodbye to your dashboard stereo!
Use the pick tool to create a small gap between the exposed copper wires. Take the exposed end of the red wire on your GPS tracking device and thread it through the newly-created gap in the constant power wire. Wrap any loose copper wire ends together and cover the connection with a piece of electrical tape.
Repeat Step 2 for the white wire on the GPS tracking device, using the ‘poke and wrap’ method to connect it to the ignition wire.
Tip: Wrap the exposed wires together thoroughly for an optimal connection.
Finally, add a ring terminal to the exposed end of the black wire on the GPS tracker. Place the ring terminal end on a metal surface (‘grounding’ the device), such as the steering column, and secure it there with electrical tape.
3. Reassemble the Dash
Affix the GPS tracker underneath the dash with double-sided tape.
Tip: GPS signals do not travel through metal, so don't place it on the steering column! Near or around the ignition coil is usually a sensible location.
Be sure to fix the device securely in place - you won’t easily be able to access it if it comes lose mid-journey!
Tip: For the best results, make sure the GPS tracking module is facing upwards when you attach it.
Tidy up any loose wires with electrical tape, tuck them out of the way, and reattach the plastic dash cover. You’re all done!
Still Unsure How to Install Car Tracker Equipment?
As you can probably tell, a little prior electrical knowledge goes a long way. Consult your car manufacturer's instructions very carefully for installation advice specific to your model.
If you’re not confident doing it yourself, consider contacting a professional electrician to carry out the installation for you.
Whether it’s vehicle tracking devices or pet collars, the same GPS technology helps you keep tabs on your most treasured possessions. The only difference is how you install them. You should now have a good idea of how to do that.