As technology has advanced and the size of GPS tracking devices has been reduced, it has become very easy to find a discrete hiding place on a vehicle. However, placement is still limited to the device being able to communicate with the GPS satellites. It needs a clear line of communication, and if you want to install one covertly, that limits your options a bit. But before we explore the possibilities, let’s look at how the technology works.
How does GPS work?
The Global Positioning System (GPS) was originally developed by the US government for military navigation back in 1995. The Russians also came up with their own system, and eventually, both countries offered their systems for the rest of the world to use for free. Today, many GPS receivers use a combination of both to improve coverage and accuracy.
The system is an entire network of more than 30 navigation satellites circling the Earth. These 3,000- to 4,000-pound solar-powered satellites orbit roughly 12,427 miles above the earth’s surface, making two rotations around the planet each day. The orbits are designed so that there are always four satellites in view from most places on the earth at any given time. Each one transmits information about its position and the current time at regular intervals. These signals, traveling at the speed of light, are intercepted by GPS receivers, which calculates how far away each satellite is based on how long it took for the messages to arrive.
A GPS receiver needs information on how far away at least three satellites are to calculate your location using a process called trilateration. A modern receiver will typically track all the available satellites simultaneously, but only a selection of them will be used to calculate your position. If the GPS receiver is only able to get signals from three satellites, you can still get your position, but it will be less accurate.
As we noted above, the GPS receiver needs four satellites to work out your position in three dimensions (latitude, longitude, and altitude). If only three satellites are available, the GPS receiver can get an approximate position by assuming that you are at mean sea level. If you are at the mean sea level, the position will be reasonably accurate. In fact, even the most basic GPS service provides users with an accuracy of approximately 25.59 feet 95% of the time from anywhere on or near the surface of the earth.
Are you being tracked?
Portable GPS tracking devices are small enough to be hidden almost anywhere on or in your car. GPS fleet tracking devices are often hidden as well to ensure maximum datra collection without interference. So yes, it is possible that you are being tracked without your knowledge. If you want to ensure your privacy while driving, you can have your mechanic go through your car thoroughly to find out. Or maybe you’re looking to hide a GPS tracker on a vehicle yourself for various reasons. Either way, our next section covers these places in more detail.
Where is a GPS tracking device installed on a car?
Keep in mind that GPS tracking devices need to receive adequate signal strength to function properly. This is critical, because if it can’t, the device won’t work. Most GPS signals can travel through many materials, including glass, plastic, fiberglass, foam, and wood, but not all solid materials.
This means you’ll need to place the GPS tracking device somewhere with a direct line of sight to the sky. You will also want to ensure that you do not obstruct the device’s internal antenna, as it transmits the location for you. Obvious choices would be the roof, windshield, or dashboard, but if you want to place the tracker in a discrete position, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Under the Car
Depending on placement, under the car is likely the best overall place to install a tracker covertly. You’ll need a waterproof, magnetic GPS tracker to ensure it remains effective, but keep in mind that having a rustproof coating can reduce the magnetic hold by up to 95%.
Placing in on the metal frame of the vehicle, or chassis, on either side will allow the GPS signal to bounce off the road and be detected by the tracker. On top of the chassis is recommended so there is less chance of the device falling off during a sudden bump. You may also be able to reach up into the car to find a secure and discrete hiding place.
Inside the Front or Back Bumper
This is a great place to install your tracker covertly if you don’t have access to the inside of the vehicle, providing it is one of the newer vehicles that have a layer of plastic or fiberglass covering the bumper. Behind this cover, you’ll find a gap where you can place your tracking device. Cars with metal bumpers won’t work because the GPS signal won’t be able to get through.
Another option is to use Velcro to affix the GPS tracker inside the bumper, so it won’t move around as the car is moving.
Under the Passenger Seat
This is a simple and frequently utilized location to hide a tracker, as it is easy to reach and well concealed. Be aware that surrounding materials will determine the strength of the signal.
Inside the Dashboard
While this is the most difficult place to install a tracker, once it’s there, it is the least likely hiding spot to be discovered. The placement is ideal because the composition of the dashboard allows for the GPS satellite signal to pass through easily, and the tracker is invisible to anyone inside the car.
Finally, a couple of quick tips on where not to place the GPS tracking device:
- Near the exhaust system, which produces a lot of heat and can damage the device.
- Inside the framing of the wheels, as it will not only be visible but also much more likely to fall off.
To sum it up: if you want to successfully place a GPS tracking device discretely in a car, you need to consider signal strength and visibility. To be effective, both factors are highly dependent on proper placement, so be careful and plan carefully!