Homeowners: You probably take steps to protect against robbery. Maybe you have a barking dog, an alarm system and security plants . But is your garage leaving you vulnerable?

Many people overlook their garage when they take home security measures, and thieves know this. Here’s why you should take garage security seriously.

For one, its contents are valuable, even if you don’t have high-end items. Bikes, tools, and sporting equipment add up. More important, if you have an attached garage, entering it potentially means gaining access to the rest of your home. If your garage is a separate building, it could be broken into while you’re home without you even knowing it.

Related: How to Secure Your Home Against Burglars

Read on for some smart ways to secure your garage and curtail risks to your family and property.

Extend your home security system: alarm the garage door

If you have a home security system, don’t forget to alarm the garage door. Many people leave the garage door un-alarmed through oversight or to avoid the additional hassle. With the right system though, you can easily add the garage door into your protection plan with a simple entry sensor.

If you don’t have an alarm system or you want to avoid pricey additions to a pre-existing set-up, consider a standalone door monitoring system. These wall-mounted devices sync to your smartphone via an app, so you don’t have to worry whether or not someone left the garage door open. The app will tell you if they did, and alert you about suspicious activity.

Obscure the contents

What’s the easiest way to tell if anyone’s home? Often, it’s by seeing a car in the driveway – or the garage. To an intruder, an empty garage is a strong indication that no adults are present. Similarly, windows and open doors make it easier for thieves to vet your valuables. Make things harder for them by obscuring the contents of your garage.

Best practices include keeping the door closed as much as possible and covering windows so they don’t offer a 24/7 view. You can do this with window treatments like blinds or curtains, or you can obscure the view but let light in with translucent contact paper.

Put the door on a timer

If there are forgetful people in your household, consider getting an automatic garage door closer that operates on a timer. After a pre-programmed number of minutes, the door will automatically shut.

Related: 8 Tips for Preventing Automatic Garage Door Disasters

Add motion-sensing lights

Additionally, outdoor motion-sensing lights are an easy deterrent for unwanted guests. These lights send out infrared waves that detect moving objects, especially warm ones like cars, animals and people. By flooding would-be burglars with light, you’re blowing their cover and also preventing them from seeing into darker spaces.

Rethink your garage door remote

If you leave your remote door opener in your car and your car is broken into, the burglar can now open your garage with the click of a button. A better option is to use a keychain remote instead of traditional visor-mounted versions.

Also, avoid old technologies that can easily be compromised. Older garage door remotes use the same code signal every time. An easy-to-obtain device called a “code grabber” can use this code to open your garage on command. Update your system to one that uses “rolling code” technology, such as this one from Skylink, which provides a new code with every use.

Or, for truly smart homes, choose one of the new door opener systems that operate securely via smartphone app, in conjunction with your home’s wireless Internet network.

Related: What to Do (and Not Do) if You're Home During a Robbery

Shore up the door

No matter the lock or the code, a flimsy door offers little break-in protection. A strong adult may be able to kick in a weak door, with little noise. When you assess your current door, consider its materials, age and style. In general, the thicker the door, the more secure it is. Metal is generally stronger than wood, but thin, rusting metal will be less reliable than a thick wooden one in good condition.

Inspect wood doors for rot or warping, which causes weakness, and metal doors for rust. Know that older fiberglass can break down and get brittle with UV exposure, even if it appears whole. Check and replace any damaged weather stripping and/or surrounding hardware. If the lock or latch is failing or weak, it can easily be compromised.

Other structural details can also affect your door’s security. Does it have windows? Can they be broken? If so, replace them or add bars. Pay attention to the opening mechanisms. Traditional vertically opening roller doors are generally more secure than gate-style doors, since they can be pried in only one direction. Consider getting a door without a handle, which can aid potential thieves with their prying.

Finally, in case a robber does get into your garage, be sure to always keep the door between your garage and house locked. It might deter a robber who’s in a hurry.

Michael Franco is a science and technology writer who secretly wishes he was an astronaut. His work has appeared in CNET, HowStuffWorks.com and Discover Magazine.