Vehicle thefts have been a widespread problem since summer 2022.
In December 2022, the News Tribune reported on the rise of car thefts in Pierce County throughout 2022, most of which involved Kia and Hyundai-brand models. In January, the Tacoma Police Department commented on the ongoing thefts, noting that Kia models from 2011-2021 and Hyundai models from 2015-2021 are most at risk from theft due to a manufacturing oversight.
Many of those models soon will receive software updates providing an extra layer of security. Owners can get them free of charge.
On Feb. 14, Hyundai announced it is offering updates to millions of its vehicles to curb further thefts. Some vehicles won’t be able to receive the update, but the Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force is distributing free steering wheel locks in coordination with local law enforcement agencies.
The update will install an “ignition kill” feature on vehicles upon locking doors. Currently, three models can receive the update:
More than a dozen other models can get the update in June:
Kia is rolling out software updates at a later date, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Getting anti-theft devices in WA
Anyone with a Hyundai model without an engine immobilizer can receive the update at any Hyundai dealership. The installation process should take under an hour.
An engine immobilizer is a security device that prevents a vehicle from starting without the correct key or fob. Here’s how to determine if your vehicle has that feature:
If you still aren’t sure, look on Hyundai’s campaign website to see if your vehicle qualifies for an anti-theft software upgrade. You will need to input your vehicle identification number to confirm if you’re eligible. The VIN is a 17-character number that you can find on your driver’s-side dashboard or on a sticker placed inside the driver’s-side door jamb.
To schedule an appointment with a local Hyundai, visit Hyundai’s anti-theft campaign page on its website.
In the meantime, you might be able to get a free steering wheel lock at a nearby law enforcement office. The Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force is distributing free steering wheel locks to Washington residents who own these vehicles:
Hyundai 2015-2021 Accent, Elantra, Kona, Santa Fe and Tucson
Hyundai 2015-2018 Veloster
Kia 2015-2021 Forte, Optima, Rio, Sedona, Soul and Sportage
Kia 2015-2016 Optima, Hybrid Sorento
The task force is distributing steering wheel locks at various locations in Washington. You can pick one up at the following locations:
Pierce County Sheriff’s Department – South Hill Precinct
Lakewood Police Department
Puyallup Police Department
Edgewood Police Department
Eatonville Police Department
University Place Police Department (available starting Feb. 28)
Bonney Lake Police Department
Fife Police Department
Federal Way Police Department
Auburn Police Department
Des Moines Police Department
SeaTac Police Department
Tukwila Police Department (proof of residency required)
To receive a free lock, bring your vehicle’s registration and key to a police department.
Why vehicles are stolen
The county Sheriff’s Department attributed the uptick in thefts to TikTok challenges that began in summer 2022. The videos show how to exploit an ignition system in vehicle models that lack certain anti-theft functionality.
The NHTSA says that the social media trend has resulted in at least 14 reported crashes and eight fatalities nationwide. In January, two teens in Tacoma died in a car crash that involved a stolen Kia Optima.
In January, Seattle city attorneys filed lawsuits against Hyundai and Kia for failing to adequately address the rise in thefts.
This story was originally published February 23, 2023, 12:08 PM.
Google Releases New Android Auto Update, Use These Steps to Get It Right Now
Tesla rolls out vision-based park assist, but it could still use some work
Dodge unveils last super-fast gasoline muscle car (Update)