Beware of Thieves Looking to Turn Your Warm Car into a Hot One State Police and Division of Highway Traffic Safety Offer Tips to Avoid “Puffer Theft” and Other Winter Woes

Everyone wants a warm car on a cold winter morning, but wily car thieves are looking for a hot one. With chilly winter temperatures setting in, the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Highway Traffic Safety are warning drivers that leaving unattended cars idling in the driveway to warm up is a good way to fall victim to auto theft.

Known among thieves as “puffers,” these idling autos are easy to spot by their puffing exhaust fumes and even easier to steal.

“All a thief has to do is hop in and drive away. It’s even warmed up for them,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Today’s late model vehicles are protected by sophisticated anti-theft technology. But all the technology in the world is worthless when someone leaves their car unlocked and running with the keys in the ignition.”

To avoid falling victim to “puffer theft,” motorists should keep their cars locked while warming them up, even in their own driveways

Stolen autos aren’t the only cold-weather calamities facing New Jersey motorists as winter sets in.

“When temperatures plummet roadside emergencies and the risk of traffic crashes soar,” said Gary Poedubicky, Acting Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “From dead batteries to treacherous driving conditions, the cold weather brings increased risks to drivers.”

“No one wants to be involved in a crash or have their car to break down in any season, but in frigid weather the odds are higher and the consequences can be more serious,” said Col. Fuentes. “Being stranded outside in the bitter cold can be fatal.”

Simple steps taken now will prepare your car for the big chill headed this way:

  • Check the battery – As temperatures drop, your battery has to work harder to start the engine. Make sure your battery is up to the task by having it tested at a service station, auto parts store, or repair shop. Unplug cell phones and other electronic devices from the car’s cigarette lighter socket to avoid sapping battery power.
  •  Replace wiper blades – Maximum visibility during hazardous winter driving is crucial. If you’re blades are leaving residue on your windshield, you’re at risk.
  •  Keep windshield-washer reservoirs filled – A winter-blend washer solution with an antifreeze agent is crucial to keep your windshield free of the dirt, mud, and salt residue kicked up from messy roads.
  • Check tire treads – Like a pair of sneakers that get more slippery with use, worn tire treads lose their ability to grip the road and increase your risk of crashing.

Even the best-maintained vehicles can’t guarantee safe travels in the face of icy roads and blizzard conditions. To improve your odds off staying safe:

  • Plan ahead before traveling – Check road conditions and weather forecasts, especially before long trips. Avoid driving in dangerous conditions.
  • If you must venture out, drive with extra caution: Reduce speed, beware of black ice, and avoid tailgating.
  • Keep your gas tank full, even in hybrid vehicles – Being stuck in a wintery traffic jam or stranded on a snowy roadside might require more fuel than you anticipated to get home.
  • Equip your car with a winter emergency kit that includes a shovel, ice scraper, jumper cables, emergency markers, a flashlight, a first-aid kit, and sand or kitty litter to help stuck tires gain traction in snow. The kit should also include non-perishable snacks for pets and humans, bottled water, hats, and gloves and blankets to keep warm in case you become stranded.