We explore how to best protect yourself from tool theft and improve your van security.

Prevention is better than cure. There are ways to deter thieves from targeting you and ways to help recover your tools if they do.

Consider where you store your tools – both during the day and overnight. You want to make it as difficult as possible to be a target for tool theft. For tips on how to improve your van security, keep reading.

Check what’s covered under your Public Liability Insurance (PLI) and if there is anything you can do to boost cover.

Tool theft protection and improved van security
Tool theft: Trade Power Tools

Protect your tools from tool theft

1. Log your tools for best recovery after tool theft

In the unfortunate event that you experience tool theft, you would need to be able to identify your tools as yours should they ever be recovered.

It’s recommended that you keep a log of all the serial numbers of your tools in a safe place. There are websites on which you can register the serial numbers, such as Immobilise to help police identify them as yours.

Immobilise is the UK National Property Register, where you can register your valuables for free using their serial numbers, improving your chances of getting them back if they’re lost or stolen. The website also offers additional forms of security and marking, including ImmobiMark, Asset Labels and ImmobiTag. Keep reading for more information on how to protect against tool theft.

2. Personalise your tools and protect against tool theft

Tool theft protection: tool personalisation
Tool theft protection: tool personalisation

Get personal with your tools and make them unique to you as best you can. If your tools are subject to tool theft, the thief will have a much harder time selling them on with unique markings, which could deter the thief in the first place. You want to make your tools as recognisable as possible should they ever be stolen and then recovered. It’s recommended that you use more than one method of marking your tools.

There are several ways to mark your tools in a bid to avoid tool theft. Methods include using electrical tape, which is very simple, but could be easily peeled off. Overtime, is also likely to move around and leave a sticky residue.

Another simple option is to use a permanent marker but as this is probably the most popular method, it would be difficult to pick your tools out of a crowd. Not only this, the marker could rub off over time.

You could also try using ultraviolet pen on them, which is only visible under UV light. Alternatively, try brightly coloured paint.

Keep reading for some more robust options in marking your tools to best protect yourself against tool theft.

Engrave your tools

Engraving your tools is a more permanent method than those previously mentioned. It would be a lot harder for a tool thief to remove this marking than permanent marker, for example.

You can engrave your tools yourself with an engraver, such as the Dremel Engraver. This will set you back about as much as lunch on a Friday so a reasonably low cost to protect against tool theft. It can be purchased from stores like Screwfix, B&Q and Amazon. See this short YouTube video by Dan Pattison for tips on how to engrave your tools yourself, achieving a professional result.

If you didn’t fancy engraving your tools yourself, you could look at companies that offer CNC Laser Cutting services. With CNC Laser cutting, you could engrave your company logo onto your tools. This would have a detrimental affect on the resale value should you be subject to tool theft. See CNCROi.com for an example of what CNC laser looks like.

Metal stamp

Metal stamping works in a similar way to engraving in that it marks your tools permanently. Custom metal stamps can be purchased for stamping your tools yourself, or there are companies offering the service.

Use spray paint to protect against tool theft

You could use the colours of your logo to mark your tools, using your very own colour combination. Just make sure you don’t spray over anything you shouldn’t though, such as serial numbers, moving parts, hinges, etc. Before you spray, also check you get the right paint for the surface you’re spraying and the surface is as clean as you can get it to best ensure the longevity of your artwork. The more unique your tools, the better chance you stand against tool theft.

Tool theft protection: personalising your tools
Image from https://www.vehicle-accessories.net/about-us/what-do-you-use-to-mark-your-tools/

Forensic fluid

There are also some more sophisticated ways to mark your tools, including SelectaDNA. This is a way of marking your tools with thousands of microdots, which contain a unique DNA code. This DNA code allows police to identify your property and link criminals to the crime. Displaying signs at your home or business to illustrate your property is protected can reduce the chances of being targeted by thieves by up to 83%, according to the SelectaDNA website.. SelectaDNA offer a kit specifically designed for Tools and Equipment to protect against tool theft.

SelectaDNA Tools and Equipment Kit: protect tools and improve van security
SelectaDNA – Tools and Equipment Kit

DeterTech (previously known as SmartWater) offers a similar product. Their Home/Sole Trader Pack contains unique forensic code, which is traceable back to the rightful owner. According to DeterTech, the forensic liquid is near invisible to the naked eye and near impossible to remove. Their pack also includes stickers to let thieves know you’re protecting yourself against tool theft and that you have the means to prove the tools are yours.

