With the luxury car market booming, its time to brush up on your car security. Don’t become a victim and make sure you know the best ways to keep your car safe and secure.
Its security-conscious users may have been mocked as old-fashioned and out-of-date, but the simple steering lock is making a comeback as the best way to protect your car.
The gadget, which was popular in the late 1980s and early 90s, had been thought redundant in a world of on-board computers and vehicle security systems.
But police in London have said the simple technique of locking a bar to your steering wheel is one the best ways to outwit today’s sophisticated car thieves.
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Police say old-fashioning steering locks are the best way to beat technologically-savvy car thieves
Officers in the wealthy borough of Kensington and Chelsea have alerted drivers of expensive supercars and 4x4s that criminals have worked out how to bypass their in-built alarms.
To reduce the chance of these luxury cars being stolen, the Metropolitan Police sent letters to owners urging them to go back to basics.
The letter warns specific motorists their vehicle ‘may be at heightened risk of being stolen’.
It adds: ‘Expensive vehicles, including Range Rovers, Land Rovers and BMW X5 series and X6 series, in particular have been targeted.
HOW DO MODERN THIEVES USE IN-CAR COMPUTERS TO STEAL?
1. Pick out luxury car that uses an RF fob.
2. Get inside the car without triggering the alarm – or simply smash window.
3. Press start/stop button on dashboard.
4. Plug small computer device into the On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) port.
5. Program new key fob, using the settings to toggle car make, e.g. Audi, BMW, etc.
6. Add new chip to key fob, which after a few seconds is activated to respond to car.
7. Press start/stop button again and car engine will start.
‘Having gained access, any vehicle security systems have been bypassed and the vehicle in most cases driven away.
‘It is recommended therefore that you consider additional means of securing your vehicle such as through the use of a simple steering wheel or gear stick lock, which are effective in preventing theft of your vehicle.’
One motorist, who was sent the Met Police letter, has expressed shock that his expensive cars offer insufficient protection.
Simon Gregg, a property developer who owns two Range Rovers, said: ‘Cars without keys are particularly vulnerable and all new Range Rovers have keyless go.
‘One person I have spoken to says 26 Range Rovers have been stolen in recent months from central London.
Resdients in exclusive parts of London, such as Chelsea (pictured) are said to be most at risk from thieves
The BMW X5, which start at around £45,000, was one of the cars highlighted as at risk by the Met Police
‘I know a BMW X5 was stolen on my road recently and a friend had their Land Rover Discovery stolen. Both were keyless. Manufacturers have a problem with this crime, but they are not bothering to tell people.
‘It has got to the point now that people are going to Halfords and buying a steering lock because it will act as a better deterrent.’
In recent years, car thieves have become more and more audacious, smashing non-alarmed car windows and then connecting a special device to the vehicle’s diagnostic system.
SIMPLE TECHNOLOGY – WHO INVENTED THE STEERING LOCK?
One of the first steering locks was called ‘The Club’ and was invented by American James E Winner in 1986.
It is believed Mr Winner got the idea from his time serving in the Korean War, when he and fellow soldiers were told to secure vehicles’ steering wheels with chains.
His traditional lock was made of two bars, each with a hook to attach to the steering wheel.
An early television advert for the device showed a would-be thief hammering at the bar for several minutes without managing to dislodge it.
The firm’s slogan was: ‘If you can’t steer it, you can’t steal it.’
They then reprogramme a blank key and it immediately works on the car – allowing them to drive away without any alarms going off.
It is estimated almost half the cars stolen in London use keyless technology.
Land Rover yesterday acknowledged that premium cars were being stolen but defended its security systems.
A statement from the manufacturer said: ‘The current Land Rover line-up continues to meet the insurance industry requirements as tested and agreed with relevant insurance bodies.
‘Nevertheless, the company has taken this issue very seriously and our engineering teams have been working in collaboration with insurance bodies and police forces to fully understand the risks.
‘It is however important to remember that this is an industry-wide issue.’