The Old-School Club May Be the Best Answer to TikTok-Inspired Car Thefts

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

Beyond infecting the minds of young people and potentially opening dangerous back-door data access to Americans’ phones, TikTok has also gifted the world with the knowledge of how to steal older Hyundai and Kia models easily. The problem has gotten so bad that some insurers won’t cover the cars, and owners have been left scrambling for a fix. The Korean automakers have a few ideas, including issuing free steering wheel locks and upgrading the anti-theft software on millions of vehicles.

Several Hyundai and Kia models are vulnerable to the issue, and some municipalities have reported that the majority of stolen vehicles come from one of the manufacturers. To help prevent thefts, Hyundai Motor Company is giving owners steering wheel locks, which make the cars harder to steal. While they’re not foolproof, the locks can create enough of a deterrent to make thieves look elsewhere.

Hyundai and Kia are issuing software upgrades to patch some of the vulnerabilities that allow the TikTok-inspired thefts, and said they had covered one million vehicles so far. Another three million vehicles can receive the update in the future, and the automakers said they would reimburse owners for steering wheel locks they’ve already purchased. 

Without an immobilizer, thieves can steal the vehicles by removing the plastic steering column covers and inserting a USB cable. The videos went viral on TikTok, amassing millions of views and enlightening would-be car thieves to a new honeypot. Stealing a Hyundai or Kia with this method is so easy that police say thieves can get into the vehicle and drive off in under 30 seconds.

[Image: Hyundai]

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Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

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2 of 29 comments
  • Thehyundaigarage Thehyundaigarage on Apr 03, 2023

    I wonder how much longer it’s going to be before TikTok videos about all the other key start vehicles you can steal come out. Many brands lack immobilizers, not just Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

    It’s stupid that Hyundai and Kia didn’t equip key start models with immobilizers, but other brands have done so too.

    When we install remote starters, the application guides list “Canadian market” or “US market” vehicles, as it’s not legally required to be there for the US. Hyundais, Kias and certain Toyotas and Nissans lack immobilizers.

    Here in Canada, no immobilizer from factory=you don’t get to sell your cars here..

    I guess $20 in savings per car in parts savings ads up pretty quick

  • Zipper69 Zipper69 on Apr 04, 2023

    2017 Sportage

  • Lou_BC Maybe if I ever buy a new car or CUV
  • Lou_BC How about telling China and Mexico, we'll accept 1 EV for every illegal you take off our hands ;)
  • Analoggrotto The original Tassos was likely conceived in one of these.
  • Lorenzo The unspoken killer is that batteries can't be repaired after a fender-bender and the cars are totaled by insurance companies. Very quickly, insurance premiums will be bigger than the the monthly payment, killing all sales. People will be snapping up all the clunkers Tim Healey can find.
  • Lorenzo Massachusetts - with the start/finish line at the tip of Cape Cod.