Dear Tom and Ray:
After some locker break-ins at the gym, I started leaving my wallet and phone in the glove box of my Volvo S60. The other day, there was a discussion about this in the sauna. Several people claimed that glove boxes are not safe at all, and can easily be opened by a crowbar. So I ended up getting a little Master Lock 5900D box. It's not very secure and could be broken into. It does have a metal rope chain that I looped through the metal framing in the trunk, so it hangs down. I figure if someone were to break into the car and then discover this in the trunk, they would have to stand in the parking lot, trunk open, with wire cutters. That's too much work for your average thief. Plus, I thought the lock box might be good for travel — especially overseas. Any comments or advice? — Sol
Ray: Well, your sweaty, naked sauna friends are correct that the glove box provides almost no security. Even when locked, most 50-cent glove-box latches can be pulled open with bare fingers — crowbar or no crowbar.
Tom: It's also the first place most thieves look for valuables once they break into a car, because it gives the illusion of security.
Ray: So the trunk is a better bet. It's considerably harder to break into, unless you have a — wait for it — remote trunk release in the passenger compartment! Then, if a thief doesn't find what he wants in the glove box, he can pop the trunk and have a look in there.
Tom: And that's where he'll see your dangling lock box. In general, you're right that by increasing the difficulty of a theft, you make the theft less likely — because thieves are often in what? A hurry!
Ray: But the danger of chaining a lock box so visibly is that you're basically putting a big neon sign on it that says: "Hey! There's Something Really Valuable In Here!!!"
Tom: And then you take the risk that the thief not only will leave with the box (which he can open later, at his leisure, with a diamond-bladed radial arm saw), but that he'll damage your car in his determination to remove it quickly, and leave you with (a) a broken trunk hinge and (b) no wallet with which to buy a new one.
Ray: So if I were really worried about theft, I'd put my valuables in the trunk, as you do. But I'd just hide them somewhere out of sight. There may be room in the spare-tire compartment, in a toolbox or in a corner behind some less-valuable trunk junk. What you want is for the thief to look quickly, conclude that there's nothing valuable there and leave.
Tom: Or you can clip your phone to your own spare tire and wear it into the sauna, Sol. It's up to you.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)