How to Hot-Wire a Car

by Contributor

Hot-wiring a car is generally done as an illegal activity. However, there are times when there is a legitimate need to start your vehicle without turning the key-maybe your ignition lock tumbler has failed or you lost your keys. The specifics of hot-wiring a car will vary from model to model, but the general method should remain similar. The method provided takes more time than ripping and cutting up wires and panels, but it eliminates damage to the car's interior.

Locate the ignition tumbler, the spot where you normally put your key. Remove the covers and panels around the tumbler.

Examine the ignition setup. There should be a panel with five to eight wires clipped to the rear of the tumbler. Remove the panel and try to manually turn the ignition switch using a screwdriver. If you can do this, then you are done! When you turn the ignition switch (usually with a key), it rotates a pin or lever on the back side of the tumbler. The panel is essentially a switch with four positions: off, accessories, full on and ignition. The different positions of the key correspond to each of these positions.

Research the color coding of the ignition wires for your specific car model. If you are not able to manually turn the ignition switch with a screwdriver, you will have to strip wires to "hot-wire" the car.

Locate the "on" positive and negative wires in the steering column. They should run up to the ignition tumbler and be color-coded.

Pull those wires from the ignition, strip a portion of each and twist them together. The car will now be on and ready for ignition. This is where you truly hot-wire a car. These wires carry a charge, which is why they are called "hot."

Find the starter wires and pull them from the ignition tumbler as well. Strip the ends and touch these wires together briefly. This should activate the starter, firing up the car. If you have done everything properly, your car will now be running. Do not leave these wires touching each other once the car is running.

Cover up any exposed wires to avoid painful electric shocks. Drive away and have your ignition repaired or a new key made so you do not have to hot-wire the car regularly.

Tip

  • check Remember that just because the car is running, the steering wheel may not operate. Many cars have the steering wheel lock hooked into the ignition tumbler as an antitheft measure. So you cannot unlock the steering wheel without the key.

Warning

  • close Be careful around live wires. They carry a significant charge and can give painful shocks. Touch only the insulation and wear insulated gloves, if possible.

Items you will need

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.