back to article Thieves jam key-fob lock signals in mystery car thefts

Surrey police are exploring the theory that a gang of car thieves are jamming central locking systems to make it easier to steal goods from cars. The theory arose after one a witness reported that a man used an electronic device to prevent doors from locking when he parked his Lexus at a local Sainsbury's. Apparently the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How Would This Work?

    When I leave my car I hit the lock button and there's a satisfying clunk and the indicators flash. If that didn't happen I wouldn't leave the car.

    You'd have to be spectacularly stupid to get caught out by this.

    However we have one carpark at work where locking is hit or miss. There's clearly some sort of intermittent interference as many people report the car won't lock or unlock and then after a few tries it will. This has been going on for years. Maybe this is what happened to the Lexus owner.

    1. ChrisC Silver badge

      Stupid indeed.

      If the remote locking on any of my cars past or present has failed to work as expected, I know I can always fall back on the trusty old mechanical key sticking out of/hidden within the keyfob. As you say, there are some locations where the remotes simply don't work reliably - there was one particular street in central London where I could always lock the car OK with the remote, but always had to unlock it manually. Could never quite figure out how that was possible given the lock and unlock signals were being sent on the same frequency, mind...

      Sadly we seem to be breeding a generation of drivers who, thanks to a combination of technology allegedly aimed at making life easier (keyless entry/ignition etc) and an aversion to RTFM'ing whenever they get a new car, wouldn't know what a car *key* was even if you held it in front of them whilst screaming "THIS is what a car key looks like, you numpty", and who think that the *only* way to lock/unlock their cars is via the remote.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Unlock is shorter

        Lock is continous while you hold the button down, often a feature to shut windows.

        Unlock is a quick broadcast.

        More chance for lock to work

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          Hmm, could be it...

          ...although, if the LED on the fob was anything to go by, the unlock broadcast also appeared to be continuous if the button was held down.

        2. Shades

          Unlock is not shorter...

          ...all four windows on my car open if you hold down the unlock button (and close if you hold the lock button).

    2. Anomalous Cowturd

      Buy a Volvo!

      I only recently found out that my V70 locks "itself" after two minutes with the key out of the ignition.

      I left my daughter sat in it whilst I nipped indoors to fetch something. When I was indoors, she texted me to say "Hurry up Dad, the car alarm is going off, and I can't get out of the car. LOL.

      Needless to say, she doesn't stay in the car anymore...

      1. Danny 14


        V70 isnt the only volvo, xc90 does too, I learnt the hard way when I locked my keys inside the car (was checking tyre pressures and having a chat with a friend.)

        allegedly this isnt supposed to be possible as it has an RFID in the fob. Luckily the wife could drive down with the spare set.

      2. Lennart Sorensen

        Bad idea.

        Great, a car designed to lock your bag/purse/keys in the car for you. Brilliant!

        Some car designers just aren't thinking.

        I sure hope the dealer can turn that "feature" off, because I sure wouldn't put up with a miss design like that.

  2. Rich 30


    Do people really just press the central locking button and hope it works? Surely everyone makes sure they see the hazards flash? Or listen for the locks? The battery in your keys could well be flat.

  3. Nick 65

    Stating the bleedin obvious

    As the non-victim in this story noticed, if your central locking gets jammed, it doesn't work, the locks don't clunk, the lights don't flash and your car doesn't get locked. Since this happens from time to time when you don't push the button properly, or for no good reason (like near my local Tesco, I blame the trolley bloke's hearing aid) surely paying attention at this point is a given? Am I being overly optimistic here?

    I do know insurers will take a dim view of this, and will be looking to say "you didn't lock the car" to avoid paying out. I foresee a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  4. sebacoustic


    a) park car, the lock won't come on, pretend not to notice

    b) lurk around the corner while thief enters the car

    c) attach huge 10W RF afterburner to keyfob

    d) overriding the jammer, lock the car

    e) call cops

    f) let thief out when car is surrounded by coppers

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Unfortunately, in this country...

      a) The coppers wouldn't show up, they prefer to arrive after the crime so they can get on with the important business of filling out the correct paperwork.

      b) If you were unlucky, and they did show up, they'd arrest you for false imprisonment, and let the thief go free. He didn't actually steal anything after all, did he?

      c) You'd then also be sued in civil courts by the thief for causing mental distress

      d) And the warrant on your car would be void from using an unauthorised modified device (the RF afterburner)

      It would, all in all, be a very bad day.

    2. Lennart Sorensen

      or not.

      Given every car can have the doors open from the inside whether they are locked or not, the worst the thief would do in getting out is set off the alarm. Big deal, what do they care. Besides they wanted to steal your stuff, not the car, so they wouldn't even be getting in the car and closing the doors in the first place. I hope you packed your running shoes, because you will have some chasing to do to get your stuff back.

