Meriden PD to offer free steering wheel locks for Hyundai owners

MERIDEN — Police are offering free steering wheel locks for Hyundai drivers this weekend in response to a rash of car thefts driven by an easily exploitable design flaw which has made the brand’s vehicles susceptible to break-ins.

Up to 100 locks will be available on a first come, first served basis at the Butler Street Commuter Lot between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 4.

“Due to an increase in thefts of Hyundai vehicles, the Meriden Police Department is offering free wheel clubs, supplied by Hyundai, in support of efforts to curb these vehicle thefts,” police said in a statement.

Interested Hyundai owners must be from Meriden and are required to present proof of residency, such as a valid drivers license with a Meriden address and registration which matches that address, Meriden Police Department Public Information Officer Michael Boothroyd said.

Residents must also present proof of ownership of a “validly registered and insured” Hyundai manufactured between 2010-2021, according to a press release from the Meriden Police Department.

Boothroyd said the police department is rolling out the initiative in partnership with the Meriden Hyundai car dealership, which donated 100 locks for the weekend.

The locks — long, club-shaped devices — clamp down on a steering wheel, effectively cementing it in place and making it difficult for would-be theives to drive away with the car, even if they arrive with the necessary tools to hot wire a vehicle.

The giveaway from police comes on the heels of a spike in thefts of Hyundai and Kia vehicles which drew national attention and prompted a class action lawsuit against the company after consumers learned the vehicles were not equipped with immobilizers — computer chips typically found in modern car keys and steering wheels which prevent a vehicle from starting unless a the two chips are nearby each other.

After learning immobilizers were absent in many Hyundai and Kia vehicles, social media users flocked to popular sites such as TikTok and began posting instructional “how-to” videos on jump starting the cars using household items, including USB cables and screwdrivers, which quickly went viral online. 

Amid growing frustration from Hyundai and Kia drivers and prospective buyers, a bipartisan group of 23 attorneys general, among them Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, called on the car manufacturers to recall their vehicles.

“Kia and Hyundai failed to equip its vehicles with industry-standard anti-theft technology, and its customers are now paying a steep price,” Tong said. “These cars are now disproportionately targeted by thieves at rates so high some insurers are refusing to cover them. Kia and Hyundai need to make this right, quickly, and without nickel and diming their customers.”

In the meantime, even as Hyundai navigates and seeks to remedy wheel design woes, its vehicles continue to be a favorite target for break-ins, leading Meriden police to encourage resident to stop by Butler Street Sunday afternoon “no appointment needed.”



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