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Here’s a bizarre trend: some car owners are putting a physical lock on their car’s Onboard Diagnostics port. Others are even installing a “dummy port” not connected to their car, then rewiring the real port hidden in a place like their glove box. These are all methods to make your car harder to steal. And they just might work.

The standard OBD II port became standard for the 1996 model year. It was originally a way to read the “codes” stored by your car when a check engine light came on. If you take a car with a check engine light to a parts store or mechanic, the first thing they’ll do is plug a “code reader” computer into this port to find out what’s wrong.

Over the years, cars have become increasingly computerized. This OBD II port is a way dealers read codes and also upload some new software to modern cars. And it’s also a way that car thieves program a brand new key to steal a car with push-button start.

A bright red metal OBD II port lock.
OBD Port lock | Vargas Turbocharger Technologies via eBay

Cars with keyless entry and push-button start were supposedly safe, but clever thieves have found workarounds. Many owners keep a key by their front door, so thieves now try to stand by the front door with a relay device to amplify the keys signal. This may make the car unlock and start automatically. But if the car unlocks and does not start, they have another trick up their sleeve.

Thieves targeting a specific car may show up with a blank key from the same automaker. Then, after they unlock the car, they’ll plug a computer into the OBD II port and program the new key to the old car. This allows them to start the car and get out of there.

If a thief had infinite time, they could break open a locked OBD II port. They could even cut and rewire a hidden port. But in practice, they often are programming a new key at night, in your driveway. So they don’t want to sit around for long. Some car owners have found by locking their key fob in an RFID blocking box and putting a special lock on their OBD II port, they can thwart would-be thieves.

Next, see how people are relocating OBD ports to foil thieves: