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Is your car safe from thieves? Security advice and devices to deter crime

Disklok encases the whole steering wheel and is a very visible deterrent to would-be thieves. Picture: Andy Russell

Disklok encases the whole steering wheel and is a very visible deterrent to would-be thieves. Picture: Andy Russell

Andy Russell

With vehicle theft on the increase, and hi-tech ways of duping keyless entry fobs, motoring editor Andy Russell tries out both new and traditional security devices designed to deter car criminals.

The Defender Signal Blocker is a Faraday bag, lined with metallic material, that blocks signal from a key fob. Picture: Andy RussellThe Defender Signal Blocker is a Faraday bag, lined with metallic material, that blocks signal from a key fob. Picture: Andy Russell

With sophisticated security features on modern cars you might expect car crime to taken a bit of a back seat but the reality is that vehicle theft has risen 50pc across the East of England in the last five years.

There has also been a rise in thefts of vehicles with keyless entry systems, which allow the vehicle to be unlocked and started if the fob is nearby. It’s very convenient for drivers but criminals are tricking the car’s systems into thinking the key is present by using ‘relay boxes’.

A thief uses one box to scan a property for a frequency being emitted by the key, often kept close to a door. That frequency is transmitted to an accomplice with a second box near the car.

Relay boxes can receive signals through walls, doors and windows but not metal.

There are ways to foil thieves and I’ve been trying some security devices from Wilco, which supplies motor parts and accessories online and through its shops in East Anglia.

Stoplock Pro elite slides through the steering wheel and locks on to it. Picture: Andy RussellStoplock Pro elite slides through the steering wheel and locks on to it. Picture: Andy Russell

Richard Shortis, managing director of Wilco, said hi-tech thefts of keyless entry vehicles were resulting in more motorists resorting to traditional locking devices for added security and putting key fobs in special Faraday bags, lined with layers of metallic material, to block signals.

“The message is getting out there that people can intercept the signal from your key fob so people are worried. A Faraday bag is a very simple device which works fantastically.

“It takes a couple of seconds to put a key in. You can leave the bag at home and know the key is safe. You can also use it to shield a mobile phone to take away that temptation while driving.”

Sales of steering wheel locks have also grown.

“They are a visual deterrent as well – thieves can see them – and that is important. Even if they have got the key fob signal they still can’t just drive off in the car because there is a massive locking device on the steering wheel,” he explained.

Disklok, approved and endorsed by Thatcham, has won many award over 20 years. Picture: Andy RussellDisklok, approved and endorsed by Thatcham, has won many award over 20 years. Picture: Andy Russell

Defender Signal Blocker, £5

This key and phone wallet was best Faraday bag signal blocker in Auto Express tests.

I put my key fob in the bag, sealed it and, standing beside the car, tried to unlock it by pressing the buttons through the bag. The fob did not work and the car remained lock. Once out of the bag, it unlocked.

The bag also has a valuable safety function. It’s big enough to hold a mobile phone which then can’t receive signals so you won’t be disturbed while driving or tempted to look at it.

Disklok encases the whole steering wheel and is a very visible deterrent to would-be thieves. Picture: Andy RussellDisklok encases the whole steering wheel and is a very visible deterrent to would-be thieves. Picture: Andy Russell

I sealed my phone in the bag then got someone sitting next to me to call it. I could hear the ringtone on their phone but nothing from my phone. But it did have a missed call from that person when I took it out.

Other signals blocked include SMS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4G.

Stoplock Pro Elite, £59.99

(Stoplock Airbag and 4x4, £37.99; Stoplock Original £28.99)

I had the original Stoplock in the Eighties when I owned a Ford Escort XR3i and hot-hatchbacks were preyed on by so-called joy-riders.

The fact Stoplock is still going shows it works and Stoplock Pro Elite is the brand’s premium steering wheel immobiliser.

Simply unlock the clasp that fits round the steering wheel, slide the bar into place and lock it up again. Simple to use, easy to store and a visible deterrent.

Disklok, from £119.99

Disklok, approved and endorsed by Thatcham over the last two decades, is the top brand in car steering wheel security with 20 years of winning awards.

Hinged at the bottom, the heavy-duty metal lock open up to encase the whole steering wheel. Then, with the bar to the left, close it, slide the security pin into place and turn the key in the lock.

The added advantage is that it can spin on the wheel when attacked so it’s difficult to get a purchase and prevents damaging the steering and the lock itself. It will also prevent thieves stealing the airbag from the steering wheel.

The small Disklok, for steering wheels 35 to 38.9cm, costs £119.99 with the medium one, 39 to 41.5cm, £124.99.

Car security tips

Talk to your dealer about the digital features in your car. Have there been any software updates you can take advantage of?

Ask your dealer if the keyless entry fob can be turned off – if it can, do so overnight.

Store your keys away from doors and windows at home, not just out of sight, as only need to be near the key to amplify the signal. Drivers are urged to keep both sets of keys in a Faraday cage or pouch which blocks the fob’s signal.

Be vigilant and look out for suspicious activity in your neighbourhood – report anything unusual to the police.

Review your car security. Check aftermarket security devices – mechanical locks for steering, gearstick and pedal, wheelclamps and tracking devices – which are proven to deter thieves.

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