  5. The BigYin


    Doesn't the driver's door require the key to be inserted for it to lock? Has on every single car I've ever owned.

    Then again, I don't drive cars people would want to steal. I'm more likely to have things placed in the car out of sympathy!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      What car do you drive?

      I've had cars since the early 90's that used a remote and not a key, and these aren't expensive cars. I had a peugeot that used infra red (sensor was in the rearview mirror) rather than radio, that was a fun one in the winter...

      1. Number6

        Late 90s

        You could still buy cars that had central locking but not a remote facility in 1999 because I bought a new Fiesta (end of range, so cheap) then. Turning the key in the lock operates both doors, but there is no remote and I'm happy enough not to have one.

        1. Daniel B.

          Ford Fiesta and some others

          There are a couple of cars that have the "driver key lock" alarm mechanism. I've seen a couple of recent models carry the thing as well. Judging by the quantity of remote-controlled alarms that have gone into "retard mode" where the alarm goes off, and anything I do won't disengage the alarm, I'm betting that this is probably becoming the preferred method of anti-theft system.

      2. The BigYin

        If you must know...

        ...I drive a second-hand Polo. The driver's door requires the key to lock it, just like every other car I have ever owned. And needing the key to lock the driver's door has one other advantage - you can't lock yourself out easily.

        Sorry to burst your bubble, not all of us can afford/want to buy new top-end cars every few years.

        1. foxyshadis

          It's a $100 aftermarket upgrade

          $30 if you want the most bare-bones lock/unlock, no alarm. I happily drive a 10 year old car that recently got one. As said, cars have been coming with it since the 90's, including Polos for nearly a decade, so it seems it's your bubble that's burst. Or do you come also into comment threads expressing confusion when moon roofs and anti-lock brakes are mentioned?

          1. John 62

            fob battery

            the battery in my keyfob died. now I just use the key, because I'm too cheap to get a new battery

  6. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Low hanging fruit

    Basically the keyless entry systems run on one of two (country specific) frequencies so this would be a doddle to build and run off a 9V battery. Why crack the code system when you can simply transmit a jamming signal to stop the punters from locking the doors?

  7. sabroni Silver badge

    if only...

    ..there was some way of using hardware to physically lock a car, maybe by inserting a specially shaped piece of metal into a hole and turning it. That would be difficult to jam electronically.

    1. PaulWizard

      yes please

      if you could provide me with one that would be great. None on my door, just the back window.

  8. Number6

    Low Power Radio

    It's relatively trivial to jam a lot of remote locking devices because some idiot decided that 433-434MHz was a good place to put them. Cheap amateur radio gear will happily jam such things simply because it's using the same frequency band at significantly higher power levels. Indeed, because it's also used by the military, they might be jamming things as well.

    It's not unknown for someone to park their car near a radio mast, lock it up, go off somewhere and when they come back, they can't unlock the car because the radio repeater on the mast has fired up and is jamming the receiver in the car (which is built down to a cost and is therefore going to be very poor at rejecting the unwanted signal).

    1. I didn't do IT.

      Re: Unwanted Signal

      Actually, anything that is licensed to be sold in the US has to follow FCC Part B regulations, which state (roughly) that any "unwanted" operation caused by interference MUST be accepted by the device (and that it shouldn't cause any unwanted interference in other devices).

      So you can't even get around it by hardening it against "unwanted" interference.

      1. foxyshadis

        Your FCC regs are mixed up

        That's FCC Part 15.5(b), part of Subpart A, and that's not what it means; by regulation it has to accept any signal that it could physically receive without causing a fire/short or spewing further interference into the air. Any device is always allowed and encouraged to filter extraneous signals once it's accepted them. Too bad that despite the prevalence of good OEM implementations, cheap Chinese versions are as likely as not to randomly unlock or start the panic mode when hit with interference.

        Car alarms would fall under 15 Subpart C anyway, not B, since they transmit signals.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a pity!

    Wouldn't it be nice if we could get a lock jammer which could lock an MP in their car! That would keep them out of harms way and the rest of us law abiding citizens could get on with out lives without being molested with fanciful laws being passed.

  10. Richard IV

    Am I missing something here?

    Isn't there an audible chuchunk when the central locking engages? What kind of idiot is out of hearing range before locking the car doors*? OK, this is Surrey, but nevertheless!

    Conversely, what kind of idiot car manufacturer would want to make a remote controlled central locking mechanism where you couldn't tell that it had engaged except through physical interaction?

    * Yes, I realise that the hard of hearing would do this, but the thieves would be doing an impressive level of targeting if there weren't idiots doing it as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Richard IV

      I've got a neighbour that just gets out of his Merc (think it's a 240 CD) and walks away relying on the autolock to lock it up for him, he doesn't even look back at it. Does the same thing with the lights.

      Think he'll regret it one day.

