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Kia Anti-Theft Software Update and How It Can Make Things Worse

Check your mailbox and watch for an important anti-theft announcement from Kia’s Corporate Headquarters and understand why this can make things worse for some Kia car owners.


In an earlier article, we learned about the importance of checking your mailbox and not being so hasty in tossing a letter from your vehicle’s dealership that might not be junk mail after all, but could actually alert you to an important software update for your vehicle.

As an example, provided were two important videos: (1) About a failure to update a specific Kia model’s software resulting in engine damage and no warranty coverage from Kia. (2) An update on what is going on with the software update-related lawsuit for Kia owners with engine problems who did not have installed the Knock Detection software update to protect their vehicles.

In other words, don’t toss out your junk mail automatically.

A Recent Kia Announcement

More recently, however, another Kia announcement was recently sent through the mail that made it to my mailbox (and past my automatic junk mail censure habit) concerning the problems Kia owners have had over TikTok-related social-media challenges encouraging young people to break-in and steal certain models of Kia vehicles.

The problem involves Kia models with a steel key and “turn-to-start” ignition system that was discovered to be amazingly simple for criminal types to bypass and then drive away doing whatever they pleased: Namely, video record the theft, drive at high speed, and then crash the owners’ cars.

The seriousness of this problem cannot be overstated as such criminal acts have resulted in avoidable injuries and even multiple deaths.

In my letter from Kia, corporate headquarters writes in part:

"Our records indicate that you may now own or lease a potentially affected vehicle, and we are reaching out to let you know that we have developed a software upgrade that can be installed on your vehicle to restrict operation of the vehicle’s ignition system should your locked vehicle be the subject of a break-in and theft attempt without the key. The software upgrade will be available to you free of charge for eighteen (18) months from the date of our original letter. When you complete the software upgrade, we will also provide you with window decals that can be applied to your vehicle to discourage a break-in.”

What We Know About the Software Update

In short, we know the software update apparently is not the answer to the problem as can be seen in multiple news reports this year of Kia owners attesting to that their cars were still being stolen despite having the anti-theft update. And this is no surprise. It was a Band-Aid attempt at curing a cultural cancer amongst the young.

TikTok Kia Boys still stealing cars despite software update | FOX 5 News

Despite Growing Complaints About the Update, Kia is in Denial

True to corporate lawyer speak, Kia has denied responsibility for the continued thefts stating that “…the software update works as it was designed,” but without further elaboration, despite the fact more Kia owners are making the news about thefts AFTER having the recommended software update.

 At Least One Other Problem with the Update…the Sticker

Although meant as a deterrent to criminals, that sticker placed on your Kia will very likely become a collectible badge of dishonor of sorts. In other words, we can expect the same criminal crowd busting car windows just to peel off the warning sticker to show off to friends and thumb their collective noses at Kia. It’s human nature at its worst…and it’s coming if not already here.

A Visit to a Kia Dealership Service Center

A recent visit to a local Kia dealership confirmed that the software upgrades are free, take little time, and come with not one but two window stickers. When asked about how well the update protects cars, the general response was that no car is safe if anyone wants it bad enough. But they did recommend using a commercial steering wheel lock in conjunction with the software update.

Related article: Best Car Wheel Theft Deterrent Lug Nut

In fact, in my letter from Kia:

“In response to this new phenomenon of online theft promotion, we began taking steps to try to address this criminal activity by providing steering wheel lock devices to interested law enforcement agencies in certain affected areas, to be distributed to concerned Kia owners at no cost.”

When I asked the service center if the Kia dealership or service center provided those recommended wheel locks, I was told that they did not, but they had heard some police departments do offer them for free. On the other hand, oddly enough, they also told me that the Hyundai service department next door does hand out free wheel locks to their customers.

A Visit to My Local PD

A quick trip to my local police department resulted in a free wheel lock they were happy to distribute. When I asked if the wheel locks came from Kia, they told me that they were not aware of Kia giving away free wheel locks, only that this one was the result of a donation where a local business provided a number of wheel locks for their community.

What This Means to You

If you are the owner of one of the several Kia models that qualify for the update you may want to:

  • Get it because at least some added protection is better than none. But more importantly, you can expect a future class action lawsuit and only those who have had the anti-theft software update during the period specified by Kia are likely to collect from it if it is successful.
  • Remove the deterrence stickers since this marks your Kia as one targeted by criminals---you are just asking for trouble with it.
  • Get a steering wheel lock or preferably one that attaches to the steering wheel and the brake pedal for added security.

For additional articles related to car theft, here are a few for your consideration:

Timothy Boyer is a Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily news and topics related to new and used cars and trucks.

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