TikTok’s meteoric rise to fame has made it a cultural phenomenon, with over 500 million active users consuming content on the platform daily.
Unfortunately, the popularity has led to dangerous and senseless challenges, such as Cha Cha Slide and Throw It in the Air Challenge. And now, the TikTok Car Theft Challenge has gone beyond, putting the public and car owners at risk.
Dubbed the “Hyundai Theft Challenge,“, this social media trend showcases how easily pre-2021 Hyundai and Kia vehicles can be stolen using a screwdriver and a USB cable.
Even more alarming is that the participants are encouraged to not only steal the cars but also film themselves joyriding in them.
Thankfully, Korean car manufacturers have fought against this alarming trend by releasing a software update that disables the ignition and ends this dangerous challenge.
The update is quick, easy, and free to install, taking less than an hour to complete. Let’s check out what this challenge is all about and why it is wreaking havoc in the automobile sector.
TikTok car theft challenge explained
Hotwiring a car may seem like an effortless feat in movies, where a quick jolt of the wires is all it takes to start the vehicle. But this process is more complex, especially for cars manufactured post-mid 1990s.
Yet, for any Hyundai without a push-button start, starting the engine is practically effortless. Viral videos on TikTok demonstrate how removing the steering column and connecting the wires with a USB cable’s tip can start the car in seconds.
Unfortunately, the prevalence of such videos has fueled an alarming trend that has resulted in tens of thousands of Hyundai and Kia vehicles being stolen in the past year.
Furthermore, following the TikTok car theft challenge, the rate of robberies involving the two brands skyrocketed to over thirty times the previous year’s levels.
As a result, America’s largest auto insurance companies, Progressive and State Farm, stopped writing policies on certain Hyundai and Kia models in specific cities, fearing the consequences of this epidemic.
The TikTok Hyundai Theft Challenge leads to immense property loss and poses a significant threat to the public. CBS News reported that the social media trend is linked to at least 14 crashes and 8 fatalities. In October, the police commissioner in Buffalo, New York, tied the death of six teenagers in a stolen Kia that crashed to social media videos.
How are car manufacturers fighting the TikTok car theft challenge?
If you’re the proud owner of a pre-November 2021 Hyundai without a push-button ignition, please pay attention.
While all Hyundai cars made since November 2021 are equipped with engine immobilizers, earlier models without push-button ignitions aren’t, and as a result, they’re more susceptible to theft. But here’s the good news: Hyundai offers a free software upgrade that modifies the vehicle control module, adding a security layer.
The software update is easy to install and activates an ignition kill switch whenever the doors are locked with the key fob. In essence, the engine can only be started if the doors are unlocked with the key fob, rendering the TikTok method of stealing cars useless.
To make it even clearer that these older Hyundai models are no longer an easy target, the company also includes window decals that explicitly state the futility of attempting to steal the vehicle with the TikTok method.
However, it’s worth noting that only some 2011-2022 vehicles with engine immobilizers can accommodate the software upgrade.
For owners of such vehicles, Hyundai will reimburse them for purchasing steering wheel locks, which may not be the best solution but will still discourage driver-side airbag theft.