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 had my 71 RAV4 stolen from CAN bus attack right outside my front door. Video footage showed the thieves stole the car in less than 1 minute… police recovered the vehicle when MyT app showed the location.

    Both Toyota and Customer services didn’t care and simply said to contact my dealer if I want to trade it in…. As far as they are concerned, once sold, it’s not their problem.

    Today, I have had my rear vision mirrors stolen from outside my house. The whole car is so insecure. No alarm system when the car mirrors were stolen. No alarm when CAN bus attack.

    I wouldn’t recommend a Toyota with these security issues

    1. Hi Nathan, thanks for your comment.

      We are very sorry to hear that you’ve been a victim of theft and apologise for the inconvenience. We also understand the distress this may cause and are sorry that you have experienced this.

      Please be assured that Toyota appreciates the severity of this crime and are constantly monitoring this situation.

      If you would like to take this case back up with our Customer Relations Team, please find them here: https://www.toyota.co.uk/help-centre#/iframe/https%3A%2F%2Fforms.toyota.co.uk%2Fcontact-us.

      Once again, we are very sorry that you have experienced this.

      Thanks.

  2. My MY2021 RAV4 has been stolen (and recovered) twice now. The repairs cost in excess of £3,000 the first time and the estimate for the current repair work, still underway, is in excess of £4,000. Both times the vehicle was stolen by the by CANBUS attack trick. In the two and a half years I’ve owned the vehicle from new, it has spent at least 10 weeks off the road due to theft and subsequent repair work. I will personally be out of pocket by £1,800 (so far) due to insurance excess and I dread to think of the impact on my insurance premium when I renew. In all my years, I never had a car stolen before my RAV4.

    My Toyota dealer was unable to explain how the vehicle was stolen never mind offer a solution, but they did have a series of well rehearsed platitudes.

    Police advice to me is to get rid of the vehicle given it’s ‘extreme vulnerability’. What would Toyota UK suggest I do please?

    1. Hi Rick, thanks for your comment.

      We are really sorry to hear that you’ve been a victim of this crime. We understand the distress and inconvenience this situation must have caused.

      We would like to assure you that we take this very seriously and are constantly monitoring the situation.

      A steering lock and 2nd ghost immobiliser are advised as protective measures. You can discuss this further with you Toyota Centre.

      Please contact our Customer Relations Team regarding this. You can contact them on 0344 701 6202 or https://www.toyota.co.uk/help-centre#/iframe/https%3A%2F%2Fforms.toyota.co.uk%2Fcontact-us.

      Once again, we are very sorry to hear about your experience.

      Thanks.

  3. The Ghost is all well & good ( if its installed correctly ) but it doesn’t warn away the thieves during a theft attempt, I’d spend a bit more on aftermarket security & get both the alarm plus immobiliser system upgraded.
    If someone from Toyota UK would like to contact me via my email then I’d be happy to provide details of a company I have used to upgrade the security on my C-HR which is also susceptible to the same CAN invader theft method.

    1. My RAV4 was stolen 3 months ago. It was recovered by the police the same day and has been in a repair garage ever since. When I get it back I’ll be installing a ghost immobiliser and new tracking system. Although this will cost £1000 to do, neither system will prevent criminals getting inside the vehicle. Is there anything I can install to prevent the CANbus attack unlocking the doors?

      1. Before installing a Ghost confirm with the installer which buttons will be available on the RAV4 for the pin code as that’s vehicle dependent – some vehicles have a poor selection of buttons available ( Lexus RX being one )
        The only way to stop them from accessing the vehicle via CAN invader is a metal security plate to protect the connector plug which AFAIK Toyota hasn’t made one – yet.
        I have a C-HR with the same vulnerability so went with an aftermarket alarm & immobiliser system upgrade instead, as soon as the thief attempts to access the CAN at the headlamp connector the alarm will sound a warn away which should persuade the thieves the security system has been upgraded, if they continue the full alarm will trigger.

    2. I Lee, Would you let me know which company you have used to upgrade your security system please. I would like to upgrade my security system on my Toyota.
      Thank you very much

  4. I think you need to correct/clarify Toyotas responses on this article. After asking my dealer to fit a 2nd immobiliser before delivery of my new vehicle, I have been told they DO NOT fit them, but can arrange for a 3rd party to install. I have subsequently had this confirmed by Toyota’s customer care team – the immobiliser WILL NOT be fitted by the dealer, but possibly AT the dealers by a 3rd party installer. Therefore, any problems with the immobiliser or caused by the immobiliser are NOT covered by the Toyota Warranty. This is contrary to your response on 21st June.

