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DIY Vehicle Tracking - Fit and Install GPS Trackers

One of the main benefits of installing a GPS tracking system to your vehicle or fleet is the enormous boost in security it provides. The chances of successfully recovering a stolen vehicle increase dramatically when you can track the real-time location of your vehicle.

However, unlike other types of vehicle security, it is essential that the tracker is mounted discretely to your vehicle and is hard to find. For this reason, it’s essential that trackers are fitted properly, in order to prevent thieves from disabling it.

We recommend that you seek the advice and expertise of a professional installer, particularly if you need installations for a whole fleet of vehicles. If you wanting to install a DIY vehicle tracking device or just simply wanting to install a tracker you have bought, we’ve provided some advice and tips below for those taking the DIY route.

How To Install a GPS Tracker on a Car – Tracker Fitting

Before starting the process of installing your new GPS tracker into your vehicle, it must be remembered that no two brands are identical and so the fitting process may vary. Even so, there are some common process components among most GPS trackers:

1. Decide Where to Put The GPS Tracker

where to put a gps tracker on a car

Before fitting the GPS tracker, you first need to decide where the device is going to be located on the vehicle. Keep in mind, that you should choose a place that is hidden and discreet, but still practical.

Here are some possible locations:

  • Inside the boot
  • Between the radiator and the grill
  • Attached under the seats
  • Inside the glove box
  • On the underside of the vehicle
  • Behind the plastic internal door panels

If the device is located on the exterior of the vehicle, it will need a weatherproof case, which can be purchased separately if required. Furthermore, if you are using a battery-powered tracking device, you will also need a location that offers easy access for regular charging.

2. Secure The GPS Tracker

Put your tracker in the optimal position to allow for covert installation and easy access to a power source. Consider using a zip-tie, Velcro or tape to hold it in place as you don’t want your tracker to move while on the road. It can damage the wires as well as your device.

3. Connect The Tracker Device to a Power Source

In order to track your vehicle, a GPS device first needs to be connected to a power source. There are two main options:

  • Purchase a battery-powered tracking device
  • Install a tracking device that is hardwired to the car battery

Using a battery powered GPS tracking device unit is a far easier option for anyone who wants to install their own tracking device. Those battery powered devices will need to be regularly charged, in order to remain functional. The charging time of a device varies significantly by model, and depends on how you use it. Some battery powered devices will only require topping up once a fortnight, but if you need real time positional updates, you might need to recharge every couple of days.

Connecting the unit into the vehicle’s power means there’s no need to recharge, but the installation process itself is a lot more complicated. The exact method of installation will vary depending on the vehicle choose. It might be preferable to opt for a professional installation if you don’t know your way around vehicle wiring.

Most powered tracker units also include a backup battery which guarantees the tracker will still work even if the cables attached to the battery are cut off.

For those hard wiring a GPS tracking device to a vehicle you need to follow this guide:

tracker fitting
  1. Find a constant 12V DC wired power source to attach the wiring harness to the tracker transceiver
  2. Remove about an inch of insulation from the wire with the power source
  3. Take a sharp object and poke through the wire creating a loop
  4. Take off an inch of insulation off the end of the red wire on your tracking device
  5. Twist the ends of the red wire (tracking device) and poke through the loop you made on the car's power source
  6. Squeeze loop shut and twist the red wire around. Wrap in electrical tape to ensure it does not ground out
  7. Find the vehicle’s ignition wire and connect it to the white wire on the tracking device
  8. Finally, connect both the vehicle and tracking device ground wires together

Note: When connecting the red wire on your tracking device to the constant 12V DC power source, it is recommended use the ‘Poke and Wrap’ technique listed above

On successful installation the vehicle tracker will take power off the ignition column. The ignition column is often the preferred power source rather than using the radio as a power source to ensure a constant supply of power as opposed to an easily manipulated source.

4. Installing The Tracking Software

car trackers fitted

In order to complete the tracker installation, you’ll also need to install and setup the vehicle tracking software. Each device will have its own software and a unique installation process. Please refer to the device’s instruction manual for detailed steps.

Once the tracking software has been installed, you'll likely have to follow a few simple steps to ensure the device is communicating with your computer via a GSM modem, which should have been provided with the software. Again, follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.

If you are installing a DIY vehicle tracking device with an open-source tracking software, you should follow a similar pattern; the installation instructions are usually available from the provider’s website.

Once the tracking software has been set up you will be able to track the location of your vehicle in real time. In some cases, you will be able to text the tracking device from a mobile phone and receive GPS co-ordinates to locate your vehicle.

DIY or Professional Tracker Installation?

The decision as to whether to complete the installation of your GPS vehicle tracking system yourself or use a professional is purely yours, but will depend largely on the type of unit you have purchased or the requirements of your installation. Even if you can fit an item yourself, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should. In some cases, you may be required to have the GPS tracker installed by a certified individual for insurance premium purposes.

However, if you do opt to install the device yourself, make sure you follow all the instructions precisely and check the device carefully to ensure it works after the installation. Be aware that DIY vehicle tracking installation means you will have no external support available if something goes wrong, so make sure you are confident with how to deal with any issues that may arise.

Our vehicle tracking experts strongly recommend that you purchase a GPS tracker from a trusted supplier and have it fitted professionally to safeguard against any complications, especially if you are a fleet operated business wanting to employ vehicle tracking.

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Bonus: Building a DIY GPS Tracker

install GPS tracker on car

Building your own tracker is far from difficult (unless you’re putting together the tiny pieces of hardware). Below we have listed the components required to build your own DIY vehicle tracker:

  • Mobile Phone with a data plan
  • In car charger for the phone
  • GPS Tracking Software
  • Any additional materials to hold it in place

Keep in mind that there are several different ways to create a GPS tracker, with a different set of components; this is just the quickest and simplest method.

Cheap mobile phones that have access to the internet can be used a make-shift GPS tracker. You just need to ensure that the phone is fitted with a ‘pay as you go’ sim card loaded with a data plan in order to allow for the tracking.

Method: once you have calibrated your mobile phone with the GPS tracking software, secured it to the car and connected it to a power source you are ready to begin tracking.

Note: as mentioned previously, there are numerous locations within the car that are ideal for covert installation. However, for this homemade version, securing the phone within the dashboard with some self-adhesive Velcro or tape should be enough to hold it in place.

Although this method of tracking is easy to install and set up, mobile phone tracking lacks reliability as it is wholly dependent on a good GPS signal. For example, if a car is parked in area where the GPS signal is poor, i.e. an underground car park, then tracking will not be available. While this basic method of purchasing a phone and downloading software seems fool-proof, you don’t want to risk not being able to find your vehicle if it gets stolen.

It is highly recommended that you use a proper GPS tracking unit rather than building your own DIY vehicle tracking device. For businesses operating fleets, mobile phone tracking is not a viable option.

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