A motor vehicle contains many components that hold hidden information relevant to its origins. We are specialists in the field of vehicle identification following fire or theft.

Security Devices in Motor Vehicles

The investigation of locks and mechanical security devices on vehicles (cars, motorbikes, lorries/trucks, buses, construction vehicles etc.) serves to establish whether theft was committed without the use of a matching key.

The examination includes the body shell (doors, windows, car boot etc.) as well as the steering or transmission lock, if available. In addition to the fitted locks, the examination also looks at the lock assembly and surrounding components.
For central locking systems, cable ducts or tube lines and steering units are inspected. Records are kept at all times to document all data, observations and peculiarities.

Results from these inspections form the basis for the expert report. This includes a statement about the likelihood of the evidence found being caused by theft of the vehicle. The operating parts of locks and security devices are analyzed for any marks or traces not attributable to manufacture, possible past repairs or general usage. A statement is made about whether the shape and position of the marks and traces point to them being caused by a successful breach of the security devices.

During examination of the operating parts of locks, new ways of gaining entry and picking locks are taken into consideration when investigating the origin of marks, and the shape and position of such evidence allows for a distinction between offence-related and simulated marks.

Vehicle inspections are generally carried out in holding areas where weather protection is provided. High-value vehicles will be examined in their respective specialist workshops with the help of in-house expert staff and specialist tools. If preferred, inspection and examination can take place at the forensic testing laboratory. The examination process and any observations made will be recorded.

These inspection records form the basis for the expert report.

Damaged profile cylinder core

Use of overwinder

Blocking device

Marks on profile cylinder casing

Marks caused by blocking device

Tool inserts

Vehicles with a first generation immobilizer are examined for correct installation and functionality.
All operating parts must be accounted for. Electronic immobilizers are inspected analogously.

Initially, electronic immobilizers had cloneable transponders. It is not possible to provide evidence of the use of a cloned transponder. Examination is limited to the functionality of the immobilizing system, traces of potential manipulation and the transponder keys.

It has now become possible for immobilizers with crypto-transponders to be duplicated.
Examinations need to concentrate on ways of acquiring and reading other transponders, which may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. In addition, it must be established whether the control units belong to the vehicle, whether there is evidence of control units being switched and whether any alterations have been made to the units themselves. This includes checking for potential program manipulation. Data obtained will be compared to that stored on manufacturer master databases whenever possible.

Access to the vehicle is essential for all control unit examinations. Found, secured and/or returned vehicles should always be subjected to a forensic examination. All such examinations yield valuable information about offender behavior and significantly contribute to the evidence base.

Built-in additional module

Components of electronic vehicle security device

Dismantling the control unit

OBD plug

Altered control panel

Confiscated car stealing tools

Vehicle Identification Numbers

The examination of vehicle identification data (VIN – vehicle identification number, engine number, transmission number etc.) is required to establish whether these identification numbers have been altered and whether the vehicle to be examined matches the data contained in the registration document.

If anomalies are found, the examination is used to establish the original identity of the vehicle.

For this purpose, we examine not only the obvious legal vehicle identification data but also other, less accessible identification data, using identifiers and lists supplied by the relevant manufacturers.

Because of the sheer multitude of hidden identifiers, even totally modified vehicles can, in most cases, be identified. On occasion, vehicle components may have to be dismantled. Many newer models feature electronic identifiers with readable memory, which greatly assists with the identification processes. Identification examination checklists are used for the process and form the basis of the expert report.

The above examination processes can also be used to identify other types of property, for example, machinery and appliances as well as material with identifying marks, such as jewellery, watches etc. The examination of items made from synthetic material is more challenging.

Vehicle identification number with delimiters

Vehicle identification number on windscreen

Casting clock on lock casing

Date of manufacture on seat belt

Type plate

Recovered engine number

Vehicle Fire

All examinations carried out on intact vehicles are, of course, also possible on burnt-out vehicles.

The degree of examination depends upon the remaining vehicle parts available for inspection. The examination often follows an investigation into the cause of a vehicle fire where arson was established. However, the examination can only provide information about those parts of the security system still in an analyzable condition.

Examination of parts from vehicles with technical defects or fire damage is only undertaken during a general examination of technical processes, or during material inspection or analysis. The automotive expert will use the results for the compilation of his report.

Examination of the electronic elements of burnt-out vehicles can be carried out, provided that they are still intact and recognizable. Memory elements often have a protective casing, from which they can be removed (by us) and installed into a working version of the device. This often delivers a successful read-out.