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A free fix should finally end Hyundai and Kia thefts

Viral challenge has led to car thefts nationwide.
2019 Hyundai Accent, 2019 hyundai accent
Posted at 6:00 AM, Mar 08, 2023

There is good news for owners of tens of thousands of Hyundai vehicles and Kias as the cars continue to be at a high risk of theft. A free solution is now on its way that the manufacturers say should stop the viral challenge that has led to thefts nationwide.

That comes as a relief to Brenda Downey and Bev Hammond, who volunteer each week at their local soup kitchen, but worry the Kias they drive could be gone when they are done with their shifts.

"It may get stolen, and it is the only vehicle I have," Downey said.

Stealing these vehicles became a social media trend in 2021 and 2022, with brazen car thieves posting videos of themselves stealing certain 2015 to 2019 models.

"It kind of makes you afraid to park them anywhere," Hammond said. "People will do anything anymore."

Certified mechanic Matt Overbeck explained to us last year that some models lack electronic immobilizers -- a theft prevention technology that's standard in modern cars.

"It's a two-part system," Overbeck said. "There's a transmitter built into the key or the key fob and then a receiver in the steering column typically. There's a handshake of sorts electronically, and without it, you cannot start a car."

The cars involved don't have that security feature.

Without it, the Highway Loss Data Institute says the vehicles are about twice as likely to be stolen compared to other vehicles of similar age.

New software should prevent steering column break-ins

This year, Hyundai and Kia developed theft deterrent software for millions of vehicles without an immobilizer. Even better, the software will be provided to vehicle owners free of charge, according to the NHTSA.

The update extends the length of the alarm from 30 seconds to a full minute.

And, most importantly, it requires the key to be in the ignition switch to turn the vehicle on.

Both companies will roll out software updates over the next several months. Check with your Kia or Hyundai dealer to see if you can get the repair or call the numbers in this NHTSA fact sheet.

Downey and Hammond say they're on the list for the fix but may have to wait a few more months.

"My dealer told me that for 2015, I am not recalled for it yet, but it will be fixed," Downey said.

In the meantime, if you are worried, you can contact your local police department to see if free steering wheel locks are available.

So you don't waste your money.


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