  11. Lee Dowling Silver badge


    Clever - you can't really work around that in technology because you have to assume that a jammed channel is not your "lock" signal (otherwise you end up with the opposite problem that these people can lock you in your car / out of your car).

    However, almost every car I've ever seen with remote central locking will make a sound or flash the lights when it's "armed". Quite often they require two or three clicks of the button to make them do so just because of other noise and interference (some old Fords even use IR remote locks). If you're walking off without hearing the beeps / seeing the flash then the chances are that you're leaving your car unlocked unknowingly anyway, just because of ordinary interference / range problems. Wait for the beep. If it doesn't go, then walk up to the car and use your key to do it. (Or say "Whoops" if you've bought a car that can ONLY be unlocked remotely). Problem solved.

    Which begs the question - what the hell was wrong with putting a key in a hole? Even an electronic key is infinitely more reliable than some wireless tech that can almost certainly be sniffed and replicated if you're clever enough anyway, and you don't save any time by being able to unlock the doors from a few feet away.

    The next step? Giving your car a SIM card (hell, some cars have built-in 3G/Wifi now, or a GPS tracker that talks over GSM) and being able to unlock it via text.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A few feet?

      "and you don't save any time by being able to unlock the doors from a few feet away."

      My keyfob un/locks my car from 200 metres away! :-O It is a right royal PITA. Most of the time I have to keep the key in my hand until I'm a safe distance away from the car otherwise it will unlock "itself".

      And don't get me started on the stupid remote window opening thing... There has been a few occasions when I've got home from work absolutely cream-crackered and fell asleep with my clothes on (and absent mindedly put my car key in my pocket) only to wake up and find that not only is my car unlocked but all the bloody windows are completely down.

  12. Fenwar
    Black Helicopters

    That's me safe then

    1 Shut door.

    2 Click fob once

    3 Click fob again to activate "extra secure" mode.

    4 Walk away from car.

    5 Stop and wonder if I really clicked it?

    6 Walk back towards car clicking fob to make sure it's properly locked.

    7 GOTO 4

  13. mark 63 Silver badge

    almost rotm

    "oh no my bleepy bleepy things not working! Well, gotta do the shopping - I'm off.

    I wish I knew how to work a key then i could lock it manually"

    (ok some real top-flight cars have probly , foolishly, done away with the actual key, but not many)

    (what happens if the battery goes flat in such a car while its locked?)

    1. foxyshadis

      Same as when a regular third-party fob dies I guess

      Open the car with the key, ignore the alarm, disconnect the alarm brick, and drive away. Just like the thieves do. I usually use the trunk on mine, it isn't quite wired right so I can get in and out without setting anything off. Works wonders.

      Or keep a spare on you, but that'd be poor sport there.

  14. DannyAston

    Cant lock manual

    My 2006 320D only has a fob with no key! Would have to chase the little bastard off before I could lock the door.

    1. David Beck

      No "hidden" key?

      Assuming your 320D is a BMW then doesn't if have a "hidden" key built into the fob? All of mine have.

      1. DannyAston
        Thumb Up

        Well done!

        Butter my arse! You are correct Sir, thanks for the info.

  15. David Pollard

    Zone Alarm

    It looks as though there might be a technological growth area here: monitors to detect jammers, followed by counter-measures by the miscreants, followed by ...

    There would be a certain ring to notices in car parks saying, "Protected by Zone Alarm".

  16. Anonymous Coward

    The title was stolen...

    I would take the Luddite approach to the matter, using low-tech physical keys, with physical actuation. Or have the locking actuation for said car from really, really close, not 30 ft apart, with the remote thingy. Remotes should be reserved only for alarms, not actual locking, anyways.

    Something prone to remote jamming is easily broken, like your wi-fi router (white-picket-fence security level).

    A 4-sided mechanical key is not easily disabled. Some mechanical locking models take 30 minutes to be broken or bypassed, with a guy stuck underside the hood (or bonnet) section of the vehicle, and pretty aware of what he is doing, or what he is up to, only to get inside the car. A guy lying on the floor under your car should call some unwanted attention, don't you think?

    1. Danny 14


      window, meet brick.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Moral of the story...

    ... don't be a big poser-twat and walk away from your car making a huge show of pressing your remote...

    Stand next to your car and then check it's locked afterwards - oh so difficult, and what any sensible person would do.

    Mine's the one with good old fashioned keys, which work, every time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "Stand next to your car and then check it's locked afterwards - oh so difficult, and what any sensible person would do."

      As several posters have already pointed out, there's no need to do this since the indicators flash and there's a big clunky noise when the doors lock.

      If this really happened* then the thief is a moron who stands virtually no chance of success. Hardly anybody would walk away from their car unless they were actually aware that the doors had locked.

      * Did it really happen? Or did a Daily Fail reader press the wrong button on their remote, see somebody in a hoody and put one and one together and get six hundred and sixty six?