DeterTech - Home/Sole Trader Pack: protect tools and improve van security
DeterTech – Home/Sole Trader Pack

Chip your tools to protect against tool theft

ImmobiTag, an electronic Radio Frequency ID chip with a unique code that can be glued or inserted into items (check before purchasing), lets owners trace their lost or stolen items. Police and responsible second-hand traders can read the chip using a scanner and use the scanned code to search police and trade registers (including Immobilise) to return the property to its rightful owner. The warning label provided in the ImmobiTag kit, also acts as a deterrent to thieves. This works in a similar way to the forensic fluid mentioned, but uses a chip instead of fluid.

ImmobiTag - RFID Security Chip
ImmobiTag – RFID Security Chip

Use QR codes

Another way to mark your tools and protect yourself against tool theft is to use of QR codes. They work in a similar way to the other methods mentioned in that you create a unique QR code to you and each tool. You send the make, model, serial numbers, etc. to a company such as Tough Tags, who create the QR codes and print them ready for you to fix to your tools.

Tough Tags – QR Codes


However you decide to best mark your tools, it’s important to photograph your tools. Ensure that your tools have visible markings to identify them as yours, which will help you prove ownership in case of tool theft and successful recovery.

Tool theft protection: tool personalisation
Tool theft protection: tool personalisation

3. Track your tools

There are different types of tracking devices – some use Bluetooth and some use Global Positioning System (GPS). There are pros and cons to using both, including range, battery life and cost so check before you buy.

Here are some examples worth exploring to help protect against tool theft and keep track of your tools at all times.


ABAX recommend the MINI2 ‘for locating all types of non-powered equipment, power tools and mobile assets’. The tracking unit uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLe) 5.2 technology and enables you to track your tools using the ABAX app. ABAX claim the MINI2 is waterproof and has a long lasting battery. You simply attach the unit to your tools using the tape or keychain bracket provided.


DeWALT Tool Connect

DeWALT Tool Connect also uses Bluetooth and provides the ability to track and trace your tools using an app or online portal. You can purchase DeWALT tools with the Tool Connect technology already built-in, or you can purchase Tool Connect Tags for fixing to other tools. The Tool Connect Tags can be fixed to your equipment using epoxy, high-bond adhesive and cable tie. Tool Connect includes features such as, last seen and virtual fence, where you will receive an alert should any of your tools leave the 30m radius. You can also mark a tool as lost or stolen and use the Tool Connect network to find them.

DeWALT Tool Connect
DeWALT Tool Connect

Milwaukee TICK Tool and Equipment Tracker

The Milwaukee TICK comes in packs of 4, 10 or 50 and uses Bluetooth like the other two examples given. Like the DeWALT alternative, TICK has a last seen feature as well. The range of the TICK is 100ft and is weather, water and dust resistant. Milwaukee state it can be glued, screwed, rivetted or strapped to anything.

Milwaukee TICK Tool and Equipment Tracker: protect tools and improve van security
Milwaukee TICK Tool and Equipment Tracker

Providing the trackers can’t be removed, these are a great way to protect against tool theft and should they be stolen, you can track their location for recovery.

4. Check tool warranties

When purchasing new tools in the first place, it is always worth checking what manufacturers offer in terms of warranty and if they offer anything for tool theft. Festool offer ‘warranty all-inclusive’, which includes replacement of any Festool tools that are stolen within the first three years, for a small excess.

5. Did you know about tool loan schemes?

Williams, a trade only plumbing and heating supplier has launched a free tool loan scheme, known as Tool Angel. To qualify for help, all you need is a crime number and to be located within Williams’ standard delivery area.

If you work in the plumbing and heating trade and have been affected by tool theft, you could be eligible for delivery of a free Tool Angel kit, which includes:

  • An Armorgard box
  • Reciprocating saw 18v
  • Angle grinder 18v
  • Combi drill 18v
  • Multitool 18v
  • Impact driver 18v
  • Jigsaw 18v
  • 240v core drill
  • Torch 18v
  • Circular saw 18v
  • Core drill set
  • 3x 5.0 ah batteries
  • Kane 458 flue gas analyser with printers

The Tool Angel kit is yours for up to 3 weeks and you have the option to purchase a new kit at the end with a 15% discount.

