Car security advice and tips

Car security

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), cases of vehicle-related crimes in England and Wales have significantly declined over the past few decades. While this is comforting news for car owners and a broad recognition of the improved security measures included as standard in new vehicles, we should remember that car thieves have not stopped operating.

It is therefore important not to become casual about vehicle security and run the risk of becoming a crime statistic ourselves. With that in mind, the following points are our top recommendations for improving car security.

Car security

1. Lock your car

This advice may seem obvious but ONS crime figures show that car owners consistently forget to apply this most basic security feature. Almost half of all vehicle-related thefts are because thieves had gained access through an unlocked door.

Get in the habit of always locking up, even if you will only be away from the car for a few seconds. Don’t solely rely on a quick press of the key fob either: check for audible or visual signals that the car has actually locked before you walk away. And if your car has door mirrors that can automatically fold in when the car is locked, be sure to activate this feature – thieves recognise it is a clear visual sign of a locked car.

2. Keep valuables out of sight

Opportunist thieves are often looking for easy-to-grab valuables that have been left on display. Police report that items such as jewellery, bags, purses and wallets, cash, credit cards, clothes and documents are the most commonly stolen in vehicle-related crimes.

Reduce this risk by stashing valuables out of sight, such as in the glove box or boot. Better still, take those items away with you. And if you’re going to leave the car for a longer period of time, consider clearing the boot entirely and removing the parcel shelf or load cover to show thieves that there is nothing to steal.

3. Be mindful of signals

Many modern cars are equipped with a keyless entry and start system – a convenience which sends a constant signal from the key fob in order to unlock the vehicle’s doors and de-activate the immobiliser as you approach. Although it is possible for tech-savvy thieves with special equipment to hijack this signal, they must be in close proximity to the key or vehicle.

So if you doubt the intentions of anybody in the immediate vicinity of your vehicle, wait for them to leave before approaching the car. Better still, whenever you are not driving, block the signal from the key by keeping it in a metal box or Faraday pouch. This is equally important at home as thieves can use a ‘daisy chain’ of receivers to relay the signal from the key (which is probably kept near the front door) to open the car.

4. Secure your port

Every new car sold in the UK since 2003 has been equipped with an on-board diagnostic port. Abbreviated to OBD, this port is a computer connection that allows the car to communicate messages about its mechanical health to an authorised technician. Unfortunately, thieves have discovered that with special equipment they can use this OBD port to programme blank keys to work with the car.

For this reason, some owners choose to secure their OBD port with an aftermarket lock. Typically, this can either be a lockable metal box that covers the port itself, or an electronic lock that works alongside the original immobiliser to disable the port when the ignition is off.

Car security

5. Protect your cat

Your catalytic converter, that is. The ‘cat’ forms part of your car’s emissions control system and cleans exhaust gases before they are expelled through the tailpipe. Unfortunately, the precious metals inside the cat that help to neutralise these passing gases are exactly that – precious. Which means that the catalytic converter itself has become a target for thieves.

Toyota has taken action to deter thieves by issuing thousands of SmartWater invisible marking kits to local initiatives, as well as providing Toyota customers with a free Smartwater forensic marking service at their local centre. Toyota has also developed a mechanical locking device to deter would-be thieves. These measures are explained in more detail in our dedicated article on catalytic converter theft.

6. Park with care

Thieves do not like performing in front of an audience, so the place where you park has a bearing on the vehicle’s vulnerability. ONS statistics show that the likelihood of experiencing a car-related crime is much lower in busy, town centre parking areas. This is especially true when car parks are well-lit and have manned or CCTV security coverage.

Similarly, the time at which you park your car has a bearing on its security. Most instances of car-related crimes occur in the early hours of the morning, so avoid leaving in your car in a dark, unfamiliar area overnight.

Car security

7. Extra security

Modern vehicles invariably come with a high level of built-in security – the specific features of which are usually designed to react in the event of an incident. But there are simple things you can do to actively dissuade a thief from pursuing an attack on your car. These precautions include:

The use of a brightly coloured mechanical device locked across the steering wheel, gear lever or clutch pedal will provide an excellent visual deterrent to a would-be thief. A well-known steering wheel ‘crook lock’ “Stop Lock Pro Elite” is what Toyota would advise fitting to models, particularly RAV4, Hilux, Highlander, Yaris Cross, Toyota C-HR, Land Cruiser, Corolla, GR Supra, GR Yaris and GR86 (however other brands of steering wheel locks are available to purchase should you wish).

