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[[quoteright:350:[[VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoChinatownWars http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/hotwire_grandtheftauto.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:Who needs keys when you can just use a screwdriver?]]

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->"''To hotwire a vehicle faster, repeatedly press LT or RT.''"
-->-- On-screen tip, ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoIV''

In the current situation, now is time for action from a character, and that character needs wheels. A vehicle is nowhere in sight, so what does the character do? He hotwires the car in under five seconds and gets on his way.

Wait a second. That looked a lot easier than it actually is, and that character shouldn't even know the first thing about hotwiring the car!

That's where this trope comes from. When needed, everybody can hotwire a vehicle at any time. All they need to do is yank the protective covering off of the wires, rip out two of the wires and connect them together. This not only starts the car but it also defeats the steering column's locking mechanisms.

This may well be on the way to being a DiscreditedTrope, as more and more cars either incorporate a necessary processor into the key itself, or require the key fob to be present before they'll start.



[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/WallE'', Captain [=McCrea=], someone who's never done anything in their entire life, including standing, is able to hotwire the ship's public address system in a second with no thinking. One can argue that, since he's the captain, he should know a thing or two about the ship, but, then again, he needs help turning the pages of a book, so... yeah.
* In ''WesternAnimation/{{Planet 51}}'', Chuck is able to hotwire an ''alien'' car with pretty much zero hassle. Later on Lem is able to do the same despite only having watched Chuck perform the hotwire once (though his case is ''slightly'' more realistic given that he's likely to be more familiar with hovercars than Chuck).
* In ''WesternAnimation/StitchTheMovie'', Stitch hotwires not only Cobra Bubbles' car, but Jumba's ''spaceship''.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* Used in ''Film/BattleLosAngeles''. Played with in that it takes several minutes to perform and the character is shown having difficulty with it.
* ''Film/TheBourneSeries'': Bourne hotwires a car really really fast in the trilogy. He's hurt, people are chasing him, and he still does it in less than ten seconds.
* ''Franchise/{{Terminator}}'':
** Arnold's Terminator never ''hotwires'' anything, he does one better. He smashes and rips away the steering column cover, along with the lock cylinder, and then turns the ignition lock shaft with his fingers, which was clearly shown in the [[Film/TheTerminator first film]], and then repeated again in the [[Film/Terminator2JudgmentDay second]]. Incidentally, due to it's strength the whole process literally takes it 5 seconds, about as fast as most people take to start a car with a key.
** Kyle Reese hotwires a car in the first film as well.
* {{Averted}} in the second ''Film/TheMatrix''. [[ActionGirl Trinity]] has to ask their (literal) VoiceWithAnInternetConnection to make her able to do so via a (again, literal) PowersAsPrograms system. Of course [[spoiler:this proves unnecessary, as she's escorting a rogue computer program who literally [[PlotTailoredToTheParty has the ability to open any lock]]]].
* In ''Film/TheTexasChainsawMassacre2003'', [[FinalGirl Erin]] hotwires the van.
* Bizarre DoubleSubversion in ''Film/ASoundOfThunder'': the protagonists encounter an SUV-like vehicle (this is the future, mind you). One of the scientists mentions it has a special lock, and starts listing all the equipment they will need to break it. However, before she can finish, the team's ''doctor'' breaks the window with his gun and hotwires it in a flash. When everyone stares at him dumbfounded, he just says "How do you think I put myself through medical school, hmm?" So... yeah.
* Chev Chelio hotwires a car in ''Film/CrankHighVoltage'' with the usual movie method of ripping out wires in the car and connecting them.
* In one of the ''Film/PoliceAcademy'' movies, Zed (a convicted criminal turned police officer) hotwires a car by ripping out the appropriate wires and ''biting them''.
* [[AvertedTrope Averted]] in ''Film/DieHardWithAVengeance''.
--> '''[=McClane=]:''' You know how to hot-wire this thing?
--> '''Zeus:''' Of course I can, I'm an electrician. Only problem is...
--> [Zeus turns the ignition with his pliers]
--> '''Zeus:''' It takes too fuckin' long.
** [[AvertedTrope Averted]] again in ''Film/LiveFreeOrDieHard'' with VoiceWithAnInternetConnection
* A bit averted in ''Film/NationalSecurity'' when Martin Lawrence has to hotwire a car carried inside a semi trailer with a bit of struggle of having to know the design and the model year. He ends up turning on the wipers and then the alarm, letting the bad guys know something's up. Naturally, when Hank first asks him to hotwire the car, Earl bristles at the notion that all black people know how to hotwire cars.
* In ''Film/DantesPeak'' Pierce Brosnan's vulcanologist can hotwire a pickup in about two seconds.
* One of the young punks in ''Film/TheWarpedOnes'' needs about ten seconds to hotwire a car before he and his fellow teen criminals can go to the beach.
* In ''Film/MyStepmotherIsAnAlien'' the alien starts "borrowed" cars just by touching ignition locks.
* ''Film/InTheMouthOfMadness'': When Trent tries to leave Hobb's End, his brainwashed partner [[SwallowTheKey swallows his car keys]] as they're being surrounded by a mob of ax-wielding townspeople. He uses a screwdriver to dig into the base of the steering wheel and activate his car that way.
* In ''Film/ShockTreatment'', Betty can somehow hotwire a car with her hairpin by sticking it under the hood.
* Averted in ''Film/VincentWantsToSea'': when Dr. Rose loses her car keys, Vincent's father has to hotwire her car and break the steering lock, which takes some time. This later causes them trouble when they get pulled over in Italy - the officer is understandably reluctant to believe they didn't steal the car, especially since Dr. Rose doesn't have ID with her.
* ''Film/{{Wanda}}'': Mr. Dennis finds an unlocked car and quickly hotwires it to start. Wanda, who gets in the passenger seat, then plucks the keys that were hanging off the sun visor and says "Why didn't you use these?"

