2019 statistics from vehicle tracking solutions company Tracker showed that 92% of stolen cars recovered were keyless entry models. These thefts are known as ‘relay attacks’ and can be easily done if you don’t take the necessary preventative action to stop potential thieves dead in their tracks.

Discover how to protect your keyless entry car from being pinched with this detailed guide.

Ways to prevent keyless car theft

Unlike standard cars where access without raising the alarm requires the key, keyless entry models can be ‘tricked’ into thinking a key is present through a transmitter and receiver device.

If your car’s fob isn’t stored safely, then it can be very easy for a pair of opportune thieves to pick up the key’s radio frequency signal, without having to break into your house. Luckily, however, there are many ways in which you can make it extremely difficult for them to do this and protect your motor.

Here are some ways you can easily protect your keyless entry car.

1. Put your keys in a blocking pouch

A blocking pouch, or 'Faraday bag' as it’s also known, is an affordable way to prevent remote access to your key fob. The pouch is lined with a metallic material that isolates the fob’s radio frequency and prevents its transmission to relay devices used by car thieves. All you need to do is put your key in the bag, close it up and Bob’s your uncle!

Blocking pouches are universal and fit the vast majority of key fobs, but it’s important to make sure that the whole key is covered for them to work successfully. They can be found both online and in autocentres and they don’t break the bank, with prices around £5 each.

2. Turn off keyless entry on your fob

Most models which come with a keyless fob can have the wireless signal manually turned off. This is a sure fire way to prevent car theft because you don’t need to worry about anyone intercepting the signal.

Turning the signal off is different for each vehicle, but you should be able to find out how inside the car’s manual. If you can’t find the relevant information in the manual you should contact the manufacturer if you own the vehicle, or your provider if it’s a lease car.

For Ford’s MyKey keyless entry system, for example, you can do this inside the vehicle by going into its settings on the dashboard, selecting ‘alarm system’ and then deselecting 'KeyFree'.

3. Steering wheel lock or alarm

Although wheel locks can be seen as a thing of the past, mechanical devices such as these can be useful as thieves may rely on digital tools when planning on stealing a car.

As well as making it harder for your car to be stolen, wheel locks are also an obvious deterrent because of their size and (sometimes) colour. To top it off, they are affordable too at around only £20 for a standard one.

An alternative to a steering wheel lock is fitting a car alarm. These are a bit more complex as they involve removing panels and wiring through the firewall to connect the alarm and siren – but most autocentres should be able to fit third-party alarms on your behalf.

Fitting a steering wheel lock or alarm may also have the added benefit of reducing your car insurance premiums too.

Remember: if you’re currently leasing your car, you need to look for prior approval from your provider when shopping for these as it could be in breach of your contract.

4. Consider outdoor motion detectors/CCTV

If you’re not parking your car in a secure garage, but instead rely on a driveway, then it’s worthwhile having motion sensor lightning or outdoor CCTV fitted.

Lighting can be a simple but effective deterrent to potential thieves. Not only will their actions be more visible, it’s also likely to alert you to their presence meaning you can take action and call the police.

Likewise CCTV can also be very effective. Most quality cameras come with both night vision and HD footage providing a clear account of what happened. Plus they can often be fitted somewhere subtle which won’t be seen by potential thieves, allowing you to capture any attempt to steal your car which can then be sent to the police.

5. Store keys away from entry points

As key fobs generally have a range of between 5-20 metres on average, storing your keys as far away as possible from entry points could make it harder for thieves to pick up their signal.

This is because the method for relay theft involves a thief standing close to the house with a device to try and transmit the relayed signal from your key to an accomplice’s device. So, by keeping the key as far away from doors and windows and in a Faraday Bag, you’re making it nigh on impossible for thieves to receive the signal.

Remember: take the same approach with any spare keys too, as thieves only need to pick up one signal to gain access to your car.

6. Position your car securely

Ideally, if you can, park your car in a secure garage where it’s difficult to get to in the first place. However, If you don’t have this access, you can still position your vehicle somewhere which is as close to your house as possible. For example, if you have off-street parking you could park your car somewhere you can see it easily.

While this doesn’t sound like much protection for your car, when applied with the other methods to secure your keyless entry model, it’s another layer of security.

7. Keep the inside of your car tidy

Most drivers will have heard the cliche that having nothing expensive on show in your car goes a long way in deterring would-be thieves, but it’s certainly true.

Expensive equipment, such as dashcams, sat navs and radios with removable front panels, should all be taken out as well as any loose personal items. This should at least make it less obvious for a thief who may want to break into your car, as nothing flashy is on show.

7. Consider etching your windows

Etching your windows is another deterrent that could put off would-be thieves from attempting to steal your motor. It’s affordable and quick too, with prices as little as £15-£20 and it only takes around 20 minutes to do.

It’s now possible to have your vehicle registration or the last seven digits of your vehicle identification number (VIN) etched onto the vehicle’s windows, mirrors and headlights. This makes it extremely difficult for anyone to alter the vehicle’s identity as it’s plastered all over the car!

This is beneficial because it helps prevent VIN cloning. This is a common practice used by car thieves where the number of a legally registered car is given to a stolen one in order to sell stolen cars to innocent buyers who are none the wiser. However, by etching the identity number onto your vehicle, it can’t then be easily removed, meaning it’s less likely to be passed off as a different vehicle.

8. Have your keys reprogrammed

If you’ve bought your vehicle second hand or have lost one of your keys, having your keys reprogrammed is a great preventative measure to avoid car theft.

By reprogramming your keys, you make any previous keys redundant as they will no longer be able to access the vehicle. This means you won’t need to worry about keys that may still be with a previous owner or were lost/stolen as they simply won’t work!

However, this technique is quite expensive, so first check with your local locksmith as to whether they can do it, and how much they would charge before making up your mind.

How do keyless car thefts work?

Illustration showing how keyless relay theft occurs

Credit: Admiral

Keyless car theft utilises a technique called a 'relay attack', where criminals use electronic signal relay devices in order to copy your car key’s identifier at a distance. Your key’s identifier is then sent to and ‘spoofed’ (faked) by an accompanying device and used to access your car since your vehicle thinks the key is present when in actuality it’s just the device.

It takes at least two people to do the job and they could be in your car and on their way in as little as 20 seconds. They wouldn’t have triggered any alarms or made any noise in the process and you’d be none the wiser!

With relay devices on sale online from as low as £100, attacks are becoming more prevalent so it’s worth making sure you’re best prepared by taking some of the precautionary steps mentioned above.

How secure are keyless entry cars?

Certain manufacturers have responded to the question over the vulnerability of keyless entry cars and have come up with smarter technology for fobs to make theft of these vehicles more difficult.

Going back to the Ford example, all new Fiesta and Focus models now have a sleep mode for their MyKeys – a motion sensor which after 40 seconds of not moving goes into sleep mode, switching off the wireless system that thieves rely on when using relay devices to gain access to the car.

Here’s a list of models which passed and failed a keyless car theft test by Thatcham Research to date.

Passed (Superior and Basic) vehicles

Failed (Poor) vehicles

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