Ensuring your vehicle is linked to your MyT app. This means that in case of theft you can locate your vehicle and (with the help of the police) look to recover it, however, this feature is only available for newer models.

We may be living in a digital age but nothing will persuade an opportunist to leave your car alone more effectively than a good old-fashioned piece of ironmongery. Or for that matter, a snarling dog.

More information on preventing car crime can be found by visiting the Police UK website – www.police.uk – and by searching ‘car crime’.

NB: Details were correct at the time and date of publication

117 comments

  1. I heard that new RAV4 can be stolen easily , in 90 seconds without a key. Is there anything Toyota is doing about it ?

    1. it is absolute true. I am the victim too. As far as I know , Toyota not accepting it. Try to convince the owners their system is perfect. Very recently , number of Rav4 stolen gone very high in London.

  2. We have a Yaris Cross (2021). Is it safe to keep the key(s) in a Faraday pouch, ferous metal box, aluminium tin, lead box? Reason for asking is that the handbook says the keys shouldn’t be left near metal objects?

    1. Hi Anne, thanks for your question.

      Please may you provide a Vehicle Registration so that we can look into this.

      Thanks.

  3. My company has just leased 30+ 2022 Rav 4. What is Toyota doing to prevent the rapidly growing problem of theft. This surely is a serious design false that provides easy access to the wiring?

    1. Hi Darren, thanks for your question.

      We would like to assure you that Toyota appreciates the severity of this crime and are constantly assessing the situation.

      We would advise following the tips provided in this mag article which you have commented on, especially tip 4. Additionally, a steering lock is suggested as an anti-theft device.

      We hope this helps.

      Thanks.

  4. I have a 2022 Yaris Cross. I want to have it lock automatically when I start to move. I thought all cars now did this. My dealer isnt sure but thinks that this is not available on my car. The setup screen has a section for locking but no relevant options. The routine of pressing the lock button for a few seconds and the choosing a locking ootion does not work (my dealer has tried all this. Is there a solution please?

    1. Hi Tom, thanks for your question.

      Please provide a Vehicle Registration so that we can look into this.

      Thanks.

  5. HI – I have a 2018 Toyota Yaris Hybrid 5 door car and would like to fit a steering wheel lock – I cannot work out anywhere what steering lock would fit my car. Your article suggest the StopLock Pro is the best for many of your cars but you do not seem to include mine in your list. Can you advise please whether this Steering Wheel lock would fit my car as don’t want to buy one and then find it does’nt work on my car.
    Thanks

    1. Hi Brid, thanks for your question.

      Please provide your Vehicle Registration so that we can look into this.

      Thanks.

  6. Someone tried to steal my 72 plate toyota rav4 on two occasions and both times they just easily unclipped the left side front bumper and arch which is all plastic and tried getting to wires behind headlight. I’m so lucky they actually didn’t end up completing the job god knows why because even my headlight was unplugged. This is really stressful knowing that one of these days my car can go missing and what don’t make sense is, why does the car alarm not go off when they start to unclip the body work..

    1. Hi Ali, thanks for reaching out to us.

      We appreciate the severity of this crime and understand the distress that it may cause. We are monitoring this and apologise for the situation.

      You can find more information on preventing car crime on the Police UK website – http://www.police.uk – by searching ‘car crime’.

      If you would like to discuss this further, please contact our Customer Relations Team here – https://www.toyota.co.uk/help-centre#/iframe/https%3A%2F%2Fforms.toyota.co.uk%2Fcontact-us

      Once again, we apologise for the distress this has caused.

      Many thanks.

  7. My mother’s Rav4 71 plate was stolen a few days ago from outside our apartment block. On researching further, we discovered the Rav 4 newest model is the most stolen car of 2022 in the UK. Our neighbour has one too, which has also been targeted. It seems that the electronics are too easily accessible in the front bumper (regardless if you use a Faraday pouch etc.) I understand there are additional measures an owner can take to ensure the security of their car as suggested above, but surely this is a design fault by Toyota which should be taken very seriously and rectified as soon as possible. Telling customers to buy a steering lock at their own expense is not solving the problem, plus other car brands are not being as easily targeted by thieves as the cars’ security systems are more robust. My mother has owned only RAV4s for the last 15 years with never a problem, and even my partner and I were considering buying one, but I am afraid we have been put right off. It is not a cheap car by any means and more effort should be done by Toyota to look into this matter. Very disappointed. It is such a shame too; as a family we loved the Rav4 and had no other complaints.