      1. irrelevant

        clunk click

        I had a Citroen C8 for a while that developed an interesting fault - despite the remote locking the car, and arming the alarm, the driver's side passenger door would still be openable, and the electrically assistance on the sliding door would still work. At least the alarm would trigger when it was opened ... To this day, I often check at least one, usually different each time, door after locking and after hearing the thunk, just to make sure!

        1. Lennart Sorensen

          Could be by design...

          I remember that my parents 1995 Eagle Vision had the misdesign that hitting the remote would flash the lights, make a beep with the horn, etc, as a signal that it got the command. Whether or not it actually locked the doors and turned on the alarm wasn't relevant, so if you did it with a door partially open, the car was in fact not locked and the alarm was not on, but you thought it was. So the indications meant nothing at all in that case.

  18. hplasm

    Is it not possible

    To stick the key in the lock and turn it if the fob fails to perform?

    Or are these the sort of drivers who can't work an indicator stalk?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Go on, say it, we're all thinking it anyway! ;)

      "Or are these the sort of drivers who can't work an indicator stalk?"

      You're talking about predominantly BMW drivers aren't you? Oh, and a growing number of Audi and Merc drivers too haha

  19. Anonymous Coward


    If my car failed to lock after I clicked the button I'm buggered if I'll walk off and leave it wide open! Maybe I'm more paranoid about scumbags that hang around breaking into cars.

    On a related note, please stop leaving your sat-nav cradles in place eh? It usually suggests the sat-nav is hidden in the car and the scumbags will simply smash the windows and find it. I know, it happened to me, unlucky for the muppet that smashed my car he stole my little girls black play-purse believing it to be the satnav in its bag! Hilarious! Loved to have been there when he found three sweet wrappers and a load of plastic toys in the bag! The sat-nav was indoors and not even the car, only the cradle.

    1. PaulWizard

      Not in my case

      Cradle was on window when the little shits broke into my car the other week. SatNav on shelf under steering wheel (it's an antique). They stole neither of them, no, what the pikey scumbags were after was my emergency triangle that was under my passenger seat.

    2. hplasm

      There is an industry

      selling 'special' wipes to get rid of the tell-tale sucker mark on the windscreen too...

  20. Random Noise

    Bad Design

    Aside from the issues of what crypto etc is used on these key fobs the thing that annoys me is the lack of a physical lock on my car door. I have a key to start the ignition, but if I'm being jammed, or simply have a flat battery in my keyfob I cant lock/unlock my car even though i'm standing right next to it with a key!

    It's just annoying design on the manufacturers part. Of course they dont want to 'spoil the lines' of the car...

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge


      Are you sure you don't have a physical lock on your car? Most cars have them, otherwise you wouldn't be able to get into a car with a flat battery. Or indeed lock a car with a flat or disconnected battery. If there isn't an obvious lock it's normally just covered with a pop off plastic cap. Usually it's right next to the door handle and often has a little padlock symbol on it. On some european cars you may well find it on the passenger door because the manufacturers can't be arsed to change them over for RHD.

      However be aware that using the mechanical lock to secure your car will probably not activate any security devices such as alarms.

      There seem to be many of you out there who think that a mechanical lock would be more secure. Partly, I suscpect, because you've been fooled by this Daily Mail style scare story and partly because you are luddites. Firsltly this jamming system would only work on the teminally stupid, keyless entry systems on cars a pretty secure. Secondly bear in mind that mechanical locks alone are not very secure. Remember in the eighties when Ford launched their Chubb system where every lock was supposedly unique? Ford had a history of the key from one car opening another so this was supposedly a step forward. When these cars first came out I knew somebody who managed to lock themselves out of one (pretty clever given how the locks worked). The RAC man who attended had no master keys or tools for these locks, the only key he had was the one for his Transit. It opened the customer's car.

      Likewise I bet you have any number of locks on your house, shed, whatever that would be easy to pick or force. However with a keyless entry system on a car you usually find a couple immobilizer and/or alarm so even if some light fingered scrote forces the lock they're probably not taking your car.

      The reason manufacturers tend to hide the locks is that they are a weak link in the security chain.

      1. Danny 14


        there are PLENTY of keyless entry cars. Lagunas were some of the first commercial ones. BMW have a few, obviously there are more exotic model cars too. Sometimes its an optional extra (I think the ford RS have an optional extra for keyless)

        1. ChrisC Silver badge


          "there are PLENTY of keyless entry cars"

          How many of them are genuinely keyless - i.e. have absolutely no way to lock/unlock at least one door other than via the remote fob?

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Easy to defeat these thieves...

    Just watch for the visible indication of the car being locked/alarmed - indicators flashing, usually.

    This is only effective against those who just walk away without checking the car's locked.

  22. David 18


    Are people now so reliant on technology that they haven't got the gumption to stick the damned key in the lock and turn it when the car doesn't click and chirp at them?

