Installing Vehicle Tracking Devices

By Julia Watts | Content Manager

Is your fleet still on the road during the COVID-19 pandemic? Whether your drivers are delivering goods or transporting people, a vehicle tracking system can boost your productivity, streamline your routes, and significantly reduce your operational costs – all while giving you total clarity over your fleet’s activity and condition, in an otherwise confusing time.

Just as you’re continuing to serve those who need you, we’re here to help you find the right vehicle tracking solution for you, safely and remotely. Just answer a few quick questions about your fleet, and we’ll match you up with the providers that can best meet your needs. They’ll then be in touch directly, with no-obligation quotes and information tailored to you. It’s the quickest, easiest way to compare your options, and it’s completely free.

Obviously, you can't start tracking your fleet of vehicles (or your personal car) without first installing your vehicle tracking devices. The problem here is that, in the absence of advanced experience with engineering or mechanics, tracker fitting can seem a pretty daunting task.

Luckily, it's actually quite simple. A safe, reliable vehicle tracker installation can be completed in just three steps (or even fewer, if you're working with an OBD device), which we explain in detail below…

Installing vehicle tracking devices: What to consider before you start

Before diving into an installation (our step-by-step instructions are ready to be followed below!) you'll first need to…

Understand the type of device you're using

The very first thing to clarify is whether you're working with hardwired devices or plug-and-play devices.

As the name might suggest, plug-and-play devices don't actually have to be fitted – all you need do is plug them into your vehicle, and Bob's your uncle! Some can be plugged into the cigarette lighter, while most are designed to plug into the OBD port (these will more commonly be referred to as OBD devices). Installation doesn't get much easier – or quicker, or cheaper – than this!

Hard-wired devices, on the other hand, need to be – you guessed it – hard-wired to your vehicle's engine. The remainder of these instructions will deal with installing these hard-wired devices.

Decide whether to do it yourself or use a professional fitter

Most vehicle tracking suppliers provide an installation service. The good ones will offer to send an accredited engineer to carry out the installation at a time and place of your choosing.

Unless you're confident in your ability to fit your trackers yourself, our advice will always be to accept this offer. A professional installation affords peace of mind and minimises the risk of problems down the line, after all. Just be wary that, while many tracking companies offer installation for free, some do charge for it.

That said, there are some vehicle tracking companies that don't offer installation as part of their service. In this case, you've got two options: do it yourself, or hire a third party to do it for you.

Derek Ryan tells us how Verizon Connect (formerly Fleetmatics) installs its vehicle trackers in customers' vehicles:

Seek out the manufacturer's instructions

If you've decided to fit your trackers yourself, read on! We can give general instructions here, but it's always best to also check out the official instructions provided by the manufacturer or supplier of your specific devices.

You'll often be able to find these on the supplier/manufacturer's website, or you can get in touch and request them if they're not easily available.

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How to install car tracking devices: Step-by-step instructions

So, you've decided to hard-wire your trackers yourself – good for you! First things first, though: you need to get your tools together.

Here's what you'll need:

  • 1 x Phillips head screwdriver
  • 1 x voltage meter
  • 1 x pair of wire cutters
  • 1 x wire pick
  • 1 x ring terminal
  • 1 x roll of electrical tape
  • 1 x piece of double-sided tape

With these in hand, you're ready to get down to business. Here's how you install a vehicle tracking device in a car or van:

Step 1: Find the vehicle's ignition and constant power wires

During your installation, you'll be attaching your tracker's red wire to the car's constant power wire, and your tracker's white wire to your vehicle's ignition wire. The first thing to do is open up your dash and identify these wires.

First, unscrew the car's plastic lower dashboard cover with your Phillips head. If there are any wires plugged into the casing itself, carefully disconnect these. Place the casing and screws to one side.

Inside the lower dash, you’ll see a collection of wires. To find the ignition wire and the constant power wire, find your ignition switch and follow the wires from there, as they both connect to it.

To make sure you've got the right wires, use the voltage meter to verify that you've identified them correctly – you should get a reading of 11 to 14 volts when the ignition is turned on, and a reading of 0 when it's off.

Top tip: Some cars include special wiring diagrams, designed to help you identify the wires you're looking for. Root out your vehicles' documentation for even more guidance!

Step 2: Affix your device's wiring to these wires

Take the constant power wire, and use your wire cutters to remove a small section of its insulating outer casing, so that the copper wires beneath are exposed.

Top tip: Be careful to use the right gauge wire cutters so that you don't accidentally cut the power wire itself… or say goodbye to your dashboard radio!

Use your pick tool to create a small gap between the exposed copper wires. Take the exposed end of the red wire on your GPS tracking device, and thread it through the gap you've just created in the constant power wire copper, like threading a needle.

Wrap the loose copper end of the tracker's red wire around the power wire's copper tightly, ensuring a reliable connection. This is known as the ‘poke and wrap' method. Finally, cover the connection with a piece of electrical tape so no copper is exposed.

Repeat this step, this time using the poke and wrap method to connect your tracker's white wire to your vehicle's ignition wire.

Finally, add a ring terminal to the exposed end of the black wire on the GPS tracker. Place the ring terminal end on a metal surface (‘grounding’ the device), such as the steering column, and secure it there with electrical tape.

Step 3: Reassemble your dashboard

Affix the GPS tracker underneath the dash with double-sided tape.

Be sure to fix the device securely in place – you won’t easily be able to access it if it comes lose mid-journey!

Tidy up any loose wires with electrical tape, tuck them out of the way, and reattach the plastic dash cover. You’re all done!

Tip: GPS signals do not travel through metal, so don’t place it on the steering column! Near or around the ignition coil is usually a sensible location.

Tip: For the best results, make sure the GPS tracking module is facing upwards when you attach it.

Where in my car should I install my tracking device?

Exactly where a GPS tracking device should be installed depends on a few elements. Discretion can be a major factor, so your first consideration should be the size of the tracker.

Interference from other equipment might also be an issue.

You should position the tracker away from other electronic devices and perform some tests before installing.

Advanced technology means that trackers have become smaller so they’re likely to fit comfortably anywhere.

Suggested places to install your vehicle tracker

Where to install a vehicle tracking device

As you can see above, some recommended places to install GPS Tracking Devices include:

  • Under a car seat
  • In the boot
  • Behind the radiator
  • Underneath the car body
  • In the glove compartment

Remember, discretion can be an important installation factor – not only for your business, but for security. You should ensure the tracking device cannot be easily seen or removed in order to prevent loss, theft or damage.

Any external fitting also needs to be weather-proof and hardy to work properly.

Another aspect to consider with vehicle tracker installation is ease of access. For some trackers, the batteries in the device will need replacing every once in a while, so you wouldn’t want it locked away in an inaccessible position.

Next steps

The tracking device market is a competitive one. With so many suppliers offering a variety of different devices, it’s hard to decide on the ideal product for you. Offers that might suit larger companies are rarely the same ones that suit smaller ones.

By filling in this short form, you can filter out those devices that are not right for your business’s size, scope and budget. Fleet security has so many benefits, so take advantage of our free quote system to find the best deal for you.

If your business has a fleet of vans, then this fleet management article on types of van trackers should provide additional context.

Julia Watts Content Manager

Specializing in business energy, fleet management and fuel cards, Julia’s here to help your company power up and get on the move. Having spent years working in the dynamic world of startup entrepreneurship, she loves creating content that might help exciting ventures, big or small, to flourish.

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