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VIN Etching: Deter Car Thieves and Recover Your Stolen Vehicle

It’s not uncommon for us to put our names on things that are important to us. Since childhood, everything from homework assignments to a baseball mitt may have received a John Hancock so that ultimately, it could be traced back to its owner.

In much the same fashion, labeling your car, truck or SUV with its vehicle identification number (VIN) is an effective tool when it comes to theft prevention. A common and cost-effective method for doing this is known as VIN etching. The Tucson Sentinel reports that VIN etching is achieved by using a chemical solution to mark each of your car’s windows with its VIN. The process will not damage your windows, and it does have a long-lasting effect.

By making your VIN noticeable in multiple places, your car becomes more difficult for thieves to sell.

California Highway Patrol Capt. Lisa Wrobel shared, “When cars are stolen, a lot of times the crooks will change the VIN and to do it on all the windows on all the vehicles is very expensive and takes a lot of time.” As a result, car thieves are more likely to move onto an easier target when they see a car with its VIN etched into the windows.

In addition to making your car more difficult to sell, VIN etching also makes its parts less valuable if it’s dismantled at a chop shop. El Paso,Texas’ KTSM NewsChannel 9 reports that vehicles are worth twice as much if they’re parted out rather than sold whole, and since shops won’t buy etched parts, VIN etching can put a serious dent into a car thief’s profits.

Stealth vs. Shrill

In contrast with overly-sensitive car alarms that could go off without cause, window etching is also a relatively stealthy form of theft prevention. The Michigan State Police point out that VIN etching is virtually unnoticeable to passers-by since the mark is typically one-quarter of an inch high by 2 inches wide. However, car thieves and police officers know where to look for VIN etching on a vehicle. The state says that VIN etching is an economical source of theft prevention that not only makes your car less attractive to thieves, but also offers traceable numbers if your car is stolen.

With your car’s VIN discretely etched into the windows, it will be easier for police to recover if it’s stolen, but it will also be much less attractive to car thieves.

While car dealerships will frequently offer window etching to car buyers, you don’t necessarily need to pony up extra cash when you’re buying a car to add this extra level of defense. It’s worth checking with your local police department, which may offer the service for free or schedule events where etching is offered. Alternatively, do-it-yourself VIN etching kits are available from a number of retailers online.