Millions of Hyundai and Kia vehicles could easily be stolen—and there were thousands—because of a decision not to install engine immobilizers when they were built.
Popular TikTok videos have challenged people to attempt to steal a car like this, leading to legal and financial trouble for vehicle owners and both motorists.
Four million Hyundai vehicles — affected by Elantras, Sonatas, and Centers — can get a new software fix that introduces an immobilizer workaround starting today. Other affected Hyundais and Kias will be found in the coming months.
Millions of Hyundai owners are about to visit their local Hyundai dealership thanks to some TikTok videos.
The backstory, if you don’t remember, is that someone realized that some older Kia and Hyundai models that were built with a standard key starter, and therefore not a push button starter, were extremely easy to steal and created TikTok ” Kia Challenge” to encourage others to try it. The challenge started in Milwaukee before spreading to other parts of the US and forcing Hyundai and Kia to respond.
Hyundai began installing an engine immobilizer in all of its vehicles in November 2021. The company’s first major solution for current owners was a $170 security kit with an alarm and one critical component that both motorists did not install in the cars first: kill switch. The City of Seattle sued the automakers earlier this year, accusing them of failing to install adequate anti-theft technology, specifically that immobilizer, in the affected vehicles. Kia did not offer the security equipment but joined Hyundai in providing steering wheel locks at no cost to any affected owners in partnership with local law enforcement agencies.
Today, Kia and Hyundai announced a free software-based fix for their thief magnets. Kia said the new security enhancement software will “restrict unauthorized operation of vehicle ignition systems on certain models not equipped with an immobilizer.” For its part, Hyundai said the upgrade makes it so that a key fob is required to deactivate the kill switch. Without the repair, the car could be yours once you’ve broken the windows. Hyundai said it would take less than an hour for dealers to install. As a bonus for those would-be window smashers, all stationary vehicles “will be affixed with window decals to alert potential thieves that the vehicle is equipped with enhanced anti-theft technology,” Hyundai said.
Not all Hyundais of the 2011 to 2022 model year without an engine will be able to accommodate the software upgrade. We hope the owners of these vehicles enjoy their steering wheel locks.
Kia said its software would be available in the coming months. Kia owners should visit the Kia Owner Portal or call 800-333-4542 to see if their vehicle is eligible for the repair.
Hyundai has a two-phase release schedule for the new software fix, starting with the 2017-2020 Elantra model years, the 2015 to 2019 Sonata and the 2020 and 2021 Center (that’s the 2020 Center pictured at the top). Hyundai said this category includes nearly four million vehicles for its best-selling models. Repairs for these vehicles are available starting today. Software for other affected models will be available in June. Hyundai owners should visit the Hyundai Anti-Theft website (quite a name) to set up a repair, and the automaker is also reaching out to affected owners.
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