Before searching for a vehicle tracking device (VTD) you need to know where a VTD should and should NOT be deployed. Now not everyone is an expert at tracking vehicles, the jealous stalker who just wants to find out where their alleged significant other is going for example. So for instance a hot engine, drive shaft, wheels, exhaust system etc. Any moving parts or extreme heat will shake loose the tracking device, ruin the signal, or damage it completely. We are going to focus on vehicle tracking devices but this should not exclude video or audio recording devices that could be deployed within a vehicle as well.
GPS (Global Positioning System) vehicle tracking devices have many legitimate uses but they can be used for malicious intent as well. They are inexpensive to buy and and easy to operate. Active tracking devices report the vehicle location in real time. Passive tracking devices collect data for use at a later time. Searching for tracking devices is a time intensive project. Prior to sweeping the vehicle there is a number of factors that could impact your search; where the vehicle is parked or the outside temperature could impact any radio frequency search or thermal imagery for example. This makes finger tip searching very crucial.
You can search a vehicle in various ways. Just make it systematic that way there is a less likely chance that something is missed. The interior should be searched first that way you avoid dragging dust, mud, dirt, oil stains or any outside debris into the clients vehicle. Which brings me to the point of investing in some coveralls.
So what are the most common places to locate a VTD?
The Diagnostic Port: A simple little port usually located underneath the dash board and below the steering column. If you find one there simply disconnect it. It won't cause any damage.
Under the Dashboard: In fact while you are looking at the diagnostic port you should check underneath the dashboard for any suspicious wires or devices. Make sure you check the glove compartment as well.
The Undercarriage of the Vehicle: Here you are looking for an object with or without an antenna that can be attached to the vehicle by adhesive or a magnet. It is easy and quick for a person to attach it to a vehicle and leave without being identified. I include wheel wells and bumpers as part of the undercarriage.
Top of Vehicle: The roof of a vehicle often can get overlooked. Make sure a sweep is conducted on the roof especially a high vehicle and short client. Check the sun roof and the sun roof retraction area. This is a method of "hiding in plain sight."
Interior Seats, Floors, Mats, and Carpets: If there is any suspicion that someone has entered the vehicle don't discount these areas. Easy to access by the perpetrator and often easy to avoid by the driver.
Under the Hood: Make sure you check around the radiator, air ducts, and air filter. Also the battery area. Make sure that nothing is connected to the battery. If there are things that seemed to be wired in that you suspect might be a VTD I recommend not cutting a wire but having a mechanic remove the device. This will avoid you damaging the clients vehicle.
Hatchback/ Trunk: Trunks may be less likely to find a VTD since they connect to satellites to work but check anyway.
Event Data Recorder: Most newer vehicles have an event data recorder, also known as the black box. It's actually a silver box located under the front seats, usually under the driver's seat or the center console between the front seats. The VTD can be plugged in the same as the diagnostic port.
Just to reiterate if the VTD is hardwired to the vehicle have a mechanic remove it from the vehicle. If a tracking device is located it will be up to the client how they want to proceed. Make sure you photograph where it was located before the removal.
Below is a checklist I use for Technical Surveillance Countermeasures vehicle sweeps. As always, Stay safe and stay vigilant.