Car steering wheel theft increases by 68% as thieves target expensive parts


Airbag theft has increased by 68% in the last year, according to a study by Admiral Insurance

Thieves are removing steering wheels from the valuable airbags they contain to take advantage of airbag supply chain problems linked to greater shortages of auto parts. BMWs are often targeted.

Lorna Connelly, Claims Manager at Admiral said, “Our Data shows that the number of claims for stolen steering wheels has increased in recent years, with the biggest increase last year. You might wonder why a thief would take a steering wheel, but it’s what’s inside they’re really looking for. We understand that they are stolen for the airbags they contain.

“Airbag theft is a relatively new phenomenon as criminals look for new ways to make money from stolen car parts during the pandemic. Over the past four years, we have received over 500 claims for stolen steering wheels, with the biggest increase in 2021 with a 68% increase from 2020. The most commonly targeted cars appear to be BMWs, but our data shows that the most popular brands including Ford, Mercedes and Land Rover , were affected.

“The increase in thefts has been higher during the pandemic as factories that produce airbags have been hit by Covid, either closing permanently or struggling to meet demand once they reopen. This has led criminals to take advantage of the supply chain problem.

“Once the steering wheel is stolen, the airbag is removed and sold to unscrupulous garages who fit it to the cars at a lower price than dealers would charge. The garage can buy the stolen airbag for between £200 and £500 before charging a customer a few hundred pounds more would still be cheaper than the driver going to an authorized dealer, where it costs up to £1,000 to replace an activated or faulty airbag.

“If you have any repair work carried out on your car which requires a replacement airbag, you should always have it carried out by reputable and approved repairers who only use approved parts from specialist suppliers.”

Admiral Insurance publishes the following tips for drivers looking to protect their car from airbag thieves :

  • If you have a garage, use it. Lock your vehicle in the garage, out of sight.
  • If you don’t have a garage, invest in a steering wheel lock. They work as a visual deterrent to add an extra layer of security. Look for Sold Secure tested or Secured by Design (SBD) approved locks. Some locks even have additional alarms, so do your research and find the right lock for you.
  • Park in a safe, well-lit area each time you leave your car.
  • Make sure your vehicle is locked every time you leave it.
  • If you have CCTV or a video doorbell, make sure it covers your vehicle in the driveway. Most of them work on motion detection and alerts can be sent to your cell phone to alert you to movement.
  • And if you see anyone acting suspiciously near a vehicle, don’t hesitate to call the police.

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