    People need to understand that a 2nd immobiliser may solve a security issue but, if it goes wrong or clashes with the car’s systems, they may have caused a bigger issue for themselves. Toyota need to make sure that their various departments all have their story straight rather than misleading customers with false promises.

    1. You could always ask the dealer to install the Toyota 2nd immobiliser system from the accessory catalogue – its an official Toyota accessory so it should be fully compatible with the new vehicle warranty as a Toyota technician will be installing it using official Toyota instructions.
      As for an aftermarket system, I’d much rather take the vehicle to the security installers premises for an install then have it fitted by a mobile installer at the dealership.
      An approved installer for the security system you wish to have fitted would be the important thing to check, ask the security system manufacturer directly to check the installer is approved by them to fit the system & that the system has been tested to be compatible for the vehicle in question.
      The company I used is approved by the manufacturer of the security system I had fitted, the system has already been tested by the security system manufacturer to be fully compatible with the vehicle, as an added bonus the company had already studied & developed a bespoke system for Toyota / Lexus hybrid vehicles.
      As for new vehicle warranty, a correctly installed tested & approved aftermarket security system shouldn’t cause any issues with the vehicle electrical systems.

      1. Sorry, but the Toyota UK accessory list DOES NOT have a 2nd immobiliser for a RAV4 as an available accessory. This has been confirmed by the dealer and Toyota UK. A third party immobiliser may be an answer but Toyota UK have made it clear, if it causes any problems the Toyota warranty will not cover them and the immobiliser manufacturer will only cover their equipment and will not cover interface issues or consequential damage.

        Not much of a solution really.

    2. Ask your Toyota dealer to look in the EUROPEAN accessory catalogue – PW625-20000 / AOM 001 799-0 should help track it down on the system.
      I did ask my local Toyota dealer about this system back in April even providing the part numbers, I never did get a response so went with an aftermarket solution instead.

  5. I’m totally fed up with this situation now. My RAV4 has been targeted twice in the past month, and I’m just waiting for the next attempt. My anxiety levels are through the roof, because I need this car to support me as a physically disabled man of 66.

    I’ve now fitted that most 1970’s of items, the steering wheel locking bar, inside a car that is rich with 2020’s technology – how ironic is this? – but I really want some means of preventing the thieves from opening the doors in the first place. Short of fitting a padlock to each door, a la Mr Bean, I’ve run out of ideas.

    I like the idea of an official Toyota accessory to improve security, but there is no mention of any such thing in the UK catalogue.

    1. Hi Jonathan, thanks for getting in touch.

      We are very sorry to hear you have been a victim of this awful crime. We would like to extend our sincere sympathies.

      Your Toyota Centre are best placed to advise on protective measure for you. You can locate your nearest centre here: https://www.toyota.co.uk/find-a-dealer

      Thanks.

  6. When I retired in 2021 I treated myself to a new RAV4 Dynamic HEV, having had Toyota Avensis models as company cars for the previous 20+ years I was thinking it would be “peace of mind, trouble free motoring”now I am seriously thinking that I’ve made a mistake.

    I last owned a steering wheel lock about 40 years ago but found myself going out to buy another due to the number (and ease of) RAV4 thefts being reported on various forums.

    I’m amazed that Toyota are fully aware of the design flaw making theft so quick and easy yet have remained silent and are not (as yet) offering a solution to protect the vulnerable wiring behind the headlights.

    My understanding is that a metal shroud would make the process of attacking the Canbus wiring much more difficult to access, surely this fix would only cost a few pounds plus labour that in my opinion should be done FOC seeing that it’s a poor design on Toyota’s part.

    1. Hi Alan, thanks for your comment.

      We appreciate your feedback and value your suggestions. These will be passed on to the relevant teams.

      Please be aware we are constantly monitoring this situation and are doing all we can to support our customers that have been impacted by this horrible crime.

      Thanks.

  7. I have also been the recent victim of an attempted theft of my C-HR by CAN entry by prising off the front nearside bumper to access the CAN via ( i think) the headlight wiring. The vehicle additionally had a Ghost immobiliser fitted which seems to have prevented them from driving it away. The vehicle was also fitted with a krooklock-type mechanical device on the steering wheel, which was intended to act as a visual deterrent-which it apparently was not.
    The Ghost comes with a pair of window stickers, but the advice given by the installer was that they do not recommend displaying them as a deterrent, as that gives the thief the information that a Ghost is fitted somewhere on the vehicles-though not of course it’s actual location.
    What I am not clear about from this discussion is whether this type of theft is a particular issue with certain new Toyota models, or whether any brand of car with keyless entry and keyless start is equally vulnerable? Is there something about these Toyota’s that makes them physically vulnerable to the CAN being accessed via the front bumper/headlight? In my area there does seem to be an epidemic of keyless entry theft recently,, but I”m not aware that this is specifically involving Toyota more than any other brand.
    Can anyone offer any more advice or experience please?

