Kia/Hyundai software update, Milwaukee theft victim hopes it works

Kia and Hyundai are offering software updates they say will help prevent thefts. The updates are coming free of charge after rampant thefts across the country, including in Milwaukee. 

More than 8 million car owners are eligible.

The uptick in thefts started following a viral TikTok challenge that exposed a flaw that makes the cars easy to steal. Many models between 2015 and 2019 don't have electronic immobilizers.

Amanda McCabe thought her Kia Forte was a great purchase in October 2021, but over the last two years, she's experienced problem after problem.

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"It’s a lot. It’s stressful," said McCabe.

Her car was stolen outside of her boyfriend's home on Milwaukee's south side in February 2022. 

"We saw the glass, and I knew it was stolen at that point," said McCabe. 

The vehicle was found abandoned, and McCabe got it fixed. Four months later, it was targeted again, and she was dropped from her insurance.

"You could see the ignition was all ripped apart," said McCabe. "It was just…yeah."

Milwaukee police shared this data on thefts in the city:

  • 2021: 3,561 Kias stolen2021: 3,409 Hyundais stolen
  • 2022: 2,540 Kias stolen2022: 2,133 Hyundais stolen
  • 2023 (Jan. 1, 2023 through Feb. 13, 2023): 239 Kias stolen2023 (Jan. 1, 2023 through Feb. 13, 2023): 188 Hyundais stolen

"It’s nerve-racking," said McCabe. "You never know if you’re going to come out and your car is gone."

Now, the manufacturers say there's a fix. The software update extends the length of the alarm and requires the key to be in the ignition to turn the vehicle on.

It's a solution McCabe wishes came sooner.

"Hopefully, it works," she said. "I would definitely do it."

The companies will offer updates starting at the end of February. If you are a Kia or Hyundai owner, you can find out if you're eligible for the free update by calling the companies:

Kia statement

Kia has been releasing enhanced security software to restrict the unauthorized operation of vehicle ignition systems on certain models not equipped with an immobilizer. Kia is notifying eligible owners by mail when the software is available for their vehicles and instructing them to bring their vehicle to the nearest Kia dealership for the free upgrade, which takes under an hour to install.  Some owners have already been to their dealer to receive the software upgrade, and it will be available for owners of additional affected vehicles over the next few months.

In addition to the software upgrade, Kia continues to make steering wheel locks available to owners of affected vehicles at no cost through interested local law enforcement agencies. The company remains concerned about incidents of car theft targeting certain Kia models, encouraged in some cases by social media content promoting criminal conduct, and is committed to supporting law enforcement and owners in addressing these crimes.

Kia owners with questions may contact our Customer Care team directly at 1-800-333-4542 (4Kia). In addition, a special section of the Owner’s Portal at has been published for owners to research software upgrade eligibility and availability, and receive more information on ordering a steering wheel lock if applicable at