* The kids from ''Literature/MaximumRide'' are all able to hotwire cars with ease, thanks to training their sort-of adopted sort-of dad, Jeb, gives them. While Max tells the readers that it works nothing like how it's shown on TV, she refuses to go into specifics for fear of inspiring a bunch of readers to steal cars.
* [[Literature/TheAdventuresOfFoxTayle Fox Tayle]] attempts this once or twice when the FBI is chasing him.
* Averted in ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'': Rachel discovers that jamming a six-inch-long grizzly bear claw into the ignition and turning works just as well as the actual key.
* Alice hotwires some very expensive cars when she and Bella are in Italy in ''[[Literature/{{Twilight}} New Moon]]''.
* Averted in the Creator/StephenKing story ''[[Literature/NightmaresAndDreamscapes Dolan's Cadillac]]''. Not only does the narrator have trouble making it work (even after being shown how it's done), but King says in a note to the story that he deliberately wrote that scene incorrectly to avoid giving car thieves specific instructions on how to hot-wire.
* In the ''Literature/BattleTechExpandedUniverse'' novel ''Star Lord'' ([[NamesTheSame no, not]] [[Film/GuardiansOfTheGalaxy that one]]), Duncan Kalma and Sir Trane end up having to hotwire a [[HumongousMecha BattleMech]] in order to stop a raid. As one might expect, 'Mechs are usually secured with all manner of safeguads to prevent them from being stolen, but the pair manage to shanghai a ''Warhammer'' with very little trouble. Trane doesn't believe it could be that easy since modern technology makes grand theft Battlemech almost impossible, but Duncan explains that he realizes that this is a much older model, one old enough to be tricked by the simple combination of a strong magnet on the security computer and forcing all the important moving-and-shooting protocols to start and therefore take all the priority runtime before the anti-theft safeguards can kick in.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/PrisonBreak'':
** In the episode "Flight", Sucre sings the song quoted above when attempting to hotwire a car. It doesn't work, however: turns out the car is missing its engine.
** Throughout series two and four the characters have little difficulty commandeering and obtaining vehicles undetected.
* Played straight and somewhat plausibly in ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' when Giles hotwires his clunky old Citroen in "Dead Man's Party". Not only is it an older car, it's implied that Giles, being a FormerTeenRebel, has a ''lot'' of experience hotwiring cars. He even says that it's "Like riding a bloody bicycle"[[note]] an old saying meaning it's something that, once learned, you never forget[[/note]].
* Nearly every episode of ''Series/TwentyFour''.
* Played with in the ''Series/AgentsOfSHIELD'' episode [[Recap/AgentsOfSHIELDS1E13TRACKS "T.R.A.C.K.S."]]: Coulson and Ward are evading some enemies in an Italian vineyard when they find a small truck. They prepare to hotwire it, only to find that the ignition wires are already exposed, so they only need to reconnect two wires to get going. It is later revealed in a flashback that their partner May had previously hotwired it to facilitate their escape. The trope is still basically played straight, given how it's a hassle-free "connect two wires and go" setup.
* ''Series/TheGrandTour'': May tries to invoke the trope by assuring Hammond he can hotwire a truck so he and the others can escape a SimulatedUrbanCombatArea. Instead, he electrocutes himself. Adding insult to injury, Hammond invokes KeyUnderTheDoormat on their next attempt, and successfully finds the keys in the truck's sun visor.

[[folder: Tabletop Games ]]

* In the popular zombie apocalypse tabletop game ''All Things Zombie'', this trope is played straight ''and'' inverted. Every character can try to hotwire any vehicle on the board, and chances are he or she will eventually succeed. However, a special rule named "The car won't start!" makes it much harder to hotwire the car if there are zombies near the car closing in.


[[folder: Videogames ]]

* Implied in ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto'', as stationary cars can be stolen and start up just as fast as ones taken while running. In the fourth installment, the player can see the protagonist duck under the dashboard to start the engine whenever he jacks a car outside of a mission; the process is mostly automatic once you press the gas button, but if you keep hitting it, your character will do it faster. The DS version of ''Videogame/GrandTheftAutoChinatownWars'' requires work on the touch screen to hotwire a car. * In ''Videogame/AloneInTheDark2008'', Edward can get in to any car around Central Park, pull a few wires out and there's a little minigame for you to get the right pair together. Can be slightly difficult when you've got a few enemies bearing down on you though.


[[folder: Webcomics ]]

* In ''Webcomic/TheInexplicableAdventuresOfBob'', [[GadgeteerGenius Molly]] can [[http://bobadventures.comicgenesis.com/d/20100629.html hotwire alien spaceships.]]


[[folder: Web Original ]]

* In the Website/YouTube series [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEd93hGd0xA An Emo Life]], one of the characters hotwires at least one car and an ''airplane.''


[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'', in one episode, Bart gives Grandpa advice on how to hotwire a car.
* [[WesternAnimation/TheRenAndStimpyShow Ren]] does it, only to realize that [[OhCrap a policeman is in the car and looking at him]].


[[folder: Real Life]]

* Joyriders and twoccers manage to hotwire cars with what seems to less-skilled onlookers like unfeasible ease and rapidity. It's partly due to the amount of practice they have and partly due to the petty-criminal trait of not caring about collateral damage, which often causes non-criminals to overestimate the difficulty of overcoming physical security measures.
* Some vehicles can be started by exploiting an engineering flaw. One such case is the Vauxhall Nova, which is done by removing the emergency light button, re-inserting it upside-down, and pressing it the start the ignition. This is demonstrated on Top Gear [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNdygguAMQA here]].