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How To Prevent Relay Theft

How To Prevent Relay Theft

It is astonishing how fast the technology side of car manufacturing has developed in such a short space of time. Not so long ago we rejoiced in the benefits of Bluetooth and now we can’t imagine life without it. Internet connectivity is not just something that has to be accessed in the home or workplace, today it is widely available on the move and we can wirelessly charge our smartphones just by placing them on a dashboard console tray. Another development is the end of that tiresome business of putting a key in a door lock, especially in the rain, the dark or in icy conditions with the advent of keyless entry technology.

What Is Keyless Entry?

Keyless car entry is a system whereby a car key or fob, once in communication range of the vehicle, unlocks the vehicle. The days of fumbling around with the key blade to find the locking barrel and creating light scratches are gone. On some keys, there’s a need to press a button on the handle but increasingly sensors in the car will know the owner is approaching even if the fob is in a pocket or bag.

Keyless entry is great; either press a button on the door handle or more recently, approach the car and be recognised thanks to sensors in the vehicle and we’re in. The trouble is, as fast as automotive technology develops so does the technology used by car thieves. 

How Does Car Relay Theft Work?

Over recent years savvy crooks have learned how keyless entry works and developed technological tools to override it, this is what’s become known as key relay theft. 

Keyless entry is a useful advancement, but there’s a weakness to this technology. If in-car sensors and key fobs can communicate with each other then so can other devices. Car thieves understand how this technology works and, using often cheap and readily available devices, have found ways to circumvent car vehicle security often right on your driveway.

Householders routinely put keys in a container or hang them up when not in use. The most convenient place is near the front door. By holding a device up to a door, or a wall or window, the thief can intercept the signal emitted by the car fob and relay it to a receiver adjacent to the car. The car thinks the owner is there unlocks and, often, prepares the push start ignition. A press of the button and the car is away. Keyless car theft can take less than sixty seconds. A large percentage of cars are stolen in this way and it’s not just prestige cars either.

How To Stop Relay Theft

Despite advances being made in vehicle security, car, caravan and motorhome theft is on the increase. How to stop relay theft is part of the remit of the Thatcham Research Centre, a ‘not-for-profit’ organisation funded by car insurance companies. They are the leaders in car security standardisation and only certify products that meet their set stringent criteria. 

Car Trackers

Car trackers are devices that when installed in a vehicle can alert the owner or a central monitoring station that the car is being tampered with or has been taken. The car tracking device sends back a real-time signal allowing the vehicle to be followed and, hopefully, retrieved and the thieves apprehended. GPS car trackers can also give tamper warnings and motion alerts.

Some car makers even recommend certain types: The German brand BMW endorses the Trackstar S5 Advance for example; this is a GPS/GSM enabled car tracking device that offers car tracking coverage anywhere on the globe.

There are GPS (global positioning system) units to suit most motoring budgets so it makes sense to fit one in any car. After all, these days we need our vehicles for work and play, they are not just lifestyle accessories.

Faraday Pouch

The Faraday Pouch is an exceptionally inexpensive way to protect your car key or fob when not in use. Lined with a metallic layer they effectively block the signal from the key so any criminal trying to access that signal outside your home will be thwarted. When the key is not in use, simply pop it in the pouch and pocket it. A metal box will also do the trick but it’s less convenient.


The clue is in the name. An immobiliser will help prevent the taking away of a vehicle by immobilising the engine or in the case of electric cars, the motors. They can be physical units like the good, old-fashioned steering locks but it’s far better to fit a hidden electronic device like the popular and effective Autowatch Ghost immobiliser. It’s a great idea in the fight against car thieves and how to prevent relay theft.

Yes, some cars do come with immobilisers already fitted but then again the crooks know this too and will already know how to bypass them. What they won’t be aware of is a secondary hidden-away unit, which will act as a secure backup. That explains why the above-mentioned immobiliser is called Ghost.

What Else Can Be Done To Prevent Relay Theft?

Car criminals are a resourceful bunch and keyless entry cars are potentially vulnerable anywhere, even in a public car park in broad daylight. For example, when leaving a vehicle we use a locking sequence, but do we check as we walk away? Thieves can block a locking signal, leaving the car open and any contents vulnerable.

Make sure that, in the case of a button press, the doors are tried and found to be locked. Alternatively, make sure the flashing light signal that indicates locking is seen before turning away.

Which Cars Are The Most Vulnerable?

The easy answer is of course, ‘all of them’. Even if the vehicle is a less expensive model, it doesn’t mean it or its contents are not at risk. 

Clearly though, some cars are indeed more targeted and stolen to order. In 2020 the top three places were taken by Range Rover models. Otherwise, it’s the usual suspects of the German premium makes like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche which are always going to be highly desirable.

Fitting A Car Tracker To Prevent Relay Theft Can Help Keep Your Insurance Premiums Down

This is a legal requirement and it pays to have the most comprehensive cover. Car theft isn’t just a nuisance, it will also inevitably mean that the following year’s premium will go up. That’s why fitting a car tracker and one way or another making sure the vehicle is protected against relay theft will help keep insurers happy and that’s what all motorists want.

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