Keyless cars are ones where you no longer have the traditional key but instead a fob that you just need to have on you to unlock and start the vehicle.

There are a lot of benefits to “keyless” cars, they let you get into your car even if your hands are full, your keys are hidden at the bottom of your bag or in a pocket.

Instead of the turn of the key to start the engine most cars that utilise keyless entry also use wireless stop-start technology which allows you to start the vehicle with a push of a button.  It also has the added benefit of removing the bulky lock barrel from the steering column giving the driver more room and reducing the risk of knee injuries if there is an accident.

What is Relay Theft, and How Does It Work?

Relay theft, which is also known as key hacking, specifically targets cars that have keyless entry.

It usually involves two or more people working together to boost the signal from the keys to your car. One person stands by the targeted vehicle and the other stands by the house with a device that picks up the signal from the keys and relays it to the car which then unlocks and can be driven away.

These devices are relatively cheap, on sale for as little as £100 online, and some can pick up a signal from over 100 metres away.

The entire crime can take less than 30 seconds.

Is Your Car at Risk?

If you have to push a button on your key to unlock your vehicle then your car is not at risk, but if you just need to have your keys near the vehicle and they use wireless technology to unlock the car then you could be vulnerable.

It’s not just cars that are using keyless technology and vulnerable to this crime either. Many vans are also at risk.

Thatcham Research Consumer Security Rating assesses a new vehicle’s all-round security and ranks them from poor to superior. Only the model from a range with keyless entry and start is tested.

To get a superior rating the car must have a certified immobiliser and alarm fitted as well as other features like double locking and wheel security.

Part of the assessment includes a relay attack test and if the car fails this it is automatically given a poor rating. If a car passes the relay attack test it may still receive a poor, unacceptable or basic rating if it is missing traditional security features.

In the most recent test in March the BMW X6 M50d, BMW 218i Gran Coupe M Sport, Land Rover Discovery Sport D150, Mini EV, Porsche Taycan Turbo, Skoda Superb, and the Toyota Supra all received superior ratings.

You can see all the ratings Thatcham have given here to see how your car rates.

According to car security company Tracker the most stolen and recovered cars over the last two years:

Range Rover SportBMW X5
BMW X5Mercedes-Benz C Class
Mercedes-Benz C ClassBMW 3 Series
Range Rover VogueMercedes-Benz E Class
Land Rover DiscoveryBMW 5 Series
BMW X6Range Rover Vogue
Range Rover EvoqueLand Rover Discovery 
BMW 3 SeriesRange Rover Sport
Range Rover Autobiography Mercedes-Benz S Class
Mercedes-Benz E ClassMercedes-Benz GLE

What are Car Companies Doing to Stop This?

Car companies are working hard to improve the security of their vehicles and reduce the risk of theft of any kind, including relay theft. They aren’t publicising the specific details of all their fixes

BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Ford on some models have introduced motion sensor key fobs which go into sleep mode after being inactive for 40 seconds to reduce relay theft.

Similarly, most other manufacturers including  Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault, Toyota, Suzuki, VW and Volvo have introduced keys that you can turn the keyless function off, either on the key or in the car.

Other brands, like Kia, are providing their own faraday bags which block the signal from the keys.

How Can I Avoid Relay Theft?

There are a number of ways to reduce the risk of relay theft for your car:

  • Turn off the Bluetooth and wifi functions when you’re not using the car
  • Keep your vehicle software up to date with the latest updates
  • Deactive your keyless entry if your vehicle offers this
  • Keep your keys in a safe location: a metal box or container, faraday pouch or even the fridge all of which block the signal

Keeping your software up to date ensures your car has the latest security measures that your manufacturer offers. 

Turning off the wifi and Bluetooth reduces the ability of thieves hacking into the wireless signal. As does deactivating the keyless entry feature, though depending on your car this may take several steps.

Turning off the signal or keyless facilities can take a little time and effort depending on the model and so a lot of people prefer to use a faraday pouch or signal blocking container which also prevents the signal from being interfered with but can be easier. 

Faraday bags or signal blocking containers are available from as little as £8 on Amazon. 

We advise that when you first buy one of these you test it out by putting your keys away and then trying to open your car. 

These tips work alongside other measures that you can take to keep your car secure, whether you have keyless entry or not, including:

  • When you leave your car always double-check it’s locked
  • Keep your keys out of sight and away from the front door and windows
  • Have a tracking device fitted or a ghost immobiliser
  • Don’t keep any valuables in sight overnight and clean any marks left by Sat Navs on your windscreen and put their chargers away as well
  • If you have a garage or private drive park there instead of on the road
  • If you park in the same spot daily install a CCTV system that covers where your vehicle is parked 
  • Physical barriers like steering wheel, pedal and gear locks are inexpensive and easy to install
  • If you buy a second-hand vehicle then it’s also wise to have your car keys reprogrammed in case you didn’t receive all sets of keys

If you have any other tips on how you keep your car safe overnight then let us know in the comments below. 


Relay theft is not a new crime and is covered by most insurers but it’s important to double-check what your provider covers and whether they require you to take any additional steps to keep the vehicle safe. They may also ask for proof that you still have all keys available. 

All crime including car theft should be reported to the police by calling 101 or in an emergency 999.

If you have any experience with relay theft or have any tips on how to avoid it leave a comment below.

Banner image sourced:


Great post with useful information.

Car Analytics, 11:25AM / Jul 27, 2020

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