Skip to main content
lou's garage

A retired technician and friend from my dealer days stopped by for a visit a few months ago. He was accompanied by a woman he had recently started dating. While it was a pleasure to catch up with this old friend he had actually come by on a mission and with a disturbing tale.

She was struggling through a lengthy divorce and earlier that day he had driven her to a court appearance and waited outside. He was walking around outside killing time when he saw a man lingering around the rear of his car and suddenly duck down only to reappear 30 seconds later and then briskly walk away.

These actions prompted an immediate visit to me so he could use one of my hoists to search his vehicle for any kind of tracking devices that may have been hidden. As unreal as this story sounds, I have actually been asked multiple times to perform similar requests, all since the recent popularity of Apple Airtags.

Up until this point I had never personally found any trackers placed on a customer’s car. My friend however had a good idea of where to start and after 30 minutes he found what he was looking for. An Airtag was wedged between the rear licence plate and the body of the vehicle. Immediately upon locating this unwanted tracking device, he headed off to the nearest police station to file a report. About a month after filing the report, an investigator found video footage, leading to the ex-husband being arrested, released and scheduled for a court date.

Your car is tracking you. Abusive partners may be, too

Since this subject has come up a few times now, I thought it might be worth a word or two here. I am not a legal expert, but this is what I understand regarding Canadian law on this particular matter.

If you own the vehicle in question, you may track its whereabouts regardless of who is driving it. Businesses are allowed to track their work vehicles to improve safety, productivity and customer experience. Company policy typically dictates and hopefully states details regarding their commercially owned vehicles that will be tracked, but this is not legally required as long as the tracking is within limits.

If you have joint ownership of a vehicle, the law is unclear. If you don’t own the vehicle, it is generally illegal to track it.

If you suspect you are being tracked, it may be simple to find the device, especially if it is an Airtag. Apple never intended for their devices to be used in an illegal manner, they were meant to aid when you lose your keys or an airline can’t locate your luggage. So, finding them is usually not that difficult. Because Airtags don’t contain GPS technology, but rather rely on a bluetooth connection, they may simply show up as an available device in your smartphones’ bluetooth settings when you are within the device’s range. Alternatively, there are multiple third-party apps available to both Android and Apple users that can locate Airtags in particular. GPS trackers are often more difficult to detect and may require someone with expertise in the field. You can also buy rudimentary bug trackers from the same online vendors that sell the trackers.

Police have warned recently how thieves use hidden tracking devices to target vehicles. In both cases from one CBC story from March, the vehicle owners received notifications that an Airtag was trying to connect with their iPhone. Police recommend leaving an Airtag in your car, to track it if it is stolen.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe