How To Install Car Tracker Equipment

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Installing a car tracker may seem daunting, but it's actually a pretty straightforward process that can be broken down into three main steps.

First, you'll need to access the ignition and power wires under your dashboard. Next, you'll have to hardwire your device, ensuring that it's properly connected to the vehicle's electrical system. Finally, you'll reassemble your dashboard, making sure that everything is back in place and working correctly. Et voilà! You can now enjoy the many benefits of vehicle tracking.

However, there’s much more to understand before you get started. Don’t worry, though! From the equipment you’ll need to the correct technique for safe hardwiring, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about DIY vehicle tracker installation in this guide.

It’s also worth noting that most of the leading vehicle tracking suppliers will happily install their devices for you. If you haven’t found one yet, try our free quote finding tool to receive tailored quotes direct from the top US providers.

If price is your biggest consideration when it comes to selecting a vehicle tracking supplier, check out these featured deals below:

Quick Tip: Portable vs Hardwired Car GPS Trackers

A quick glance at the best GPS trackers for cars reveals that there are two main types of vehicle tracking devices: portable and hardwired.

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 as well as 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 hardwired GPS tracker is the way to go.

‘Hardwiring’ 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 hardwired 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
Did You Know?

The ELD Mandate came into full effect on December 16, 2019. Don't risk getting fined – get started with our research-backed list of the best ELD providers in the US.

Not a fan of research? Simply tell us what you need using our free quote finding tool, and we'll match you up with fleet management suppliers who can provide ELDs. They'll then be in touch directly with tailored, no-obligation quotes.

If you’d like to learn more about the ELD Mandate, check out our guide to US vehicle tracking laws.

How to Install a GPS Tracker on a Car

A Google search for “how to install vehicle tracking devices” returns more hits than a Beyoncé album. But we're here to tell you how to install a GPS tracker in plain terms:

  1. Connect the tracker's red wire to the car's constant power wire
  2. Connect the tracker's white wire to the car's ignition wire
  3. Fix the GPS tracker beneath the dash with double-sided tape – near the ignition coil is a good spot
  4. Enjoy the numerous benefits of vehicle tracking!

Of course, those are the instructions in their most basic form – for detailed, step-by-step directions, read on…

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. 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.

How to install a GPS tracker on a car

2. Hardwiring 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 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 (such as the steering column), ‘grounding’ the device. Secure it there with electrical tape.

How Can Car Trackers Help with Fuel Costs?

While it might seem like a leap, car trackers can really come in handy in these times of fluctuating fuel costs. Whether prices are high or low, car trackers can help you assess the efficiency of routes, and determine the best way that your fleet of vehicles can save money.

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 – it won't be easy for you to access should it comes loose 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.

Expert tip

The best telematics companies often provide you with detailed installation support, and some even offer free device installation.

Next Steps

Installing a car tracker involves three simple steps: accessing the ignition and power wires under the dashboard, hardwiring your device, and reassembling your dashboard. It can be a bit tricky, but we hope our detailed step-by-step guide will help you get started on your vehicle tracking journey.

Having trouble picking the right tracker? Check out our guide to the best GPS trackers for cars, or use our free quote comparison tool to find the best fleet management equipment and system for your business. Simply tell us what you need and we’ll connect you directly with top US providers that match your unique requirements. They'll then provide you with free, no-obligation quotes that have been tailored to your business. It's a quick and easy way to accurately compare the best options for you.

FAQs

Can I install a car tracker myself?
Absolutely! DIY car tracker installation can be both fun and rewarding. However, it's important to make sure you have the right equipment and follow proper techniques to ensure a safe and effective installation.
Where is the best place to put a tracking device on a car?
The best place to put a tracking device on a car is near the base of the windshield, as this provides the strongest GPS and wifi signals.
Can I put trackers in my cars without telling their drivers?
It depends. In some states, it is illegal to place a tracking device in a vehicle without the driver's knowledge. Rules vary per state, but our comprehensive guide to vehicle tracking laws in the US can help.
Why should I track my company's cars?
Tracking company cars can help improve productivity, reduce fuel costs, prevent theft, and ensure compliance with your state regulations. It can also provide valuable data to help you make more informed business decisions and maximize your profits.
How much does vehicle tracking cost?
Basic vehicle tracking systems typically cost around $14 to $45 per vehicle, per month. However, many factors can affect this cost. It can get complicated, so we’ve created the ultimate guide to vehicle tracking costs for you to peruse.
Written by:
Julia Watts author headshot photo
Specialising in business software, Julia writes jargon-busting guides about VoIP, fleet management, dash cams, fuel cards, and more. Having spent almost a decade writing for entrepreneurs and reviewing business solutions, she loves helping exciting ventures – big or small – to flourish.
Reviewed by:
James thinks all businesses can improve if they use the right technology. At Expert Market, he utilises his 4+ years experience as a researcher to offer specialised advice on a wide range of categories from CRM to Fleet Management.