Oftentimes, I find myself sucked into an endless cycle of online prank videos. Maybe you can relate (because who doesn’t love a good prank?). Before you know it, you’ve watched hours of unsuspecting victims deal with toothpaste-filled Oreos, plastic-wrapped toilet bowls, and dye-switched hair color boxes.
There’s a time and place for pranks, but sometimes it goes too far. And when cars are involved in the tomfoolery, you can end up with physical damage to your car … or worse. Here’s what to do if you’re the victim of one of these car pranks.
The dangers of 5 popular car pranks
1. Stolen tires
If you return to your parking spot and see your car propped up on cinder blocks without tires, you’ll probably panic, thinking your tires were stolen. While that might be the case, this is also a common prank and your mischievous friends might be responsible.
Raising anyone’s car on concrete or cinder blocks requires removing at least one of the vehicle’s tires. If jacking up the car isn’t done appropriately, the car might slide off the blocks. This could happen while it’s being propped up or when the tires are being reattached afterward. Concrete blocks aren’t reliable enough to support the weight of a car. And if the car’s parked on warm asphalt, wet surface, or soil, things can really go awry. Someone could even end up in the hospital. Definitely not worth the risk for a few laughs.
If you’re the victim: If you don’t think anyone was pranking you, call the police immediately. If a friend breaks out of hiding and laughs in your face, punch them immediately. (Just kidding, violence is never the answer.) To properly reattach your tires, follow the steps in your owner’s manual. And if you don’t know a lug nut from a wheel stud, consult a professional mechanic.
2. Broken car window
Staging a smashed car window is another prankster practice. This involves someone accessing your car, rolling down the window, and leaving glass shards under the door and on the seats, making it look like the car window was broken. The guilty party watches the unsuspecting driver freak out, thinking that the window’s broken and something was stolen from the car.
If neither of those things are true, you’ve been pranked. While your so-called friends laugh, you’re left wondering how to clean up the mess. Handling broken glass is very dangerous and should never be taken lightly.
If you’re the victim: Depending on the type of glass, some pieces could be invisible to the naked eye. Wear protective gloves, use tongs or tweezers to pick up large pieces, and apply heavy-duty tape or a wet paper towel to the seats to retrieve the remaining glass. Then figure out who had keys to your car or kick yourself for not locking the door.
(And it’s never a bad idea to make sure you’re covered just in case someone really does break into your car.)
3. Startling noises
Attaching trick exhaust whistles, tying noisy tin cans to the bumper, turning the radio volume way up before the car starts, or simply jumping out from the backseat and yelling “Boo!” — the list goes on. Any noise that might startle the driver can lead to less attention on the road. The driver might swerve, slam on the brakes, or even cause an accident. And scaring someone with a health condition could land them in the hospital.
If you’re the victim: If you’re a particularly jumpy person, you might be an easy target. If alarmed, stay calm, keep both hands on the wheel, and don’t take your eyes off the road. Pull over and turn on your hazard lights while you address the situation and calm down.
4. Egging or bologna-ing
No, it’s not the latest fad diet (gross). Throwing raw eggs at cars is an act loved by neighborhood hooligans everywhere. While it might seem harmless, damage can result from broken eggs. Cracked eggshells exploding on impact can cause surface scratches, the gooey insides can eat away surface paint, and the sun’ll only expedite the damaging process.
Another thing left on cars is bologna. There are mixed reports on whether sitting bologna actually damages car paint or not. Either way, I don’t recommend finding out.
While some might call these “pranks,” vehicle damage could be classified as vandalism. And anyone accused may be subject to legal action.
If you’re the victim: Your friends probably aren’t behind this act (unless your friends are the worst). Call the nonemergency police number to report any acts of vandalism.
5. Smart-car tipping
The typical car weighs between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds. That makes smart cars, weighing less than 2,000 pounds, easy targets for being tipped over. The trend of turning over these lighter cars hit San Francisco, California, in early 2014 and it’s also been reported in Canada and Amsterdam.
This prank puts the prankers themselves in danger. Tilting cars on their side could cause serious injuries. And car damage is likely, from severe scratching and dents to busted windows and torn bumpers. The car might even roll over more than the vandals intend, resulting in more damages.
If you’re the victim: Call the police ASAP. The criminals might still be out there, looking for other tiny cars to topple.
Before jerky friends, neighborhood kids, or full-time pranksters end up causing damage to your car or property, make sure your car is protected. Get a quote from Esurance.
While you’re at it, make sure you’re financially protected as well — here’s how to avoid common insurance scams.