How Do Vehicle Trackers Work?

Keeping tabs on your vehicle’s whereabouts offers peace of mind and a sense of security – which is where vehicle trackers come in, playing a crucial role in remote monitoring and theft recovery.  Trackers are sophisticated devices that use GPS technology to monitor and report the location of a vehicle and have become an essential tool for businesses and individuals.

Along with security, owners and businesses also track their vehicles for efficiency and logistical reasons. At Tracker Team they have reported a surge in demand for trackers as there was a 19% increase in car thefts.


The Power of GPS


At the heart of every vehicle tracker lies the Global Positioning System (GPS). This network of satellites orbits the Earth and continuously transmits signals that the tracker receives. By analysing the signal strength, the tracker can pinpoint its exact location in latitude and longitude coordinates.  

However, using GPS information alone isn’t always enough for real-time tracking.


Trackers Use Mobile Phone Networks


Some vehicle trackers also include mobile phone network connectivity by using an embedded SIM card – just like the one in our smartphones. This enables real-time tracking as the unit will transmit its GPS location data to a central server or a smartphone app. Essentially, owners or businesses can see the vehicle’s location using an internet connection.


What is in a Vehicle Tracker?


Vehicle trackers are compact devices that are discreetly installed within a vehicle. There is a surprising amount of technology within the casing, with the components including:

  • GPS receiver: This module picks up signals from GPS satellites and calculates the tracker’s location
  • Mobile phone modem: Responsible for connecting to mobile phone networks and transmitting data 
  • Antenna: Needed for communication between the GPS receiver, modem, and the outside world
  • Processing unit: The brain of the tracker, it interprets data from the GPS receiver and manages communication with the mobile phone network
  • Power source: Most trackers connect to the vehicle’s battery for continuous operation, but some have a backup battery for short-term functionality

Along with the hardware, vehicle trackers also rely on sophisticated software. It’s this that processes the raw location data from the GPS receiver and formats it for transmission via the mobile phone network. 

This software may also offer features like geofencing to send alerts when the vehicle enters or exits a designated area and historical route tracking.


Installing a Vehicle Tracker

You will need a qualified technician – preferably at a Thatcham-approved centre to discreetly place the device in the vehicle. After installation, the tracker is configured to work with a mobile phone network and linked to the user’s tracker account. Once set up, using a vehicle tracker is straightforward.

You simply log in to the mobile app or web interface to view your vehicle’s location in real-time or access historical tracking data.


Extra Tracker Features For Security


Modern vehicle trackers offer more than just location tracking and some models come with features like:

  • Engine immobilisation: Allows remote disabling of the engine in case of theft, potentially deterring criminals and helping recovery
  • Fuel level monitoring: Offers data on fuel consumption
  • Diagnostic reports: Real-time or historical data on vehicle health, to help with preventative maintenance.

These features can boost the overall security and functionality of your vehicle.


Why Fit a Vehicle Tracker?


Vehicle trackers offer a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Theft recovery: Should your vehicle be stolen; real-time tracking can increase the chances of recovering your car or van
  • Improved fleet management: Businesses with delivery vehicles or large fleets can benefit from tracking technology to optimise routes, monitor driver behaviour and ensure efficient operations 
  • Peace of mind for parents: Knowing the location of your teenager’s car can provide much-needed peace of mind, especially for new drivers
  • Enhanced roadside assistance: In case of a breakdown, trackers with roadside assistance features can automatically send an alert to a service provider, pinpointing your location for faster assistance


How to Choose a Vehicle Tracker


There’s a wide variety of vehicle trackers available and choosing the right one depends on your specific needs and budget. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Features: Do you need basic tracking or extra functionalities like engine immobilisation or fuel monitoring?
  • Real-time vs data logging: Do you require constant updates or is data logging sufficient? 
  • Mobile phone network coverage: Ensure the tracker operates on a mobile phone network with reliable coverage in your area
  • Subscription fees: Many trackers require a monthly subscription fee for the mobile phone network access and use of the tracking software 
  • Installation: Use professional installation for optimal functionality and to avoid tampering with your car’s electrical system


Understanding How Vehicle Trackers Work


Vehicle trackers are powerful tools that leverage GPS and mobile phone technology to keep you connected to your vehicle. Understanding how they work helps you to make informed decisions about choosing and using a tracker. The use of trackers is growing in popularity as a defence against theft, but other attractions such as route optimisation are helping.