How can I detect the location of a hidden GPS recorder hidden on or under my car

Posted on 2007-11-20
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-06-27
How can I detect the location of a hidden GPS location recorder hidden in or under my car
Question by:JamesvWoude
LVL 63

Accepted Solution

☠ MASQ ☠ earned 336 total points
ID: 20323840
The commonest method is to use a cell phone as the phone signal is disrupted by the GPS when it is a few inches from the source.  On some models this won't work if the device needs remote activation.  You won't get precise instructions here as the information can just as easily be used for someone else to find and remove the device - just before they remove your vehicle(!)
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Assisted Solution

by:Jaime Olivares
Jaime Olivares earned 332 total points
ID: 20323881
A GPS is a passive component, it doesn't transmit any signal at all, so the best way is to do it visually.
Also consider the GPS has an antenna that must have access to clear sky.

LVL 14

Assisted Solution

arthurjb earned 332 total points
ID: 20328872
If it is a GPS that sends the data remotely, then it would transmit and you could detect it with a transmitter "Sniffer" that senses the RF signal.  

These devices cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

The advice about using a cellphone as a detector is suspect, since GPS devices don't transmit constantly and may or may not disrupt a cellphone.

Precise instructions are not available because there are many different ways to place the devices.  No one would reasonably expect to use a hidden GPS for theft protection, or recovery.  (The proper way for that usage is a device installed in the car and using existing or added external antennas.)

The important thing to keep in mind is the physics of the situation.  Unlike in TV and
movies, you cannot just place a bow under the car, and be able to track the car, using GPS.  As jaime mentioned the GPS has to be able to see the satellites in order to obtain its position.  This means that the antenna has to have an electrically clear view of the sky.  So, the device could not be located under a metal bumper, or even a plastic bumper with metallic paint.

The other side of the system is the sending of the data to the party that is doing the tracking.  There is no satellite (at least for civillians) that could use the small power budget that a hidden antenna would have, to link the data.  The common way to send the tracking data is via the cellphone data network.  This means another antenna.  Granted, cellphone antennas are so small today, as to be almost un-noticable, but they still need to have a clear view to the cell site.

You can see a commercial GPS tracking systems here;

There are GPS devices used by private investigators, that do not transmit the data in real time, but must be accessed physically to download the data from the device.  
If you garage your car, it is tough to get the data.  And the same laws of physics apply, the GPS must be able to see the satellites, so even if it is "concealed", it must still be able to see the sky, either through plastic or glass.
Here is one of those;

I would personally check all areas that have an electrical view of the sky for a box about 2x2 inches or larger.  This could include under the rear window shelf, under plastic bumpers, under plastic fenders and such.  With a remote antenna, it could be hidden in other places, but the antenna would still need a view of the sky.

It may be possible that your onstar or similar service could be used for the tracking, and there are news reports that attorneys are using electronic toll payment records to track past whereabouts...

I actually don't  think it will be too hard to find, if it has been placed by a private detective or someone with no internal access to your car.  

If it is a private individual that you think may be tracking you, remember that the devices cost hundreds of dollars, so it would have to be someone who thinks it is worth that much to track you.

If you believe that you are being tracked by a government, then I suggest you change your ways and become a good citizen, because even though the government still has to follow the laws of physics, they have a much bigger budget for hiding and concealment.

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