The best steering wheel locks

How to fight against keyless car theft? Go low-tech.

best steering wheel locks

by Chris Williams |

There’s that joke emerging that if you want a modern anti-theft device, all you need is a car with a manual gearbox. All over our manicured urban jungle, we hear dreary four-pot engines revving with clutches still engaged followed by a chirp of rubber, so there is likely growing truth to that.

However, the rise of the digital age has meant the new menace of car thieves using hi-tech relay techniques to steal keyless cars is not just looming, but striking with ever-increasing force.

This calls the humble steering wheel lock into battle once more. A Bruce Willis approach to cyber-attacks. Granted, Bruce may not be able to completely stop determined car thieves from taking off with your beloved mechanical friend, but a solid steering wheel lock is a good deterrent and will add time to a theft.

What is a relay attack?

Only keyless cars are subject to a relay attack. This is when a pair of miscreants use devices to relay signals from the car to the car’s remote. One of the rascals stands near the car with their relay device and sends that signal on to the other scoundrel who stands near the house, or wherever the car remote is. They then use their device to pass the signal on again to the remote.

When the remote picks up the signal, it responds and unlocks the car, like it normally would. This, of course, applies to modern vans, too. Like Strictly on the telly, these relay car thefts can be quite painful to watch on YouTube. And if you look them up for yourself, you’ll see they don’t take long.

What to do about it?

It’s a worrying topic, certainly as we simultaneously see spikes in car crime and move closer towards autonomous vehicles. The bureaucrats are making vague mooing noises about legislation, and car manufacturers are coming up with solutions. For example, Ford has introduced a motion-sensing key fob that falls into sleep mode after 40 seconds without movement and therefore will not interact with relay signals.

Numerous tests have been conducted on how susceptible certain keyless cars are to steal. Thatcham Research (not a research centre on Mrs Thatcher) tests keyless cars’ ability to withstand relay attacks, along with standard security features including alarms and immobilisers. It publishes its results for anyone to see. So if, for example, you have a Land Rover Discovery Sport, Skoda Superb, or a Toyota Supra, you can have more confidence, because these cars scored top marks for security and passed the relay attack test. The Tesla Model 3 passed the relay attack test too, but scored basic marks for traditional security features. Those that failed Thatcham’s relay attack test include the Subaru Forester, Mazda 3, and Volvo V60.

And now we return to the steering wheel lock. It simply provides another hurdle that any potential car thief has to encounter. Luckily, even great quality ones aren’t expensive these days. Who knows, maybe it’ll pay for itself in the potential deduction off your car insurance premium, if not dissuade car thieves entirely.

RFID Pouches

There is a simple way of blocking relay signals from car thieves. All you need to do is store your key fob in a pouch with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). It’s the same tech that protects your phones, passport, and payWave cards from being scanned and scammed.

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