I tracked down my stolen car with an Apple AirTag

Reddit user “thinkscotty” unfortunately had his car stolen recently. The police weren’t really optimistic about recovering the vehicle, but then “thinkscotty” remembered he’d put an Apple AirTag in his 2010 Subaru in case it was stolen. He was able to track that AirTag and, getting lucky, found his car even though the AirTag had recently been found by the thief and ditched in a parking lot.

Apple's AirTag
Apple’s AirTag

“thinkscotty” via Reddit:

I had put a spare AirTag in the sunglasses holder of my car. I’d bought a 4 pack and figured there might be an off chance it could potentially help me find the car. There’s millions of iPhones in Chicagoland too, so I figured the chances of it getting pinged were decently high.

So I marked the AirTag lost. It’s last showed its location as my house at 10:17pm the night before, so I knew my car had been stolen in the previous 5 hours.
Less than 10 minutes later, I got a notification that my car had been found in Northlake, a Chicago suburb about a half hour from me. It was sitting in a Walmart parking lot.

Obviously I immediately called 911 again and explained the situation. Police went to check the parking lot but couldn’t find the car.

I kept getting pings from the tracker in this Walmart parking lot, however. I figured that the thief had found and tossed the tracker. I was amped up and around 5:00am decided to head over and check the lot for myself. I expected maybe to find the tracker dumped in the lot and, possibly, use it to convince the police to take a look at the Walmart cameras, which they hadn’t wanted to do before.

As I drove to the Walmart, tense and still amped, I got several more pings from the tracker. I knew where it was, exactly.

When I arrived at the parking lot, I drove around with my phone out the window until my bluetooth connected to the tracker. I parked and walked around until I found the tracker by ringing it. It was under a parked car…


So, kind of freaking out, I call the police again. This is the fourth time I’ve called 911 in the previous 3 hours, and the Northlake policewoman I’m transferred to knows the situation. Luckily, in very short order 2 police cars arrive. I wave and point frantically out my window at my car until they see it, and they pull up on it… My car was trashed. It smelled like cigarettes and weed, and there were cigarette butts put out in my floorboard. In less than 7 hours my car now looked like a hoarder’s car, I’m not exaggerating. The police had me go though all this stuff piece by piece myself to find what was mine and what wasn’t. There were several bags of stolen phones, tablets, watches, and just a metric ton of junk.

I got it detailed later that day. It just felt too gross to be in it before that.

But about the AirTags. They work to track down your car. I wouldn’t have found mine without it. But I would have potentially found it faster if I’d hidden it better. So my advice: hide it well, but somewhere it will not be blocked from transmitting a Bluetooth signal.

MacDailyNews Take: Don’t put your AirTags near large hunks of metal (engine) or dense objects (batteries) or, obviously where there’s too much heat (AirTag’s operating ambient temperature: −4° to 140° F (−20° to 60° C)). Hide the AirTag under a seat or somewhere where they’re not likely to be found. In fact, AirTags are so inexpensive, you could hide a couple of them in different spots in your vehicle!

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[Attribution: AppleInsider. Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]


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