Safety lock on steering wheel

Since the 1990s we’ve seen increasingly sophisticated vehicle security devices, such as alarms and engine immobilisers, while stolen cars and their main components have become much easier to identify.

The result has slowed down the casual crook. According to the Office for National Statistics, vehicle theft has fallen by more than 70% since 2004 to around 70,000 incidences a year.

However, the last few years has seen the rise of organised, tech-savvy criminals targeting cars with ‘keyless’ technology, a feature that allows drivers to start their car without inserting a key into an ignition barrel.

Increasingly, thieves are hunting for valuable classic cars, which offer about as much resistance as a shoebox. As a result, the UK has seen an increase in thefts of classic cars in recent years.

The Metropolitan Police believe some keyless cars are being hotwired, others towed away, but most are hacked into by criminal gangs using electronic gadgets to fool the car’s computer into thinking the key is present.

To add protection to new or older cars alike, more drivers are turning to after-market security devices. Here are three that have been approved by security specialists Thatcham.

1. Stoplock Pro

The idea of fitting a steering wheel lock is that it will deter a thief and they’ll move on elsewhere. Stoplock Pro is about as convenient as a steering wheel lock gets, which means drivers are much more likely to keep it in the car at all times and fit it whenever they leave their motor unattended.

Auto Express magazine put it to the test in a comparison with four other steering wheel locks and it came out on top. It took five minutes to defeat (compared with five seconds for the most basic Stoplock), which is a significant deterrent to professional thieves.

Keyless cars are hacked into by criminal gangs using electronic gadgets to fool the car’s computer into thinking the key is present

2. Disklok

When the maker claims that this is the “UK’s toughest steering wheel lock” it isn’t exaggerating. In independent tests, including ones by Thatcham, nothing tops the Disklok.

Its secret is to enclose the steering wheel in a tough reinforced steel case, which makes it impossible for a thief to cut through to the wheel – as they could with the Stoplock Pro. Its relative bulk is a downside.

3. PedalBox

Rather than attempting to secure the steering wheel, the PedalBox takes an innovative approach and sheathes a car’s pedals in a tough steel box.

It may not be initially visible to a thief. But when they peer through a window, its size and bright yellow paint should mean it stops the villain in their tracks. This is the most expensive product on the list, but it’s tough and the makers say it fits a wide range of vehicles.