Used mostly to prevent car theft and disable important components in a car, immobilizers are crucial for vehicle security.
Unfortunately, the technology is not difficult to overcome by thieves if the necessary hardware is not installed.
While it might seem like a standard feature in today’s market, not all cars have an immobilizer and in this article, we’re taking a look at some popular vehicles that don’t have an immobilizer.
1. 2016 Kia Rio
The Kia Rio is one of the smallest cars around and as such is also one of Kia’s best-selling models. Unfortunately, Kia chose to not install an immobilizer in this particular model.
An immobilizer prevents a car from being HotWired and stolen and is one of the basic safety features for car theft. It essentially disables the engine when the wrong key or another method is used to unlock the car.
Unfortunately, some Kia models between 2012 and 2016 were not equipped with a mobilizer device. This made them increasingly vulnerable to theft, even if the door was locked from the outside.
Although the car door could be locked from the outside by using the key, this is not a good security measure. Thieves could easily smash the window and get into the car to access the back of the steering column.
It is not entirely clear why Kia chose not to install an immobilizer for some of their models. It could be to save money and make the car cheaper, but this decision has definitely cost them.
Multiple Kia owners were the victims of car theft and had their cars locked, thinking that it could be enough. Even in a safe and uncovered parking lot, the Kia Rio was easily broken into and driven away.
Multiple owners of the Rio were advised to install third-party security measures which can be quite expensive sometimes. These devices are also recommended by insurance companies in order to reduce theft cases.
Since we’re discussing immobilizers, sometimes, a car might not start even though the starter works.
2. 2012 Hyundai Accent
Older models of the Accent were also vulnerable to theft because of the lack of a transponder-based immobilizer system.
The car could only be locked with the key as a security measure, which is not enough.
The South Korean company was lagging in, including immobilizers in their models even though immobilizers have long been known to be a standard safety feature in many cars.
For example, back in 2015, up to around 95% of all cars made had an immobilizer installed straight from the factory. However, only about 30% of Hyundai models were equipped with immobilizers from the factory.
It’s not entirely clear why the automaker decided not to include the feature, to begin with. The company still insists that the affected models meet the necessary safety standards.
For older models, the company started providing steering locks for owners of affected models together with a safety kit.
Hyundai Accents became a trending topic on social media platforms because of how easy they were to steal. Even though this was nationwide, California and Nevada were some of the states that were affected more.
A lot of Hyundai Accent owners opted to go for after-market immobilizers installed in their cars. These are sometimes expensive to install and don’t guarantee that the car still won’t be stolen.
A growing concern is that there is a trend showing that Hyundai vehicle theft has increased steadily since 2016. 2021 saw the number of Hyundai vehicle theft at an all-time high.
3. 2016 Kia Sorento
Yet another Kia model has been known to have a compromised security system.
The lack of an immobilizer in the 2016 Kia Sorento has landed the automaker in hot water with consumers.
Thieves discovered that the Kia Sorento did not have an immobilizer as a standard feature and it was easier to steal. If they broke the window, they could then have access to the steering wheel column to Hotwire it.
They exploited this weakness in the Sorento’s security and the number of stolen Sorentos began to skyrocket.
This got to a point where it started trending on social media because some filmed themselves while stealing these models. Most of these thieves took the car for a joyride and just abandoned it afterward.
Kia Sorento models that used the key-based ignition system were much easier for thieves to steal than models with push-start buttons. The latter is connected to the ECU of the car and is difficult to Hotwire.
Once thieves gained access to the car through a window, they also noticed that most models did not have an alarm system.
This allowed them to have access to the steering column and get the car running in a matter of minutes.
This is why an engine immobilizer is so crucial for basic car theft prevention. The immobilizer uses a transponder to communicate with the key to verify if it is being opened with the correct key.
If the correct key is not being used or the ignition is being tampered with, the engine automatically shuts off. The alarm will sound and the correct key will then need to be used in order to get the car running again.
This just shows how easy the Kia Sorento is to steal because it does not need a lot of tools or expertise. It also explains the reason thieves chose the Sorento and other Kia models as easy targets.
Also, there are reasons a car won’t start after driving.
4. 2014 Hyundai Accent
Not all Hyundai Accents have an immobilizer installed from the factory as a security measure. This makes it easier for thieves to gain access and drive off with the car.
Even though not all Hyundai models of that year had this problem, thieves were able to find out which ones didn’t.
One of the ways to check this is to look at the head of the car key if it has buttons to remotely unlock the car.
A key to the ignition will have a fob or buttons on it if an immobilizer is installed so you can remotely lock it. If the key does not have these buttons, it likely means there’s no immobilizer.
It’s important to note that even if the car has an immobilizer, thieves can still find a way to steal it. They find weaknesses in cars all the time and it is advised to have more than one security measure.
Sometimes the key module loses communication with the engine immobilizer and has to be reset.
It isn’t clear why the automaker decided not to include an immobilizer in these Accent models. The company was always aware that this was a huge security issue to tackle.
Later models with advanced key fobs or a push-button ignition system are not affected by this. These types are not designed the same way and are much harder to Hotwire and steal.
To tackle the issue of the Hyundai Accent and other models with this issue, Hyundai provides a security kit. The anti-theft kit costs around $170 and has been shipped to different dealers to sell them.
This safety kit can be installed in around two hours and the owner will also need to pay for labor. That adds to the overall cost of the car’s maintenance, especially because the Accent is an entry-level model.
Hyundai offers another option in areas especially prone to your Hyundai being stolen because of this vulnerability.
The company supplies police departments with steering wheel locks to give to Hyundai owners free of charge.
Steering wheel locks are just another security measure for preventing car theft. However, these wouldn’t be needed if the company had just installed immobilizers in their models.
Having realized their mistake with this issue, the company has taken drastic steps to fix it. All 2022 Hyundai models now come with engine immobilizers from the factory together with other passenger safety features.
Even though there are still Hyundai cars in dealerships without immobilizers, they are quickly running out. Their latest models all have immobilizers regardless of which trim level you buy.
You can also check out some popular cars without computer chips.