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In addition to driving and performing vehicle maintenance, car enthusiasts often enjoy watching movies featuring vehicle races and chases. Unfortunately, in many such films, the hero or villain needs a getaway car, so they duck under the driver’s side dash, rip out a few wires, touch them together, and the car roars to life, ready for action. While that quick fix to not having the car’s keys seems plausible on the big screen, in real life, modern cars contain car safety technology that makes hot-wiring impossible, at least most of the time.

How to hot-wire a car

WikiHow provides three methods for starting a car without keys. However, for the most success, it’s recommended only to try these procedures on vehicles at least 30 years old. While newer cars combat hot-wiring with sophisticated electronics that shut down critical systems at the first hint of unusual activity, even older cars usually require the destruction of components to make driving a hot-wired vehicle possible. So, if you care about keeping your car in pristine condition, hot-wiring isn’t an option unless it’s a matter of life or death in most cases.

Method one involves using the owner’s manual from a mid-90s or older car to determine if the steering and gear selector lock are overridable and then looking at the ignition wiring schematic to decide which wires you’ll need to cut, strip, and connect. If you plan to try this, you must realize that the odds of shocking yourself and setting your car on fire are high. You’ll need to twist the stripped battery and ignition wires together and then briefly touch those to the starter wire to start the car. 

Method two, drilling the ignition switch lock pins, requires more tools but involves less risk of fire and bodily harm if you must drive your car without the keys. Start by using a small drill bit, about the same diameter as the slot in the ignition switch. Drill a hole as deep as the key’s length in the upper third of the key slot. Drilling in the same hole a few times while removing the drill bit from the hole each time will remove all the locking pins and allow turning the ignition switch with a flat-blade screwdriver driven into the key slot. 

Method three involves using a jumper wire from the positive battery terminal to the positive side of the ignition coil. Then, use a screwdriver with an insulated handle to jump across the starter solenoid terminals to start the engine. Methods one and three still require breaking the steering and gear selector locks, if possible, using brute force to turn the steering wheel to overcome the locking mechanism inside the steering column

Why can’t most newer cars be hot-wired?

Make Use Of tells us that most modern cars contain an engine immobilizer, a standard car safety anti-theft system. When the engine immobilizer system works correctly, it reduces the odds of car theft to almost zero. So, how does an engine immobilizer work?

Since becoming standard equipment in 1992, engine immobilizers receive a signal from the car’s ignition key that indicates authorized use. Typically, the car won’t start if it doesn’t receive the correct signal, and sometimes, the car’s entire security system activates. While most modern vehicles use immobilizer technology, there are some notable exceptions.

Car and Driver reports around nine million Kia and Hyundai base model vehicles without push-button start recently fell victim to high theft rates due to the lack of an engine immobilizer. Many popular models ranging from 2010 to 2022 model years from both brands became part of a $200 million class-action settlement. If you think your vehicle falls into the class-action group, have your VIN handy and visit the following links for Kia or Hyundai owners.

Do engine immobilizers prevent auto theft completely?

Related How Do Car Immobilizers Work?

How Do Car Immobilizers Work?

Of course not. If someone wants to steal a car bad enough, no anti-theft system will prevent it. You’ve probably seen Gone In 60 Seconds, where the heroes must steal 80 cars in one night. During that action-packed series of car boosts, they used almost every method, including getting actual keys from a dealership for one high-end vehicle thought to be “unstealable.”

The best way to prevent someone from stealing your car is to keep the keys with you, keep your vehicle locked, and keep it in a locked garage. Most car thefts are crimes of opportunity, where someone leaves their car running outside their home or at a convenience store. Finally, making your vehicle harder to steal than the one next to it improves the odds of finding it exactly where you left it