    Or maybe it's 90's Roger Rep man that is affected - he still thinks it cool to press the button over his shoulder from halfway across the carpark.

  23. davefb

    saw this on

    a bbc program mainly about the ''faked rear end accidents' issue.

    On that, they spoke about people stealing from cars during the night, but leaving one of the devices on so that people think they've locked their cars , but actually haven't. They showed a woman who'd been very suspicious as she kept coming back to the car unlocked after thinking 'i'm sure i pipped it' when she spoke to neighbours, they'd been robbed with the same 'but I was sure I locked it'

    Basically , CHECK it's actually locked by pulling on the handle if you're not sure...

    iirc, it's some gps jammers that are legitimately sold in other countries, but can be bought on ebay for peanuts that can work...

    1. Test Man

      What device?

      What device do you mean? I'm a bit concerned cos several times I've found my car door unlocked and assumed I have forgotton to lock it.

  24. Valerion

    Don't need to spend that much

    I had a wireless door-chime that was set off by people using their car remotes - I imagine it'd work the other way round.

    I had some wireless headphones from abroad that would block my car locking once as well.

  25. Wize

    Mmmm, keyfob isn't working...

    ...Insert key, turn, car locked. Any rocket scientist want to confirm that one?

    Or are we talking about a bunch of numpties that press the button and assume the car is locked? They've never had a flat battery in their fob before.

  26. jake Silver badge

    Ignorance is bliss ...

    "“It’s difficult to get in to a modern car without causing damage"

    Really? I get into mine several times a day without causing any damage ... And I've managed to get into probably half a dozen over the last year after friends have locked their keys in, again without causing any damage.

    Methinks Plod is mollycoddling the constituency ... More likely, the owners don't have a firm grasp on how the technology works ... But to say so would be politically incorrect.

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge


      I'm going to have to call BS on that unless you can name me a few of the current model cars you've managed to get into without causing damage.

      None of the usual tricks that your friendly AA man used to use to get you in when you'd locked yourself out of the car work on new cars. For example popping the top of the window frame and reaching in with a coat hanger? Double fail. Popping the frame won't work on most new cars and even if it does there's nothing for you to get hold of with your coat hanger.

      However it isn't much of an issue anyway because it's much harder to lock your keys in the car than it used to be. Remember the days when you could do something like locking the door from the inside and then hold the handle up when you close the door? That sort of thing doesn't work with modern locking systems. We just tried it with a few newisg cars outside and we couldn't lock any of them without using the key or fob.

      One we thought we would manage it on was a Nissan with an auto lock feature. Unlock the doors and don't do anything and it locks itself after a couple of minutes. So we thought if we unlocked the car, dropped the keys on the drivers seat and shut the door it would lock itself. Nope. As soon as you open one of the doors the auto lock feature is disabled. It only auto locks if you unlock the doors with the remote and then don't open any of them.

  27. irish donkey

    hmmmm - Police - Crime - Inaction

    The Police I would imagine will do the same for this crime as they did when my laptop was stolen from my car.

    'Sir.....These crimes are so common we don't even bother investigating them anymore.'

    and anyway you shouldn't leave laptops in cars anyway. That's just asking for trouble.

    In six months 22 cars in my street were broken into and had stuff stolen. i would imagine all the victims were told the same. Police fail I expect but who knows maybe they will start doing some of that stuff we pay them for.

    1. Keith Williams

      Re: hmmmm - Police - Crime - Inaction

      good thing there's all those CCTV cameras to prevent crime in the UK.

  28. revdjenk

    Get physical with your keys...

    ...use them to lock the quaint!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Its being going on for years

      To get the kit is very easy most uhf ham radios transmitters will do it. its old news its being happening for years. 5 watts of rf power on a certain freq will jam 99% if car key fobs for about a radus of 800 yards.YOur cars wont lock or unlock.So if your have managed to lock it and activated the deadlocks you wount get in till the jamming has stopped

  29. Anonymous Coward


    Always test the door after locking. Just in case...

  30. David Edwards

    Beeps have a downside

    If you drop your keys in a car park, its then very easy for anyone dodgy to find said car by pressing the button and listening/watching for lights etc.

    If I were to design a secure system it would not have obvious arm/disarm indication. Same reason its not the best idea to have the make of car on the keyfob. Maybe so cars have this?

  31. Ross 7

    Misunderstanding of the tech

    It appears ppl here don't understand how the fobs work.

    In order to avoid replay attacks the fob has a OTP which is also held in the car. You press the button, the next item in the OTP is sent over the air, the car recognises it as the item it is expecting and opens (or locks) up.

    Your fob can easily be desync'd by accident. Your car will give it some allowance for that. However with a jammer in effect (intentionally or otherwise) you can permanently desync the fob on some cars. Once it gets too far out of sync you need to pay for a manufacturers reset. Ouch.

