My dad is a complex person like all dads are, but he’s not a complicated one. So when I saw that his 2012 Kia Soul suddenly had a Bertone orange steering wheel lock hugging the well-worn wheel, I was certain he didn’t buy it with his own money and quickly asked how he’d procured it. “Kia sent it to me,” he explained.
The topic of my dad’s thrift has surfaced here before, so I should clarify that both my parents are extremely generous. When they showed up yesterday to visit, they brought a Lego kit for my daughter and enough chocolate to keep me content until Halloween.
They also brought their Kia Soul+, a car with more than 175,000 miles on the original spark plugs. The little subcompact has held up quite well and needed very little aside from routine maintenance items, though the steering wheel is chipping and the original key broke off the car’s apparently useless fob. With apologies to Huibert, the only adornments are the cross-drilled rotors and red front brake calipers my dad recently installed (my dad used to work security for NHRA events in Houston and knew a guy with a brake company, so he got a deal).
There’s a loud whine as the car drives – one that my dad insists is caused by air running through the rotors, but clearly is a failing wheel bearing (or two). I will eventually convince him to fix that. In the meantime, my dad’s most immediate concern has recently been keeping the Soul from getting stolen.
Why? Because some teenagers figured out how to steal Kia products with a USB cable and told everyone on TikTok about it. I’d like to say this is some sort of hi-tech kid hacking, but it turns out someone just realized that a bunch of Kia and Hyundai products were sold without the immobilizers common on lots of modern cars. If you knock the cylinder pin-tumbler part of the lock off (which you can do with almost no effort), you can just stick a USB-sized whatever in the hole and the car starts like normal.
This omission was probably a cost-save, but between the recall and the $200 million settlement, I’m not sure that’s ultimately worked out for the company.
So when my dad got a letter stating that he could get a free steering wheel lock, he jumped at the chance. More specifically, he called Kia (there was a QR code but my father was not interested in trying to make that work), and they verified his ownership and sent a lock in the mail.
“It came in a biiig box” my dad told me, pantomiming something about the size of a rifle.
As you can see in the video below, it works well enough:
View this post on Instagram
After playing with it I’m now convinced that we should take two cars with steering wheel locks and try to race them around a track. We might have to get out of the car a few times, but I think it’s doable.
This also revealed a key difference between my father and me. I viewed this development with some incredulity. As a journalist, I was initially disturbed that Kia’s solution was to just send my dad a knockoff brand The Club (there’s also a software upgrade coming that’s maybe of some utility). I mentioned this in Slack and everyone else basically felt the same.
My dad just shrugged it off.
It was a major inconvenience to have to worry about his car getting pinched, but the Soul’s actual value has to be under $2,000, so a $30 steering wheel lock theoretically raises the value of the car by a not insignificant amount. My dad purchased this car for around $15,000 more than a decade ago so his lifetime running costs have been ridiculously low.
I do worry about my dad’s Soul a little bit (the capital S kind). I hope and suspect my parents will live a lot longer so they’ll likely need another car sooner rather than later, though the next one might be their last car. The Soul works, and they can afford to keep it going (once they replace the front wheel bearings). I’m not sure what they could replace it with that’s in their budget and can stay on the road long enough to serve them.
If this keeps the Soul on the road for a few more miles I guess that’s good enough.
[Ed Note: An automaker sending a customer a club is just absurd and hilarious to me. Such a mechanical and old school device to be sending customers in 2023. -DT]