How to Find a Hidden GPS Tracker on Your Car

How to Find a Hidden GPS Tracker on Your Car

10 minute read

 Tips on how to run and hide at the same time.

In this quick guide, we’ll talk about scanning, sweeping, and finding hidden GPS trackers on your car, and how to properly get rid of them. In this day and age, you can never be too careful.

If you’re suspicious of your safety and you believe that someone is using GPS devices to track you, don’t panic and just assess the situation.

If you are sure that your car or asset is being followed around, or you want to prevent such a thing from ever happening, this guide will is here to help.

How Do GPS Trackers Work, Who Uses Them, and Why Do We Need Them?

These vehicle/asset tracking devices rely on the Global Positioning System that works via cellular networks and satellites, which is why they’re called GPS trackers. To an almost pinpoint precision, they can report the exact location of the vehicle located on planet Earth. That being said, locating the tracker's exact position on your vehicle can sometimes be tricky.

Easily found online and in electronic surveillance markets, GPS trackers are accessible devices that can be purchased by anyone. Since they use cellular technologies, purchasing one requires a subscription service and monthly payments for data usage. Usually, they’re reasonably priced.

Precisely because they’re so easily accessible as well as affordable, there’s a lot of space for abuse and illegitimate use. GPS trackers are small enough to go unnoticed by everyday folk, given that their size can be as small as a deck of cards.

Law enforcement officers, private investigators, and security agencies use them with legitimate approval, or in other words - warrants. Using them on vehicles one doesn’t own, however, is generally regarded as illegal. For more on the legitimacy and laws/regulations on GPS tracking and consent, please refer to our guide here.

It’s no secret that private eyes use vehicle/asset tracking devices to follow people around. Additionally, companies and delivery businesses use non-hidden GPS devices to keep tabs on their company vehicles, which are constantly on the move. They need to monitor their employees for location, punctuality, and to prevent work-related abuse.

Here’s a number of logical reasons why people use GPS devices:

  • Fleet companies want to pinpoint and monitor the location of their vehicles.
  • Taxi companies want to properly conduct vehicle dispatch.
  • Private investigators helping out spouses to clear up any doubts about their other half’s whereabouts.
  • Concerned parents monitoring their children’s location (this is perfectly legal if their kids are under the age of 18).

Active and Passive GPS Tracking Devices

Now that we cleared the basics up, there are two distinct types of GPS tracking devices:

  • Active GPS Tracking Devices. Also called real-time GPS devices. Basically, they operate just like cell phones and use an internet connection to gather data while they are active and on the move. Probably the most used type, they are very practical trackers that work perfectly with PCs and smartphones. You need to either hardwire them to the vehicle or they can rely on durable batteries (they usually turn off when not in motion to conserve energy).
  • Passive GPS Tracking Devices. Also called GPS loggers. Simply put, they don’t require a wireless connection. They just store data and are unable to transmit their location in real-time. These devices collect waypoint data via plotted grids as a software basis in order to map out coordinates and collect the proper data. They are cheap and subscription-free. However, a person has to specifically retrieve the device, usually plug it into a computer, and use software to view the stored waypoints. That can be a nuisance.

Looking for GPS Trackers to help you monitor your vehicle/assets? We have quality GPS devices in stock to help you properly monitor your company vehicles and safeguard your family’s well-being.

Where Is a GPS Tracking Device Installed on a Car?

This is a question that can only be answered with a thorough inspection. Depending on who’s tracking your vehicle, the GPS tracker itself can be located in all sorts of crevices and in the following section, we’ll show you where to look.

Always use a flashlight or wait for broad daylight to conduct the examination. It’s important to note that you must be patient and careful to not overlook any nook and cranny in order to find where the GPS tracking device is installed. 

It’s a good idea to start with the front and rear wheels. Use your hands and extend your reach, as the GPS uses magnets to stick to the car and some may be used via adhesive. Checking the undercarriage is a good idea too, and using mirrors for narrow places can help you spot the GPS tracker faster.

The GPS tracking device may be installed behind the bumpers and under the hood as well. You may find the tracker stuck behind the radiator, between the batteries, air ducts, and other components, as this is where most of the hardwired GPS tracking devices are installed.