    The crime as reported is stupid - as pointed out, cars beep / flash / clunk when the central locking activates. Jammers can 'cause you grief, but can't enable crims to access your car unless you're stupid enough to let them. This is just a bunch of idiots forgetting to lock the car as they walk away. Simples.

    1. ChrisC Silver badge

      Which manufacturers require a paid-for resync?

      Please let me know, so I can avoid buying any of their products in the future, because every car I've owned so far has allowed me to resync the fob by following the simple procedure described in the user manual.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Not sure nowadays ....

        but in the early 90s, after FIAT were crucified for having poor security, they introduced a customer black box ECU which was synched with the 2 keys you were supplied with. You also got a master key which was the ONLY WAY you could reprogram a blank key. No master key = new ECU needed (at £1000 a pop). Of course, you know what happened ... some complete numpty "went jogging" with ALL THREE keys in his pocket, lost them, and then threw a wobbly when the dealer quoted £1000 for the new ECU. "Watchdog" on the BBC ran a special feature on the story, with a "what a rip off car manufacturers are", rather than "what a numpty customer".

        I know this because a dealer I used to work for ended up getting the customers to sign a printed form, where they confirmed they had been informed of the importance of keeping the master key safe.

        Oh, one of the consumer organisations which pilloried FIAT for poor security ?


        1. Grease Monkey Silver badge


          OK some cars need a dealer to resync the fob, but I've never yet come across one who charges. It's the work of a couple of minutes and the sort of thing that most dealers will do on good will.

  32. Rob Daglish

    Keyless entry

    Most of the cars I see here tend to have a plastic "Safety key" and a portion of the door handle that removes to allow access to a physical lock. Admitttedly, the alarm then goes off until you put a proper key in, but yes, most modern cars that don't seem to have locks actually have one hidden somewhere - even "luxury" motors like Mercs, Jags and Lexus

  33. Steve Evans

    There are some dodgy gadgets about...

    My brother recently disturbed two guys trying to steal his motorbike from outside his house.

    They ran off.

    When he came to move the bike to safety he found his alarm completely disabled. There was no sign of physical tampering. His alarm automatically arms after the bike has been turned off for 30 seconds and he has never experienced any problem with it until that night.

    Pressing his keyfob the first time did nothing. The second time he pressed it the bike did its normal "disarm" beep, and has continued to function normally ever since.

    Very suspicious.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mobile Mast?

    Its quite likely there is a phone mast there.

    We had this problem outside my Uncles house when attending his funeral.

    The car would not lock or start (its a keyless ignition).

    We had to wait about 30 minutes or so in the end and finally it started working (in the mean time I tried a new battery). It happened again when we returned this time for an hour or so. its never failed before or since.

    I spotted other motorists having issues and on talking to neighbours it seems they have been having problems with their car alarms and immobolisers for a few months,. On and off their remote key fobs just don't work.

    After a bit of a chat it seems a mobile cell was placed in the church tower at the end of the road, seems problems started around that time although they hadn't put it together.

    My dads problems was worse as he has a keyless car. So can't even use the ruddy key. So when buying your next car remember if that thing don't work you are stuffed.

    So I guess if there is a similar problem there - all thieves have to do is hang around and wait.

  35. This post has been deleted by its author

  36. Just Thinking

    Two cars

    I once unlocked my car in a carpark, both my car and the one next to it beeped and clicked. To be certain I tried it again and the same thing happened.

    Then I realised there was guy a few yards away doing exactly the same thing.

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Used to be common

      Well, not exactly common, but it happened. I knew of one aftermarket alarm where the code was set with dip switches on the alarm and fob and there were eight switches. Yup only 256 combinations. Most owners of that particular "security" system found that they would occasionally beep two cars at once.

      The worst of this was that it was a single button system, so the signal just toggled the state of your alarm and locks if you had the central locking option. So it was often the case that locking your car would unlock somebody else's car.

      I never understood why more thieves didn't get hold of a fob and try each of the 256 combinations in a car park until something beeped. It would only take a matter of minutes to go through all the combinations. It was a popular alarm system so in a decent sized car park there was a good chance you'd find at least one car with that system.

  37. Anonymous Coward

    the radio jammers also exist in some Italian motorway

    servicestations. When transiting thru Europe we lock the car physically using keys as there have been several 'attacks'. The 5 watt handheld transmitters cost from around 70 quid so virtually anyone could be using them; I also have a 7mm x 7mm sized OOK transmitter - so individuals with heavy coats might not be automatically the culprit! (with just 10 milliwatts I managed to immobilise the car-park at our research centre with a matchbox sized device)

  38. JMB

    Thieves jam key-fob lock signals in mystery car thefts

    My car has a keyless system where you don't even need to push the button, the car locks as you walk away though get the audible and visual indication that it has locked. Only problem is that if you go back ot check the door then it unlocks when you touch the handle.

