Drivers warned of bizarre rise in steering wheel thefts Bedford News

There has been a sharp rise in the number of cars whose steering wheels have been stolen, according to a major UK insurer.

The bizarre crime is linked to problems in the automotive supply chain, with crooks stealing the components in order to resell the airbags they contain.

According to Admiral Insurance, cases have increased by 68% in 2021 compared to the previous year, as criminals seek to make easy money by trading in dodgy used parts.

While BMW drivers were the most likely to claim a stolen steering wheel, Admiral’s claims manager Lorna Connelly said thieves appeared to make no distinction in the vehicles they hit, popular models from Ford, Mercedes and Land Rover also being targeted.

Admiral experts believe thieves steal steering wheels to get valuable airbags inside

She said while thefts were a relatively new phenomenon and still accounted for only a small number of claims, the rapid increase in recent years was concerning.

She said: “Our data shows that the number of stolen steering wheel claims 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.”

Airbags can cost up to £1,000 to replace and supplies have been hit by Covid as factories struggle to ramp up production after being forced to close at the height of the pandemic. The Admiral believes this has created an opening for scammers to steal the components and then resell them at a discount to unscrupulous garages.

Ms Connolley added: ‘Once the steering wheel is stolen, the airbag is removed and sold to garages who fit it to 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. It 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.”

To help drivers protect their car from potential steering wheel thieves, Admiral has issued the following advice:

  • 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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This notice was published: 2022-03-17 16:53:10

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