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In the movie Parker Jason Statham/Parker steals about 4-6 cars in the movie. Every car he steals he starts the engine by messing around with the wires under the steering wheel.

Is it that easy to start an engine in several car brands just by using the wires? Why are the wires easy to mess with in the first place?!

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judge for yourself: wikihow.com/Hotwire-a-Car –  Colin D Jul 8 '13 at 12:25
    
While not providing an actual answer, Parker isn't the only movie that shows this. It is repeatedly shown in millions of movies and TV-shows how "easy" it is to short-circuit a car by just playing with some wires under the steering wheel. To which degree this is actually possible (especially nowadays) I cannot tell you, though. –  Christian Rau Jul 8 '13 at 12:42
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migrated from movies.stackexchange.com Jul 8 '13 at 13:21

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2 Answers

If you literally mean to ask if it is that easy to start an engine by touching some wires together beneath the steering column, then yes it is, if you know the correct wires to touch together, and you can get at them.

If you mean to ask if it is that easy to steal a car, by just casually reaching under the steering column, blindly yanking a handful of what you can grab, quickly producing two or three bare tipped wires, touching them together, and driving away... then no, it is not that easy. Although it is possible to START a car this way, you still face the problem of the steering wheel being locked.

I guess you could steal it by starting it that way, and driving away only in the direction that the wheels are pointed... but your getaway would be rather short I'd imagine.

You can expect that in movies you will not be shown things like everything necessary to easily hotwire a car, or build a bomb, or hack the National Defense Grid, because Hollywood doesn't want to end up being responsible for when people then turn around and use what they learned.

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Before the advent of engine immobilisers, the typical attack was to pop the door open, pull hard left and right on the steering wheel (one or two people) to break the steering lock, followed by either using a screwdriver to turn the lock barrel or to short circuit the live wire from the battery to the switched wire to the ignition.

This could be done in a few seconds. Lots of cars got stolen.

Immobilisers really help - now the easiest way to steal a car that has an immobiliser fitted is to lift it onto a truck and drive off. Actually, that is the second easiest way - it is easier to break into the house and steal the keys - which is why You should not leave your keys on that shelf near the front door!

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I would think the easiest way would be to have a patched firmware for the vehicle, and/or a complete ECU drop-in replacement to hook up. –  R.. Jul 9 '13 at 3:16
    
It is doable, but is not as easy or quick. –  Rory Alsop Jul 9 '13 at 7:02
    
If the attacker had the replacement ECU in advance, plugging it in should only take a matter of seconds, and on newer vehicles with fully electronic keys, it could automatically start the car as soon as it's plugged in without even needing a key... On such vehicles the steering wheel lock is electronically controlled too, so it could be disabled at the same time. –  R.. Jul 9 '13 at 7:38
    
In many cars, the engine computer and immobilizer/anti-theft computer have to be programmed to each other - so they would have to be replaced in pairs and most likely both would require custom firmware. –  Drake Clarris Jul 10 '13 at 5:02
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