Warm the car, face a frosty answer

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The Independent Online

The AA warned this week that leaving your car running to warm it could invalidate your insurance. If a thief jumps in and drives away while you are back in your house, the insurer may turn down your claim.

The AA warned this week that leaving your car running to warm it could invalidate your insurance. If a thief jumps in and drives away while you are back in your house, the insurer may turn down your claim.

Clare Salmon, managing director of AA Financial Services, said: "Just before Christmas, 15 cars were stolen in Manchester on one frosty morning, in each case because the engine was left running. Car theft using the owners' ignition keys is a fast-growing problem. Locks and immobilisers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, so the only way to steal many cars is to use the keys. Thieves welcome icy mornings, when many people invitate their car to be stolen."

And if your car is taken while warming, you are likely to get a frosty reception from your insurance company. Ms Salmon said: "Most car insurance policies will not cover theft of your car if it has been left unlocked with the keys in the ignition, yet 14 per cent of motorists in our latest survey didn't realise this. Leaving the engine running to warm the car while you go back indoors to warm yourself up with a cup of tea is taking a huge risk, but it's amazing how many people do it."

Some insurers believe up to one in 10 stolen cars are taken because they have been left unlocked with the keys in the ignition. Home Office statistics show nearly half of the 314,000 cars stolen each year are taken from outside their owners' homes. One in eight of all car thefts involve the use of car keys.

If you do not have a garage, the AA advises covering the windscreen with newspaper, cardboard or a shield to keep the frost off. Use a scraper or de-icer, or pour hot (not boiling) water on the windscreen.

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