If a customer is concerned that there might be a tracking device planted in her car and asks me to check to make sure there is no tracking device, how should I do that? Where should I look?

I checked the obvious places such as wheel wells, all around the frame, in the trunk and in and around the front and rear bumpers. I just want to know if there are standard places besides these where trackers are placed. I assume that trackers come with instructions where to put it, so there are probably well-established lists of likely spots.

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    Do you have any kind of idea what type of tracking device she thinks might be hidden? Is this a LoJack or some other more nefarious device? What makes her think there's a tracking device on her car in the first place? Also, tracker would not be the correct tag, I'll fix it. Next, what kind of car is it? Year/make/model/engine would serve well here. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Feb 9 '17 at 2:30
  • You're best bet would be to buy a hand held detector. Otherwise you're down to a visual inspection of everything inside and out of the car. It could be battery powered, it could be hardwired. – Ben Feb 9 '17 at 2:32
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    With things like www.thetileapp [dot] com around, it could be just about anywhere. – TecBrat Feb 9 '17 at 2:55
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    On the other hand some of the fleet trackers are huge, and fitted behind the dash (my van had one that had been disabled but not removed, it was something like 15x10x3cm) so you really do need to clarify what type they're worried about. – Chris H Feb 9 '17 at 15:18
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    I once found a GPS tracker because a customers the battery was going dead. The parasitic current consumption was too high. Found extra juice going to the ignition switch with it off. After inspecting the switch found a device crammed next the the instrument cluster. Customer did not know it was there. Try checking the parasitic current of the car. If it seems high there might be a tracking device attached to the battery. – vini_i Feb 9 '17 at 20:21

Think about who would install a tracker;

  1. A soon-to-be ex-husband. They watch the telly, and know from old episodes of Magnum PI that the best place for any tracker is under the rear bumper or up inside a wheel arch. Simple to find, and they have very short range because they're wireless only, not GPS.

  2. A car-hire company. They do this all the time. Usually behind the dashboard, because they want it to be hard(ish) to get to, but pretty simple for a mechanic to install quickly. That way, they can access power, and also have a cut-off switch so the car can be disabled remotely. These need to be removed carefully, so that the car isn't disabled. Simpler, battery powered trackers can be on the dashboard or parcel shelf; they don't have much power, and GPS trackers need to be able to see the sky (under-dash versions use an aerial).

  3. A government agency. Forgedabodit... you'll never find a tracker installed by a government agency. But as you'll never know about it or ever see one, don't worry.

In my opinion, you're probably looking at an ex-rental car, and the owner wants to make sure that there are no 'extras' left behind. She could just call the rental company and ask them if there is anything.

For your specific case, do the repairs, and report on any odd items you see during your repairs that aren't shown on the workshop manual, or look like after-market. Don't remove anything (in case there is a disabling relay in there). Don't strip down areas that take a lot of work that aren't involved in repairs, and report that you couldn't find anything.

Unfortunately, you can never prove a negative (so you can't say 'there are definitely no trackers in this car') - but you can say that your opinion is, that in the areas you worked on, there are no obvious tracking devices.

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  • "no obvious trackers" is what I am going for. Where would a "government agency" put a tracker that it could not be found by a mechanic? – Cooter Davenport Feb 9 '17 at 17:11
  • You ain't gonna find 'em. Often glued to interior panels where you can't see them without a mirror. Sometimes inside the roof lining, and (if it's really important) there'll be five or six in different places, because they'll assume you'll find some of them. Pretty much always battery powered. – PeteCon Feb 9 '17 at 17:45
  • Government would be looking at your phone to determine your location. Much easier than having to come in physical contact with your vehicle and attach a device. Tracking the car only gives an approximate location (think if you park at a mall), phones are much more accurate, as they are usually on the person. – rpmerf Feb 9 '17 at 17:48
  • @rpmerf: People (who have such a need) will change phones much more often than a car, and use burner phones for important stuff. – PeteCon Feb 9 '17 at 17:50
  • @PeteCon How would they get access to an "interior panel"? I mean if they are cutting panels apart with torches, I am going to see that. – Cooter Davenport Feb 9 '17 at 17:50

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