Kia anti-theft updates currently available for some models

Published 5:46 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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Kia and Hyundai are rolling out free anti-theft upgrades to more than 8 million vehicles after a social media challenge caused thefts to spike.

The so-called “Kia Challenge” on Tik-Tok has spread nationwide and led to countless car thefts. At least 14 crashes and eight fatalities have been reported due to the viral videos, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“The problem is that thieves have figured out a way to get in there and use a device to turn the ignition as if it was like a key,” said Stacy Cauthen, Service and Parts Director at Kia of LaGrange.

Even if the cars are recovered after they are stolen — possibly just for a joyride — they are significantly damaged.

“It’s not like in the old days where you see on TV where they can put wires together and steal it that way. They’re actually jamming a USB drive in there which destroys the cover because they don’t fit in there,” Cauthen said. “They destroy the steering column when they do that.”

Cauthen said they have had some calls about it, but LaGrange hasn’t seen a large spike in thefts of Kias and Hyundais like other cities. The City of Milwaukee has reported thousands of the vehicles stolen.

“We haven’t seen many here,” Cauthen said. “I’ve only known of one or two of them that were trying to be stolen that way in our area. But it’s really popular up north.”

Cauthen said the update is currently available at the dealership for certain Kia K5 models and other vehicles will be added soon.

The update only affects the vehicles that have a key that is used to start the engine. Push-to-start vehicles do not need the software upgrade.

“Any cars that use a push button to start the vehicle are not affected,” Cauthen said.

The updates will be available at any authorized Kia dealership for free until Aug. 1, 2024, at which point vehicle owners would need to pay for the upgrade.

The software update should only take about 30 minutes to an hour to install, Cauthen said.

The update also comes with a window sticker to alert would-be thieves that the vehicle is updated with the new software to stop the thefts. Owners can request that the stickers not be placed on their vehicles if they do not want them, Cauthen said.

“No vehicle is 100 percent theft deterrent. If somebody wants to steal a car ,they’re going to steal it. Car manufacturers are just trying to make it more difficult to do,” Cauthen said.

Approximately 4.5 million Kias and 3.8 million Hyundais are eligible for the software update.