    1. Hi there,
      We are sorry to hear your C-HR was attempted to be stolen, we can imagine this must have been a very upsetting and distressing experience.
      Despite all of the security features your C-HR has, unfortunately, new theft methods and tools are continuously being developed by organised criminal gangs to gain access to or steal the latest vehicles.
      This is a challenge the entire automotive industry is facing, not just Toyota.
      If you have any further questions, please let us know.
      Thanks.

    2. I had the security system upgraded on my C-HR, I went with a multi layered approach, as soon as an attempt is made to carry out the CAN invader attack the alarm will sound a warn away, further attempts will trigger the full alarm.

  8. Hi. Is Toyota head office aware of the Canbus theft attack on the RAV4 vehicle? Where it can be stolen in 2 minutes accessing the electrics via the wheel arch.

    Various dealers are and taking preventative measures with vehicle fixed on these vehicles.

    A lot of dealers know nothing though, as does mine. Thanks
    Mike

    1. Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Toyota are acutely aware how this type of crime affects our customers and we are working closely with the authorities to raise awareness of this crime.
      We also continue to work with our technical teams and insurance experts to find deterrents and measures to attempt to protect Toyota Vehicles.
      Thanks.

  9. Please take the risk of theft seriously. Our perfect two year old Rav4 was stolen from outside our house at the beginning of September 2023 using the well documented CAN bus attack. There were pieces of broken wheel arch trim in the exact position of the front left wheel on our parking space. Whilst we live in a leafy low crime neighboorhood we do take security seriously and the car was covered by a Ring doorbell and motion detecting security light, none of which did anything to deter the thieves. Obviously, had I known about these security vulnerabilities beforehand I would have ensured that an addtional visible steering lock was fitted. I find it quite unbelievable that the world’s largest car manufacturer and pioneer of many automotive advances have allowed such a security vulnerbility to continue. Toyota have known about this for some considerable time. We feel very let down by them. This was our very first Toyota (bought new following our retirement) and will now be our last. I cannot with a clear conscience recommend a Toyota to friends or family knowing just how vulnerable they are to this type of attack. I feel very let down by Toyota.

    1. Hi Xena,
      We are sorry to hear your RAV4 has been stolen, we can imagine this must have been a very upsetting and distressing experience.
      Your vehicle has a number of theft deterrent devices, an immobiliser, intrusion alarm, motion sensor alarm and tilt detection sensors.
      Unfortunately, new theft methods and tools are continuously being developed by organised criminal gangs to gain access to – or steal the latest vehicles.
      This is a challenge the entire automotive industry is facing.
      We are continuously striving to improve our vehicles and whilst, regrettably we cannot guarantee that these efforts will eliminate all criminal activity and theft, our design team will continue to work with the police and insurers to develop technology and components to try to prevent vehicle crime.
      Thanks.

      1. Hi, some dealers are fitting Toyota number GBNGABRACK01 bracket over the vulnerable wires to stop this. Cost around £70 for the part and dealers liaise with Toyota to cover the £130 labour cost.

    2. A steering wheel lock is a waste of time & money, they are easily removed by these professional thieves including DiskLok that slow them down only by a few seconds.

      1. FWIW – All modern cars are easy to steal via the OBD port & vehicle manufacturers cannot do anything to stop this thanks to EU regulations.
        If you want to avoid this theft method route either fit suitable aftermarket security OR buy a Tesla as being all electric they don’t legally require an OBD port.

  10. My 71 plate RAV4 was stolen using the CAN Bus attack, it was gone in 60 seconds in July.

    The number of RAV4 owners who are in the same boat are unbelievable. When I meet them they have all had the same issue.

    If you can recall the car for a number of minor issues when you take it in for a service. Surely by now and given the number thefts a recall is needed to put a permanent fix in place for the attack.

    Asking a customer to fit aftermarket solutions to fix a flaw in your security system is not acceptable.

    After spending just short of £40,000 on a car and now living daily with the risk of additional theft detracts from the brand.

    Toyota its time for action not platitudes.

    Please let me know where I can send a claim for compensation relating to the theft of my vehicle due to a flaw in the RAV4 engineering.

    1. Hi Gary, thanks for getting in touch.

      We’re really sorry to hear that you’ve been affected by this awful crime.

      We completely understand your frustration and value your feedback greatly.

      We would recommend contacting our Customer Relations team. They are best placed to support and advise you with this issue.

      Should you wish to contact them, they can be reached here: https://brnw.ch/21wCBCM

      Thanks.

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