Steering wheel locks make a comeback as car thieves outsmart digital security systems

Anti-Theft Car Steering Wheel Lock. Black red colors

Since many car thieves are aware of how scarce resources are, they are becoming more and more aggressive and willing to take a chance.

The steering wheel lock, a traditional piece of equipment, is seeing a return in popularity despite criminals being increasingly skilled at getting through digital security systems in modern cars. 

Shooting up in popularity is the use of electric scanners and relays by thieves to gain access to cars and start their engines. However, the physical obstruction of the steering lock remains an effective deterrent.

Trying to defeat a strong security device like a steering wheel lock is too time-consuming for thieves, and it increases their chances of being caught.

The prices for steering locks range from £14.99 for a basic Halford’s own-brand single-bar lock to £145 for a Thatcham-approved Disklok.

Recent crime statistics showed that car theft has increased by nearly a third as the cost of living crisis deepens. 

More than 72,000 vehicles were reported stolen between September 2021 and the same month in 2022 (a 29% rise), according to the Office for National Statistics. 

The figures also revealed a 14% increase in vehicle crime, including theft of items from inside cars and vans, with the popular Ford Fiesta family hatchback topping the list of most stolen cars.

A tactic known as “smash and grab” is often used on old vehicles; however, modern cars are more likely to be stolen by gangs using keyless technology.

Chief executive of car dealer franchise Bristol Street Motors, part of the Vertu Motors group, Robert Forrester, said: “Searches on Google for steering wheel locks are up a staggering 83 per cent compared to this time last year. A steering wheel lock is well worth the investment. These devices may remind drivers of decades gone by, but they are in fact one of the most effective deterrents to have in your car.  

“Not only are they off-putting to thieves looking for an easy mark, but a good quality lock is pretty much impossible to forcibly remove.”

Clive Wain, head of police liaison at car security firm Tracker, said: “Criminals continue to find ways around new security technology, which is why we always encourage motorists to use traditional security deterrents such as crook locks and wheel clamps to deter the criminals and protect their vehicles.”

According to Tracker, keyless car theft and ‘relay attacks” have increased from 80% of its recovered stolen vehicles in 2017 to 93% in 2022.

It stresses: “Always protect your key fob. Keyless car theft works through a relay-style electronic device tricking your key fob signal into thinking the key is near to the car and then the device can assume all key fob power.

“To prevent this, keep the key — and the spare, too — away from where the vehicle is kept when not in use, and block the signal by keeping the key fob in a closed tin or Faraday bag.”

1 thought on “Steering wheel locks make a comeback as car thieves outsmart digital security systems”

  1. Policing Through

    The Faraday bag is good advice which I give to all my students, but great care must be taken to ensure that the fob does not become covered by the bag when the car is in use or it will stop. Better advice is to simply buy a car with a key. If the key has a transponder chip, then even smashing the ignition lock will not allow the car to be started. There is a considerable case for going back to older, more reliable technology.

    I am restoring a very early Discover 1. It will have a hidden cut out switch, a visible steering lock and all the glass has been covered in high impact laminate, making is very much harder to break in. I am two minds about fitting an alarm.

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