    You can push the button to lock which is what I do in dodgy areas so I can physically check the door is locked.

    The TV programme mentioned suggested there was some newer system which can unlock and allow the thief to drive the car away.

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge


      The system you describe works by their being an passive RFID tag in your fob. They are pretty much foolproof. You could describe it as a system where the default state of the doors is locked, unless the car can "see" the RFID tag. Likewise the default state of the ignition system is off unless it can "see" the RFID tag.

      These things are very short range when compared with normal systems where your fob is a transmitter so the bad boys need to be a lot closer before they can even think about sniffing any communication between car and fob.

      All of which makes them inherently more secure than the traditional remote locking system. The trouble I find is that a lot of luddites don't like them because they want to check the doors by hand.

  39. NightFox


    I'm surprised how many 'technologically astute' people on here still think that most modern cars still actually come with a key to lock the door. The last 3 or 4 cars I've owned have been fob-only operation, with just an 'emergency' key embedded in the fob to gain access via a rather convoluted means should the fob fail.

    The move now is to RFID locking/unlocking, where as long as you've got the fob on your person, all you do is pull the door handle and the door will open. As soon as the fob goes out of range (e.g. you walk away) the door is locked again.

    1. ChrisC Silver badge

      Fail yourself

      "I'm surprised how many 'technologically astute' people on here still think that most modern cars still actually come with a key to lock the door."

      Perhaps we think that because...

      "The last 3 or 4 cars I've owned have been fob-only operation, with just an 'emergency' key embedded in the fob to gain access via a rather convoluted means should the fob fail." you've just admitted, they do. It might require a convoluted procedure to actually use it, but if the alternative is walking away from your car knowing that it isn't locked because the fob hasn't worked, then it's a procedure only the terminally idiotic would fail to perform.

      1. NightFox

        Fail yourself, yourself

        Yes but I was responding to the people suggesting that this was how you should lock your car *every* time and that use of the fob was some show-off technology just for lazy people

  40. PaulWizard

    Not always a criminal

    My neighbour, my partner and I were all unable to lock our cars when we returned home last night. Turned out not to be malicious. You don't need fancy tech off the net, just a faulty wireless doorbell it seems :| It was stuck in transmit and has rather an impressive jamming range. Felt like a right plum in front of the coppers who came round to investigate. I now have to get my key resynchronised cos I pressed it too many times :( Good timing on the article Reg! you weren't playing with my doorbell yesterday were ya?

  41. DRendar


    But anyone who walks away from their car, pressing the button to lock it without listening for the thunk of the central locking, or looking for the lights flashing is just asking for their stuff to be nicked.

    The same thing would happen to them if the battery in their key died.

    One more way for the criminal element to prey on the stupid.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Central locking jamming System !!

    WTF !!!

    A,K,A 2 way radio ?!

    why do they try and make these fools sound like proffesionaly who actually know what the fuck they are doing, rather than the fact they saw telly program explaining the situation then googling for more info.

  43. JaitcH

    Why not just use the bloody key?

    These lazy driver central locking systems typically use 315 MHz in North America and Japan, and 433.92 MHz in Europe with rolling encryption to enhance security.

    If Hoodie wants to hang around pushing his key button, thereby preventing Intended Victim from locking his car, there is little Plod can do for, as with WiFi and garage door openers, these are essentially licence free, no complaining about interference, frequencies.

    All the lazy driver need do is to activate his button in close proximity to the vehicle or, as in yesteryear, use the bloody mechanical key.

  44. Anonymous Coward

    stealing from a locked car? I've seen it!

    currently I am living a working in Tanzania, and I got 2 co-workers who had their notebooks stolen while they were in town. According to them, they locked the car, walked in the store, came back to the car (which was still locked) and drove off... just to discover that the notebook is now missing!

    according to one of victims, he was later contacted by someone who wanted to SALE him his notebook back. Local thieves have realized that the data on the notebook far out-price the notebook itself!

    P.S. many users do keep backups.... the problem is, they usually keep the backup external hard disk in the same bag as their notebook!

  45. LinkOfHyrule

    Lexus at a local Sainsbury's.

    Shame is wasn't a Lexus at a local BP garage in the Norfolk area - I could of made a funny about Alan Partridge.

    But anyway, I do like the bit about the suspected crim wearing clothing to warm for the time of year!

  46. Anonymous Coward

    Don't know about Surrey

    Don't know about Surrey, but where I live, if my remote doesn't work, I stick the thing called a "key" (in the legacy [1] sense) in the "key hole" and use legacy technology to engage the locking mechanisms (and, where applicable, the alarm).

    [1] "legacy" = "stuff that works"

  47. The Indomitable Gall

    Well that was predictable....

    It was bound to happen, wasn't it?

