Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

New gadget allows easy break-in to newer cars. Watch out!

From the internet: If you have a wireless key fob for a car with a remote keyless system, then you might want to start keeping your keys in a freezer or other Faraday Cage to protect it from high-tech thieves, who can use a $17 power amplifier to break into your vehicle. Cars with keyless entry systems are capable of searching for a wireless key fob that is within a couple feet of the vehicle, but car thieves can use the “power amplifier” to boost the key searching capabilities, sometimes up to around 100 meters, and pull off a high-tech car break-in.

So if your key-fob is sitting on a table within 100 meters of the car, you are at risk.

this apparently only works for keyless entry systems, where the car searches for the fob. Older systems like the one I have, the unlock sequence is initiated by the key fob, not the car.

The best way to defeat this, is to “put your keys in the freezer, which acts as a Faraday Cage, and won’t allow a signal to get in or out.”

Hopefully the manufacturers are working on fixing this… But maybe they can’t.

On second look, this is about a year old. don’t know what the current status is.

search google for “car electronic unlock”.

If you buy an electronics gadget like a new hard drive, keep the silver colored bag it came in. These also make a Faraday cage. Also useful to keep your credit cards in.

The best way to defeat this, is to "put your keys in the freezer, which acts as a Faraday Cage,

Or perhaps wrap them up in your tin foil hat!

Seriously, though, they’re actually suggesting that the freezer is the BEST way to defeat it?
As opposed to a simple metal can on your shelf for example?

Yeah, strange. But does the average driver know what a Faraday cage is? no.

But stranger is that this has been going on for more than a year and I’ve never heard of it. Or is it all bogus, another Brown’s gas…

I don’t know what to think of this. People have been stealing cars since 1912. With Onstar at least you can shut them off and find them again pretty quickly. I guess the thing is just shut the garage door, assuming of course that that’s where the freezer is. I don’t know what you do at the shopping center. Maybe its a good thing though where the wife will always know her purse is in the freezer and won’t have to look for it.

Geeze, credit card blockers, ATM readers, car openers, garage door code scanners, and on and on. Criminals going high tech and we go higher tech. Now lets get down to where the real hole is-at the credit grantors. No one, banks, visa, master card, rocket mortgages, etc. should be able to grant credit without a physical verification of a person’s identity. That means eye ball to eye ball and a hand shake. When in the world did we ever get away from this?

Maybe I’m missing something but it takes two to tango.
If I stand by the car and boost the signal from the car, it can now reach the remote(ly) located remote. But how does the signal back from the remote make it back to the car? It’s still way distant and too weak to make it back to the booster…

You’d have to position yourself with the signal amplifier within the sweet spot between the two devices. Seems like a lot of luck is involved in making it happen.

I’d buy a freezer to put my keys in, but I spent all my money on my flux capacitor.

It seems like the way an rf keyless entry should work is the owner presses a button on the key which sends a number code to the car computer, and if that code matches a pre-determined number, the car unlocks the door. Then a new number code is decided for the next unlock. Provided the key and car are able to agree on what the next code in the sequence is without broadcasting it over the airwaves, that method should be fairly secure. Maybe that last part isn’t so easy though.

Actually, I don’t know that a freezer is a good Faraday cage. Certainly the rubber/plastic seal around the front leaves a 1/2 inch gap, which means any frequencies below 7 GHz would get through. And the other walls, though seem to be metal, could be plastic. And there is other openings…

George, it works that way for older cars. But a lot of newer ones, you just have to be near the car and it automatically unlocks the doors. Probably you have to touch something, such as the door latch. That initiates the car to send out out signals searching for the key-fob. If it finds one, ie, gets a return signal which conforms to the security, it unlocks the door.

The downside of too much gadgetry in newer cars… The more computer controls and the like…the more opportunity arises for hacker type people. I like things fairly simple…Im a simple man. I dont need my car to recognize me from 100 yds and start itself up…open the door and put the heater on for me…Im not that important of a person and have no delusions that I am. No need for the Royal Treatment for me Im cool with a normal key…and or any other anti theft device I cobble up.


Honda, you are correct. I agree. Remote unlock, electric windows, gas cap remote release, seat heaters, etc, are all frills that we could do without.

Edit: let me rephrase that. If these items (and others) were options I could opt out of, and save money, I would. But try buying a car without power windows, etc.

The more I think about it the less I believe it is feasible. The whole idea of this design is to ensure it only works within a reasonable proximity.

The car is the initiator of the communication because it has the most reserve power. If the FOB was doing it, the battery would be dead very quickly.

So the car is constantly pinging for the remote. If the signal reaches the remote, it wakes up and sends a response. But it is weak signal by design so unless it is close, it will not be received by the car and the handshake completed.

Now, I am a nefarious person looking to steal your car. If I stand by the car, I can boost the signal being transmitted so it can now reach the remote that is 100s of feet away. Great, the remote wakes up and transmits its weak signal. But it can only work a couple of feet away so it cannot get to the signal booster let alone the car.

If I stand closer to the remote, I cannot receive the weak ping signal from the car…

Sounds more and more like a fear monger article to me. I would need to see proof it works…

I agree @ Twin Turbo, the key fob has a limited range and unless the signal booster is at both ends the car is still secure.

And here’s the worst part of all this new car tech . .
You can NOT order the vehicle plain . . EVER.
You can not delete their systems even with a special order.
You’re stuck with it, like it or not.

I think it’s bogus also. To support that, I only found articles a year or more old, nothing recent.

edit: “it” is the cheap amplifier mentioned in the OP’s question/

While I agree, I have come to like some of these features. Power windows and locks? Who doesn’t like that? I have the remote in my pocket and the door unlocks when I touch the handle. The seat resets to my settings, and I just push the button to start. No fumbling for keys. When I get out, I push a button on the door handle and the door locks. I don’t have to go around the car to unlock the door for the wife. I dunno, if someone wants to break into the car, I’d rather have them unlock it than smash the windows in. Much cheaper when its recovered. I guess I’m more concerned about wifi signal theft.

You do have a point. I’ve never had a problem with power windows, but did have a Ford Falcon where the manual window crank kept breaking.

On the other hand, I did have a problem with a power lock on a Jetta, requiring a 50 mile tow to the nearest dealer.

Gee, that’s funny, I’ve never owned an old vehicle (10+) where all of the power windows worked properly. Always coming off track, or getting stuck halfway, etc. I guess we average out, between us.