    1. Hi, thanks for reaching out to us.

      We are very sorry to hear that your mother’s been a victim of this crime. We apologise for the distress and inconvenience this has caused.

      Modern vehicles invariably come with a high level of built-in security but as with any model in our range, we would always recommend extra measures to protect your car from theft. Your Toyota Centre are on hand to discuss extra means available for your car. Additionally, a steering lock or a 2nd ghost immobiliser are advised as protective measures.

      Once again, we are very sorry that your mother’s vehicle has been targeted by thieves.

      Please contact our Customer Relations Team if you would like to discuss this further. You can find them here: https://www.toyota.co.uk/help-centre#/iframe/https%3A%2F%2Fforms.toyota.co.uk%2Fcontact-us.

      Many thanks.

      1. I believe that it’s not just the RAV4 is vulnerable, I know that the land cruiser is because my y neighbors one was stolen a few weeks after my own RAV4 was stolen last year. Sorry but why should a consumer have to have a second immobliser, the vehicle should be secure without having to add additional drives, see my other reply below.

  8. Thank for the above, however, I am guessing from the reply, Toyota will not be investigating the electronics being too accessible in the front bumper, and so will not being trying to rectify the problem, even though the Rav4s obviously have a big security issue.

    Thank you

    1. I reached to customer relations by email and their two responses were very polite but underwhelming. The takeaway I have is exactly the same as yours, this issue affects Lexus as well. I feel they simply don’t want to own up to this publicly but by doing this they damage the relationship we have with them and the brand. Perhaps a class action will get them to setup and do the right thing.

      I am on my 2nd RAV4 after the 1st was stollen from my drive. I got extra security on the 2nd as I didn’t fancy going through the experience again (not cheap at all).

      I have now had 2 attempts (November 22 and February 23) with this current car and luckily they haven’t managed to get the car started but damage the left side bumper and headlight which I have to fix through insurance and excess charge£s every time!

      Coincidentally, my finance company get in touch with me on Friday to say that they’d identified my car is at risk as they’ve had a surge in claims and total loss so will be sending out steering locks free of charge. Now if it has gotten to the point where the finance company is noticing this as issue then why is Toyota no?!! They aren’t stealing Fords, BMW, Mercedes or Nissans like this?

      My advice to anyone who has already bought the RAV4 or equivalent Lexus is to invest in an aftermarket immobiliser and a good steering lock. The steering lock is just to dissuade the thieves otherwise they’ll break in each time then find they can’t start the car so it would keep costing you to repair.

      My lease is up in 2 years so my next car is looking like NOT A TOYOTA.

      1. In the same boat as you. Got our car stolen two days ago. What’s the point of fixing a car that’s an easy target. I won’t be buying any more rav4 or Toyotas in the future. We vote with our pockets.

  9. Hi
    My 2021 Rav4 was stolen last July on the 4th attempt by using a device to inject CAN messages into the headlight wiring. Ironically my job is automotive cyber security. I have got hold of the device that was used and know exactly how it works and would like to help Toyota fix the issue. I cannot find a contact inside Toyota that will actually listen, please don’t tell me to contact Customer services because I have already done that and not even got any kind of acknowledgement from the web form.

    1. Hi Ian, thank you for reaching out to us.

      We really appreciate your offer and we’re sorry to hear that you were a victim of this crime.

      We have passed your message on to our Technical Team. If they require any further information, they’ll be in touch with you directly.

      Once again, thank you very much for taking the time to leave this comment.

      Thanks.

  10. I am about to collect my new toyota yaris cross excel in a couple of days. Would a milenco high security steering wheel lock be acceptable for the yaris cross.

    1. I have a Milenco but thats just as a deterrent, you need an aftermarket immobiliser as if you want to sleep sound. Extra costs I know but think about Insurance excess, hours spent talking to and emailing the insurance company, police response and crime ref and messing around with a courtesy car. Surely the protective measures are cheaper?

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