    So what's the solution? Maybe sticking a piece of metal into the car that contains a physical code that can be used to activate or deactive the locking mechanism. I call this revolutionary device a "car key", and have lodged my patent application with the USPTO.

  48. Martin

    call me old-fashioned....

    ...but I'll never have that problem with my car.

  49. Code Monkey


    Presumably the central locking works if you do it in the old-fashioned way (key in the lock, rather than the plipper).

  50. Pinkerton
    Thumb Up

    Finally! Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has its up side!

    I find it very hard to lock the car and just walk away. At a minimum I'll look through the windows to make sure the locky-thingies are down and will usually check the handle, too.

    More than half the time I'll walk away, get 10 paces, turn and double-check.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      I'm not the only freak!! LOL Mine also extends to my house, checking of doors and windows before I go out, and the front door, repeatedly, when I finally get that far!

  51. Dave H 1

    Lock your car before you walk away.

    I once parked up in the multi storey car park in my home town, hopped out of the car as a couple were climbing intto their car next to me, walked away to do some shopping and locked my car. Upon return I saw the couple still parked up, only when I unlocked my car did the drivers door of the adjacent car open and the gentleman told me I had locked them in, deadlocked their car and activated the immobiliser so they couldn't start their car.....good job I wasn't going shopping for more than a couple of items or they could have been stuck there for who knows how long.

    I have to agree with the other posters - unless I hear the clunk and see the hazard flash to acknowledge it's locked and deadlocked you don't walk away.

  52. This post has been deleted by its author

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Title! Shaken not Stirred

    I forgot to lock my car a few weeks ago at the office car park, which isn't in any way secure...

    For a week I was thinking, 2pc's in the boot with new flat screens, my mobile & satnav are in there...

    Returned the next week to find it all intact, cob webs all over the door locks, so no-one even took a look in my Skoda Clasic 51 plate...

    Disappointing to say the least, they could of at least rolled it over the cliff.

    Do you think I should leave the keys in the ignition next time?

    Oh, BTW this is Cornwall, and NO you can't have the postcode!!

    Paris.... Well you know!

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Somebody's finally noticed

      Leave your car or house unlocked and it's not particularly likely that somebody will nick anything. There are not many people who habitually walk round trying doors.

      Furthermore I used to live in a rough area of Wakefield (I know, how can you tell the difference?) and my wife once left the passenger window of her car half open all night. Nothing gone or damaged in the morning. Preseumably not a single passing scrote even noticed the window was open.

      Oh dear. The world isn't quite so nasty as the Daily Express would have us believe.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wearing Unusually Warm Clothes for the Season

    In London, the police shoot people for that.

  55. Anonymous Coward

    No problem

    Just use a KEY instead of the fob.

    Never a problem.

    You know the alarm in ineffective anyway. In a parking lot they go off so often that nobody bothers.

  56. Anonymous Coward

    To be safe

    To be completely safe, you actually have to lock your car with the remote and then check every door to ensure it's locked. Don't depend on the lights flashing or the clunking noise. I had an intermittent fault on one door of mine for a while and while the car gave every indication of being securely locked, the affected door was often unlocked.

    Of course, now it's fixed, I don't bother checking... But be warned, it can happen.

    Sorry to the obsessive compulsive types BTW, I've probably just given you something else to worry about :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yaaaay... ahh, crap!

      I'm the AC OC from above. Thanks for that... you git! ;-) LOL

    2. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Wrong System

      A decent system (Mitsubishi springs to mind) won't flash and beep unless all the doors lock.

      Obviously every door has a switch (for the interior light) the security system should be wired to these so it knows the doors are closed. Door not closed? System won't arm. Every lock should also have a switch that is closed when locked. Any lock not locked? System won't arm.

      It's simple to set up. If you're being really paranoid you would make the switches DPDT so that one circuit went open and the other went closed in each position. Wired like that the system would be much less likely to be fooled by a short or open circuit fault.

  57. Frederic Bloggs

    Folding door mirrors do have another use

    Being of the "Ding! Did I just lock my car? (but only after having walked at least 100yards away)" school of parking, I have found that my mk3 C5's automatic folding door mirrors are a very useful visual aid, preventing much unnecessary exercise. Oh and the 200yard+ range and multiple LED indicator lights help as well.

    Having said that, I can jam both it and the rest of the car park with my 70cms handheld. LPUG has a lot to answer for.

    CQ Test anyone?

    PS the EU wide ISM band on 868Mhz is now being increasing used by more sophisticated users, but the car industry seems rather resistant to change, maybe because the hardware costs an extra couple of quid.

  58. John F***ing Stepp

    Duct Tape.

    I always carry at least one roll.

    And as trashed up as my car is it is going to take someone (me for instance) at least an hour to even find the damn duct tape.

  59. Gavin Burnett
    IT Angle

    Call me paranoid

    But after i lock my car with the remote I always tug on the door handle to make sure it has locked.

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