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Movies and TV shows make hot-wiring cars look easy. In most scenarios, two wires are crossed under the steering column to complete a circuit and start the vehicle. If starting a car without the key were really that easy, wouldn’t car theft be a much bigger problem? Hollywood sensationalizes hot-wiring vehicles, but we want to know: Is it easier or harder to hot-wire an electric car than a traditional vehicle? Let’s find out.

Hot-wiring a traditional car isn’t as easy as it seems

Hot-wiring a gas-powered car isn't as easy as movies make it look
Toyota Corolla steering wheel | Toyota

Before we get into the process of hot-wiring an EV, let’s discuss how to do it with a traditional car. Modern vehicles have safety devices and immobilizers to prevent car theft. So, starting most cars made since the 1990s is difficult without a key.

Various online sources provide simple instructions for starting an older car without a key, but the process is more complex than crossing two wires and then off you go. In fact, once you cross the battery wires, you have to add the ignition wire, and then you need to unlock the steering wheel. All of those steps take time.

In addition, trying to hot-wire a vehicle with an engine immobilizer is much more involved and advanced than anyone should attempt.

In both cases, you’ll need tools, the owner’s manual, and some know-how just to start the ignition. After that, getting past the steering wheel lock is an entirely different process and probably not worth the effort.

Is there another way to hot-wire a car?

If getting the ignition to start without the key is so complex, why is car theft such a problem? In recent years, Hyundai and Kia vehicles have been stolen in droves thanks to their lack of immobilizers and a notorious TikTok video. There’s an easier way to start a car without the key, but it also requires tools.

Instead of unscrewing a panel and crossing wires, there’s a simpler method. If you forced a screwdriver into the ignition system’s keyhole, the car might start when the tumbler is turned. This method works only on a few vehicles, but it’s much simpler than stripping wires, crossing the right ones, and finding a way past the steering wheel lock.

Can you hot-wire an electric car?

Before discussing which type of car is easier to hot-wire, we must prove whether an EV can be started this way. “Hot-wire” is no longer the correct term in almost all electric cars and some modern internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Many modern vehicles don’t include a traditional mechanical key tumbler and starting mechanism. Instead, these cars start via computerization, which would require hacking the vehcile rather than hot-wiring it.

Can EVs be hacked?

As we go deeper into the modern age of hybrids and EVs with advanced technology, vehicles are becoming increasingly vulnerable to computer hackers. Instead of employing traditional car theft methods, requiring tools, wires, tape, and the thief’s presence at the vehicle, some hackers have learned to access vehicles remotely. Thankfully, this remote access isn’t quite as widespread as depicted in The Fate of the Furious, but it can be done on a smaller scale.

Are hackers helping car companies create better security systems?


Kia Connect Helps You Find Your Car After the Kia Boys Steal It

“White hat” hackers work for automakers to reveal security flaws that leave EVs vulnerable to thieves. According to OSVehicle, these ethical security hackers find weaknesses and help create repair patches that prevent these flaws. Most new electric cars provide over-the-air updates, so fixes can be sent through software updates to enhance protection against future hacks.

Is hot-wiring an ICE car easier than hacking into an EV?

In reality, hot-wiring a traditional vehicle is easier than hacking into an electric car. Although the process requires many steps, most people can complete them and get past the steering wheel lock to drive away in a vehicle that uses a key and ignition switch.

EVs and modern vehicles with advanced computers are much more difficult to hot-wire/hack, requiring specialized computer skills and knowledge to start the car.