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How to keep your keyless car safe

It’s one of modern motoring’s cleverest features, but is keyless car technology opening up more problems for owners?

 

There’s something still rather futuristic, and certainly highly convenient, about walking up to your car, touching the door handle to open it, jumping inside and pushing a button on the dashboard to start the engine (or in the case of electric vehicles, to wake up the system). You haven’t once touched the car’s keys. No fumbling about in your pockets or wading through your handbag to find them. You still have a fob of some sort to operate your car, but you don’t physically have to take it out and use it. It’s all clever stuff and one of the fastest growing features on today’s modern cars as manufacturers vie with each other to keep up with latest trends and advances in equipment. But not having a key for your car can cause its own problems – certainly in the case of security, where crooks looking for easy pickings have contributed to a recent rise in the number of thefts of vehicles with no keys.

While the Covid pandemic and subsequent national lockdowns saw a drop in car crime, since the end of restrictions, the number of drive-offs has risen sharply again. The high-tech key fobs on a keyless car use a transmitter to unlock and start the vehicle, rather than a physical key, so it’s easy for thieves to use technology to ‘tap into’ the key’s signal, copy it and use it to their advantage. This practice, known as a ‘relay attack’, is responsible for a growing number of car thefts. And because this often involves ‘stealing’ the unlock signal from a device inside a house or building and transferring it to another device with which to open the car, many thefts take place in minutes, on owners’ driveways.

Nearly 50,000 vehicles were stolen in the UK in 2021, according to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and thousands of these were attributed to keyless car thefts. Keyless technology used to be reserved for more expensive, higher end cars but are becoming more commonplace across all models. That means that the majority of luxury, highly desirable models are likely to have keyless entry and go… and they are exactly the ones that are featuring on car gangs’ shopping lists.

It’s worrying and distressful for owners, and is also a great expense for the motor industry generally, including vehicle leasing companies and insurance organisations.

 

So what can you do to prevent it?

 

Keep your distance: When you’re not using them, store your keys away from the car, and well inside your house, away from doors and windows. That will make it harder for thieves to identify and pick up the device’s signal.

 

Block buster: Putting your keys in a biscuit tin or similar container that blocks the signal from seeking devices can work and there are specialist items you can buy, such as a Faraday pouch, which will do the job. The fridge can have a similar effect and putting your keys in the microwave oven has also been suggested, but don’t cook them by accident!

 

Switch off: Some key fobs can be temporarily disarmed when not in use. The car’s manual will explain how, or the dealer should be able to help.

 

Post haste: Locking your car away in the garage overnight is a top way to protect your asset, but if you can’t do that, physical deterrents such as a post or bollard, professionally fitted across the exit of your driveway, will go a long way towards putting would-be crooks off.

 

Doubling up: If you own two cars, and one of them needs keys to open it, park that one behind the keyless model.

 

Lock and go: A visible steering wheel lock, a wheel clamp over one of the car’s wheels or a security device that protects the vehicle’s pedals are all useful ideas in the fight against crime.

 

Make tracks: Most cars now have alarms and immobilisers fitted, but these can be overcome. It’s worth considering a tracking device to make things easier for the police if your pride and joy does go missing.

Interested in finding out more?