Tool theft: Tool Angel free loan kit
Tool Angel free loan kit

Improve van security to help prevent tool theft

According to the white paper published by On The Tools, 38.5% of tradespeople affected by tool theft, had their tools stolen from their van, outside their own home. This explains why it is recommended that tools are removed from vans overnight. After a hard days graft, it’s a laborious task.

Know where your van key is at all times to prevent theft, as the easiest way for a thief to steal a van is with the key. Keyless entry and keyless start are becoming increasingly common in commercial vehicles. Consider 'relay attacks', which use an electronic device to extend the range of the wireless signal from the key to van. This allows thieves to enter and start your van while your key is still in your house or pocket. This issue can be solved easily and inexpensively with a Faraday pouch or key box.

6. Use a tool safe

For the tools you decide to leave in your van, consider fitting a tool safe. There are various shapes and sizes of tool safe on the market. Which type you require will depend on the space available in your van and the tools you intend to store in them.

Brands offering van tool safes include Van Vault, Armorgard and Van Guard. Visit the Vanarack website for help in determining which tool safe will fit your specific van to best protect you against tool theft.

Tool theft protection: Van Vault
Tool theft protection: Van Vault 2

7. Fit an alarm and immobiliser

Your van may have come with a factory-fitted alarm, but it may not. It’s worth considering an additional level of security against tool theft with a Thatcham-approved system. Preferably an alarm and immobiliser. The alarm will alert you of the break-in and the immobiliser will stop the van from starting. Make sure you research installers with good reviews.

8. Install additional locks to deter against tool theft

Swapping out standard manufacturer-fitted van locks for harder-to-crack aftermarket locks, such as the dealer-fit RepLock for Ford Transits, is a no brainer. However, that's only the beginning. To further protect your vehicle from potential break-ins you can armour the lock areas to prevent drilling attacks. Security plates specific to each model of van are available and wiring loom guards can be installed as well. Additionally, other types of locks can be fitted, with slam locks and deadlocks being two popular upgrades that now often feature hook lock mechanisms.

When you shut the doors of your van, Slam locks will automatically lock it for you, so you don't have to worry about remembering. Deadlocks are also a good option as they are harder to pick due to their lack of a spring mechanism.

Brands offering different types of van locks to prevent tool theft and van break-ins include: Van Guard, Armaplate, Garrison and Hykee.

Tool theft and van protection: Armaplate
Armaplate example

9. Consider where you park and CCTV

To discourage thieves from targeting your van, park it in a well-lit area. Some tradespeople recommend parking with doors against walls. Additionally, lock all windows and doors when you leave the van unattended to prevent theft of items inside and reduce the risk of ‘smash and grab’ opportunists. When searching for a parking spot, try to find one that is in view of CCTV cameras. If none are available, consider installing your own camera and linking it up to your home alarm and security systems.

10. Try an old-school steering-wheel lock

Steering-wheel locks still effectively deter van theft as physical theft-prevention devices. At the very least, they slow down criminals, thus making the risk/reward ratio unfavourable for them to bother stealing your van.

Stoplock, Milenco, Disklok and Streetwize all have different security accessories available.

11. Install a tracker

Installing a GPS tracking device won't prevent your van from being stolen, however it could help you locate it in the event of theft. Options range from simple, cost-effective passive devices to more comprehensive subscription services. If possible, opt for the latter as they will provide you with the most reliable service. Make sure that the device is installed correctly; Tracker is a well-known brand, but there are other alternatives available.

Activate the smartphone app that comes with your van's built-in connectivity to take advantage of its benefits, such as Ford's app which can alert you if someone attempts to open or start the van – even if a key is used. This app also allows you to check whether the vehicle is locked and remotely lock it.

Tool theft prevention and van security summary

As stated at the beginning, prevention is better than cure.

Preventing your tools and or/van from being stolen means making them as unattractive to a thief as possible – reduce their resale value and make them too hard to steel in the first place.

Personalise your tools as best you can as prevention. And if you find yourself being a victim of tool theft, ensure you’ve logged your tools, photographed them and installed a forensic fluid, QR code or chip for easy identification should they be recovered. Installing a tracker could give you your best chance at recovery.

The most important thing about van security is to use it.

Ensure that you and anyone else who drives your van are familiar with the extra security measures you have installed on your van. From locking the doors and activating the alarm system, to engaging the immobiliser, make sure that these steps become second nature whenever anyone leaves the vehicle.