As Canadians, we’ve all experienced that awful morning moment of shuffling into a freezing car. Leaving your keys in the ignition and letting your vehicle “warm-up” in the driveway is pretty much a quintessential ritual up here in the north. However, it can also get you into a whole heap of trouble. According to the York Regional Police, cases of warm-up thefts in Toronto have already begun popping up in the GTA thanks to the recent onset of chilly weather.

“COOL TEMPS = HOT CARS - Cooler weather means warm-up theft season has begun. A warm, black GMC Yukon XL was just swiped from a driveway in the area of McCowan Rd/Denison St, Markham. Don't leave your vehicles running unattended with the keys in the ignition,” warned the YRP in a statement on Twitter.

So, what exactly is a warm-up theft? Basically, it’s when a soon-to-be car thief stalks out your neighbourhood waiting for you or one of your neighbours to complete the Canadian tradition of warming-up your car in the morning.

Once you’ve gone back inside for your coffee or breakfast, the thief hops in your vehicle, which is all set up to steal at this point and drives away. It’s a heartless act that often happens in the blink of an eye, so you might want to double-check your priorities before getting your car all toasty.

However, Toronto isn't the only city with a warm-up theft problem. Almost 7,000 vehicles were stolen or attempted to be taken in Calgary in 2018. Still, 2019 has shown a small improvement for the area.

Last year, Peel Regional Police warned locals in Ontario to avoid idling their cars to warm up their vehicles because thefts are a common problem in the area. Global News reported that a woman left her car idling outside for just a "brief moment" before it was swiftly stolen.

As the temperatures begin to drop in eastern Canada, this is the most likely time that Canadians will begin leaving their vehicles unattended while they warm up.

So, what can you do to prevent this? Here is a list of things that police recommend that allow you to keep your car warm while avoiding theft:

  • Never leave your vehicle unattended and running.

  • If you want to warm up your car, remain inside or lock it and keep a spare key with you.

  • Go keyless with a remote starter.

  • Keep your car in a locked garage. 

  • Keep your emergency brake on.

  • Avoid parking your vehicle in isolated areas.

  • Do not keep a spare key in the car.

  • Install an anti-theft device like ignition or fuel kill switches, car alarms, or tracking devices.

So thankfully, you can still warm up your cars if you need to, just make sure always to take the proper precautions.


There are stories everywhere. If you spot a newsworthy event in your city, send us a message, photo, or video @NarcityCanada on Twitter and Instagram.


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