Remember to check the trunk and the spare tire compartment, the glove compartment, under all the seats and the dashboard as well. Some tracking devices work by plugging straight into the data port under the driver’s seat. If a black box is present and has wires coming out of it, you’ve found your culprit.

Some no-good people will try to use other covert means to get to you. If you suspect hidden cameras or maybe audio recording bugs in your car or house, better check this guide on how to find out if your house and car are bugged.

How to Search Your Car for GPS Tracking Devices

Although we outlined where a GPS tracking device can be installed on the car and how to perform a manual check, it’s important to point out some other measures you can take as well.

There’s no such thing as being too thorough; planting a GPS tracker on a car one doesn’t own is illegal, and you have every right to protect yourself from such bugs. Here, at SpyGuy, we value security and efficiency above all, and this guide will point out important additional methods for getting rid of GPS tracking devices if you happen to find them on your vehicle or asset.

Car vandalism is another big problem many face, so if you want to learn how to avoid and how to deal with this unfortunate issue, check out our guide on how to catch car vandalism.

How Do GPS Tracking Devices Look Like?

Before delving into some of the other methods or alternative solutions, it’s important to know how the GPS tracking devices look like. 

Tracking devices are typically smaller than a deck of poker cards. Usually, they’re three to four inches long, two inches wide, and an inch thick. If you plan to search the exterior of your car, use a proper flashlight.

Depending on their manufacture, they can have:

  • An attachable magnet;
  • An antenna:
  • Lights on the surface;
  • Metal of plastic exterior:
  • External Batteries;
  • External cases for protection;

Sometimes, however, a GPS tracker is simply hard to find. This is when using an electronic sweeper to pick up the GPS’s signal may be the best method to solve this problem.

Using a Bug Detector to Find and Remove the GPS Tracker

Using a bug detector or electronic sweeper to solve your hidden tracker problem can be an effective solution. It can be more difficult to find a GPS Tracker than other types of bugs, but using a bug detector can help give you peace of mind.

Introducing the T-9 Specialty Bug Detector. The T-9 is a radio-frequency (RF) detector. It identifies radio frequencies between 50 MHz and 6 GHz, so it will alert you if it finds any type of bug that is transmitting a signal, such as a GPS tracker.

Turn off all your known electronics that emit signals, like wireless routers and cell phones. Flip the power switch on the detector, and pay attention to the LEDs on the bug detector. If it senses a weak signal, a couple of LEDs might flicker.

The stronger the signal, the brighter the LEDs get. As you walk around the car, pay attention to those lights. If there really is a wireless bug, you’ll be able to pinpoint where it is.

Since most real-time tracking devices work while the car or tracker is in motion, have a partner slowly drive the car around while you scan the vehicle for a signal.

If the tracker sends an update once every 10 seconds, you should notice a big spike in signal exactly every 10 seconds. Every tracker is different, so the interval could be set to every 15 seconds, 30 seconds, and so on. The longer the tracker’s update interval, the more difficult it will be to find. You can see how it would be difficult to find a tracker when you can only detect a signal once every 5 minutes!

A cheaper alternative to the T-9 is the LM-8 Hidden Camera and Bug Detector. Like the T-9, the LM-8 is an RF detector. However, the LM-8 also comes with a special lens that can find hidden cameras. Its RF detection range is only 20MHz - 6GHz, but it is more affordable and has the added benefit of the hidden camera finder. That makes it a perfect choice for people who are also concerned about hidden cameras.

Ask for Professional Help

If the sweeper doesn’t do the trick and you still suspect that you’re being tracked, consult with your local professionals and mechanics who regularly work with electronics. Some of these devices can be hardwired and the mechanics usually know where such a GPS tracking device can be installed. 

Professionals such as these may be able to identify GPS tracking devices, in case you fail to find them and you still suspect that you may be subjected to spying.

Once You Find It - Remove It

In case you actually find the thing, you can remove it yourself or seek professional help.

Most trackers are battery-operated, instead of hardwired, so try to confirm no wires are attached to the unit. If you want to do it yourself, carefully cut the wires loose if they are connected and make sure you don’t damage the car. Otherwise you may want to have a mechanic take a look at it.

If you think it’s magnetic, simply pull it off and that’s it!

You may want to take the tracker to the authorities. They might be able to find out who put it there or take other action.

Be sure to contact us at SpyGuy for any product inquiries, thoughts, opinions, or just to share your experiences.

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