If you are working or living in an area where there is a significant terrorist threat or if you are someone who is in an at-risk category or may be specifically targeted you should consider conducting a vehicle search for possible improvised explosive devices (IEDs) anytime your vehicle is parked where it is accessible and is unattended.
I do not suggest that most people need to incorporate this technique into their personal security program. Its a very specific response to a particular type of threat but those who are operating in high-risk areas where booby-trapping of vehicles occurs and those who may be targeted for assassination should utilize this technique.
There is a lot of material available on this subject and it is taught in many executive protection and security driving courses. If you are looking for a more detailed discussion of vehicle search techniques a very good resource is “Survival Driving: Staying Alive on the World’s Most Dangerous Roads” by Robert Deatherage.
I will give a much briefer version here that nonetheless provides a good starting point.
You should begin the search with a walk-around and a check of all external areas of the vehicle. A flashlight will be useful for this. The wheel wells, undercarriage of the vehicle, bumpers, etc. should be checked. Additionally you should look for any signs of forced entry or tampering with the vehicle.
The hood and engine compartment should be checked next. You may want to weigh the hood down with something as you open it to control the speed with which it rises. Check for any wires, fishing line, etc. running from the hood to the engine compartment. Once open check around the engine. Be familiar with the engine compartment so you can better notice something out of place.
After checking the engine compartment move on to the trunk. As with the hood weigh it down to control the speed as ot opens and check for tripwires connected to the trunk lid. Check the interior to include the tool compartment, etc.
Once the trunk has been checked begin the interior search by first looking through the windows for anything out of place. As a general rule its best to reduce clutter in the vehicle to facilitate detecting any potential threat.
Enter the vehicle cautiously – preferably using the least used door (such as one of the rear passenger doors). Check for tripwires when opening the door as you did with the hood and trunk. Once inside check all compartments, underseats and under mats.
Suffice to say if you find a suspicious item don’t attempt to detach or disarm it yourself – even if it appears to be a simple device there may be hidden anti-handling measures. Call the local authorities or your security point of contact to arrange for an explosive ordnance disposal team response.
Remember however that if there is an explosive device in the vehicle — it was more than likely placed in an easily accessible place. The pictures above and to the right show a simple device rigged in a vehicle in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. This is just a fragmentation grenade taped to the undercarriage of the vehicle with a wire connecting the pin of the grenade to the wheel. When the vehicle is started and the wheels begin to move the pin on the grenade will be pulled and the grenade will detonate seconds later.