Drive a Newer Hyundai or Kia? A Steering Wheel Lock Could Keep It From Getting Stolen
Don’t let those Kia Boyz ruin your day.
If you drive a lower-trimmed Hyundai or Kia, there’s a chance that someone could try to tamper with your car. Unfortunately, it’s fairly easy thanks to the design of the ignition, and it’s increasingly become a problem in recent months. A viral song and instructions found on trending TikTok posts have emboldened thieves to boost unprotected cars.
It sucks, but I’m here to inform you that there might be an old-school form of protection against thieves. It’s called an aftermarket steering lock, but you might know it as The Club.
What Exactly Is Happening?
For those unfamiliar, there has recently been an uptick in stolen late-model Hyundai and Kia vehicles. Popularized by TikTok, a Milwaukee gang that calls themselves the “Kia Boyz” have exploited a previously unknown defeat in lower-trimmed Kia and Hyundai products. Commonly, many Hyundai and Kia vehicles that use physical keys don’t have ignition immobilizers. In a vehicle that has an anti-theft immobilizer, the key contains a computer chip that verifies the key being used is legitimate and allows the vehicle to start. These cars that have become targets do not have this feature.
For that reason, they are susceptible to theft. Thus, plenty of ne’er-do-wells have figured out that ripping off the steering column shroud and jamming stuff in the ignition can easily get the car to start. By using these steps, people are literally stealing Hyundai Elantra and Kia Seltos models with USB cables.
It’s a problem that first caught attention in Milwaukee and has since spread outward to Chicago, Columbus, Minneapolis, other parts of the Midwest, and even as far away as Florida. In Columbus, nearly four out of every 10 vehicles stolen from January to July 2022 were Hyundai and Kia products. I personally know of about a dozen Hyundai and Kia vehicles that have been stolen, and at least one owner I know never got his 2018 Kia Forte back.
There’s no real software fix for the Hyundai and Kia cars. The Korean automakers have attempted damage control by giving all 2022-and-future models immobilizers, but the owners of any older Hyundai or Kia still remain vulnerable to this exploit. But, an old-fashioned theft deterrent popular before the advent of immobilizers might just be the trick to slowing a thief down or preventing theft altogether.
An aftermarket steering lock, often colloquially referred to as The Club like tissues are called Kleenex, is a physical lockable bar that goes over the top of the steering wheel and makes it exceptionally hard to turn. Most aftermarket steering wheel locks have a similar basic design. It's a long retractable pole with two hooks that link into the steering wheel. It can’t easily be removed without a key, which means that even if thieves were to start the car, they wouldn’t be able to move the wheel without the club jamming against the inside of the car or the driver’s legs. In fact, Hyundai and Kia gave out free Clubs to Milwaukee residents in an effort to stave off theft.
There’s also an alternate design of the Club that pushes against the brake pedal. In that design, the pole hooks to the bottom of the wheel, and then a pole jams against the brake pedal.
Are Steering Locks Foolproof?
No, not at all. In fact, most anti-theft devices are defeatable by the right thief with determination and knowledge. Aftermarket steering locks, or The Club, are no exception. Throughout the decades since The Club’s patent, plenty of journalists have shown that it can be sawed off or broken in minutes with the right tools.
Arguably, however, these thieves don’t have the right tools. A lot of the coverage of the “Kia Boyz” shows that most affiliated with the ring of thefts are thrill-seeking troubled teenagers looking for an easy joyride; not quite Nicholas Cage, Gone In 60 Seconds thefts. A Club is a pretty strong deterrent from thieves who want to quickly take a car in a matter of seconds.
Which Steering Lock Should I Use?
The Club 1000 by Winner International is the original brand and model for this device, but other companies have made dupes that work just as well. Buyer beware, though. A Club that is easily bent is pretty damn useless. Here are some options:
An aftermarket steering lock isn’t foolproof, but its mere presence could be enough to stop someone from stealing and trashing your reasonably-priced Korean economy car.