How to Make a Vehicle Tracking Device

Written by ann westin
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How to Make a Vehicle Tracking Device
You can make a vehicle tracking device using a cell phone. (cell phone image by sonya etchison from

Implementation of GPS tracking units in vehicles has become a popular trend as businesses increasingly track employees using company vehicles, and as parents seek to track their teenage drivers. The devices were originally designed to locate stolen vehicles, but have become more versatile and desirable in recent years. Unfortunately, standalone GPS units can be expensive and costly to install. To save money, you can easily make a vehicle tracking device that simpler and far more affordable.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Prepaid cell phone (GPS-equipped)
  • Tracking/mapping service account
  • Web access
  • 12V car adaptor

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  1. 1

    Shop for a prepaid cell phone that is GPS-equipped or use an old phone that you already have. Phones can be purchased locally and should be inexpensive. Make sure that the phone has Internet access and that it is turned on. You may have to manually activate Internet in the settings, if it is not a smart phone. Turn the ringer volume to 0 and mute the keypad. You do not want to alert any thieves to the fact that they are being tracked.

  2. 2

    Choose a tracking/mapping service. There are plenty of services to choose from and some are free. You can install it over the air and it should be easy to use. Launch the tracking/mapping service generally located under "Java Apps" and called "GPS Tracker". Enter the device ID you received from the tracking/mapping service and save it. The phone will ask permission to access the GPS chip, and you need to select "yes". There will be a short span to locate the device and then it will be up and running. You should be able to see the phone's location on the tracking/mapping service website.

  3. 3

    Hard wire the phone to your car's battery and stash it. Consult your car's manual to get familiar with the wiring scheme. If you are not comfortable wiring it yourself, ask a professional installer. You can connect the phone to the car's battery using a 12V accessory outlet. The trick is to find a 12V circuit in your car that is not always on. You do not want to connect it to something that does not shut off when the car is not running or it could drain the battery. The light in the glove box can be a good choice to use. If so, the phone could easily be hidden in the glove box as well.

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