How to prevent keyless car theft

by Product Review Lad | Last Updated: November 9, 2020

What is keyless car theft

Keyless car theft is a crime also known as relay theft and it’s only an issue for cars that operate using a keyless vehicle entry. When thieves target your vehicle they use two electronic signal relay devices, one is an amplifier and the other a transmitter. Both are readily available to purchase over the internet making the crime even easier.

Electronic signal relay devices can then be used to identify if a vehicle uses a keyless entry feature. The transmitter is then located next to the target vehicle while the relay amplifier is walked around the perimeter of the house. If the amplifier picks up a signal from the vehicle’s key, it strengthens the signal and the transmitter has a significantly greater chance of picking up the signal and unlocking the car.

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What vehicles are vulnerable to keyless car theft

During 2018 in the USA there were approximately 17 million cars sold, over half of these vehicles have keyless ignition as standard. The German General Automobile Club tested 237 keyless entry models of cars and found that 230 were easily tricked into thinking the key was in range, meaning they could be unlocked and started. A further 4 could be unlocked or started meaning only three have no security faults in the keyless entry/start design. The three vehicles all come from Jaguar Land Rover.

To read more from the German General Automotive Clubs keyless entries testing click here.

This video shows how quick and simple it is for a keyless entry car to be stolen.

What is keyless entry

Keyless entry allows you to unlock your car without having to press any buttons on your key. The car automatically senses when your key is near the vehicle an unlocks it.

How to stop keyless car theft

There are many ways to help prevent your vehicle from being stolen. Most come in the form of aftermarket security products, but some can be done without an additional purchase.

Disable the keyless entry

Some models of vehicles have the option to disable the keyless entry/start feature. If you switch the feature off, the risk of relay attack is removed. The best way to find out if you can disable keyless entry is to check the vehicle manual or contact the dealer or manufacturer. If your vehicle can have this feature disabled and you’re happy to have it disabled then your problem is solved. Unfortunately, not all cars can disable the feature and not everyone wants to have it disabled, if this applies to you, several alternate solutions are listed below.

Where possible park in a garage

This is one of the simplest ways to help prevent theft but doesn’t remove the threat. The benefit to parking in a garage is the removal of visibility of the vehicle as well as adding another barrier for thieves to get around in order to steal the car. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for everyone.

Use aftermarket security products

There are many aftermarket security products that can be used to help prevent theft. You can use devices inside or outside of the vehicle, products include:

Vehicle tracking devices

Trackers use GPS to locate the whereabouts of a vehicle, although some use cellular networks or radio frequency identification. The tracker receives signals from three or more GPS satellites which all have known positions. When each signal is received, the tracker processes the data and works out its distance from each satellite. A process called trilateration is then used to determine the position of a vehicle, using the known distance from each satellite.

Trilateration explains trilateration saying “If you know how far away you are from satellite A, then you know you must be located somewhere on the red circle. If you do the same for satellites B and C, you can work out your location by seeing where the three circles intersect. This is just what your GPS receiver does, although it uses overlapping spheres rather than circles.

Tracking devices are either passive or active. Passive tracking monitors a vehicle’s location, speed, and direction but only download data when requested or in a set location. Whereas active tracking gives real-time data no matter the location of the car, unless in areas of no signal. Active systems are typically more expensive and sometimes require a monthly subscription fee.

The power source for vehicle trackers can vary, but there are three usual types:

As a safety feature, it is advisable to avoid cigarette lighter powered tracking devices as these are very simple to locate and switch off by any criminal, once unplugged it becomes useless. Any tracking devices which are powered through the on-board diagnostics are typically much more concealed, hence less visible and more effective. Battery-powered trackers are the most effective and discreet of all trackers, as they can be positioned almost anywhere around a vehicle. Unfortunately, this type is typically more expensive.

Negatives of vehicle tracking devices

The main negative of these types of devices is if they’ve found they can be removed and you lose the tracking ability. Most also come with a yearly or monthly subscription fee which typically varies between $7-40 dollars per month.

Best GPS Tracker for vehicles

Vyncs offers a great GPS tracker which can be further optimized if you wish. They offer real-time tracking for over 220 countries worldwide. The purchase price is a little more expensive than some competitors. But the yearly renewal fees are low and the first year is included with the price. This GPS tracker is powered through the onboard diagnostics (OBD) which is easy to plug into. If you’re unsure how there is probably a YouTube video on how to plug into your car models OBD.