Why Does My Car Say Theft Attempted, Why Does My Car Say Theft Attempted? [5 Steps to Reset Anti-Theft System], KevweAuto

Why Does My Car Say Theft Attempted? [5 Steps to Reset Anti-Theft System]

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Seeing a warning message pop up on your car’s dashboard display that says “Theft Attempted” can be jarring. Your mind may race with questions and concerns about the security of your vehicle. However, there are logical reasons for this alert that don’t necessarily mean someone tried to steal your car.

Understanding Vehicle Anti-Theft Systems

Why Does My Car Say Theft Attempted, Why Does My Car Say Theft Attempted? [5 Steps to Reset Anti-Theft System], KevweAuto

Most modern vehicles come equipped with sophisticated anti-theft systems designed to deter potential car thieves. These security features are constantly monitoring various components of your car, looking for signs of unauthorized access or tampering.

One common anti-theft device found in cars is the alarm system. This uses door sensors, hood/trunk triggers, motion detectors, and other inputs to detect a break-in and activate the siren. Newer vehicle alarms are tied into the car’s computer network, allowing more detailed monitoring.

Immobilizer systems are another theft deterrent, preventing the engine from starting unless the correct key fob or chip is present. These electronic chips communicate with the vehicle computer, disabling the ignition if the match isn’t verified.

With so many anti-theft protections active at all times, there are scenarios that can trigger false alarms or error messages even when a theft attempt hasn’t occurred.

Common Causes of a False “Theft Attempted” Warning

A “Theft Attempted” alert on your dashboard is the anti-theft system’s way of notifying you it detected suspicious activity. However, there are a number of typical circumstances that can generate this false alarm.

1. Battery Replacement

Why Does My Car Say Theft Attempted, Why Does My Car Say Theft Attempted? [5 Steps to Reset Anti-Theft System], KevweAuto

When the car battery is disconnected and replaced, such as during maintenance or jump starting, it resets the vehicle computer. The alarm system sees this as an unauthorized disruption, causing the “Theft Attempted” message to display until the system is reset.

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2. Loss of Key Fob Signal

For vehicles with push button start, the engine immobilizer relies on communicating with the key fob to verify authorization. If that signal is lost due to a dead fob battery or interference, it may trigger the warning message. The fix is simply replacing the fob battery or eliminating the source of signal blockage.

3. Software Glitches

Like any computerized system, the complex theft detection software in modern cars can malfunction or get corrupted. Strange errors like a false “Theft Attempted” alert could indicate a software problem requiring a diagnostics scan and possibly an update from the dealer.

4. Door Unlocking Issues

If your car’s door lock mechanisms are malfunctioning, either from damage or mechanical failure, it may confuse the alarm system. The sensors could interpret doors randomly unlocking and locking as someone trying to break in, hence the warning message.

5. Third Party Devices

Certain aftermarket accessories plugged into the vehicle diagnostic port, like insurance dongles or performance chips, can conflict with the alarm system. Unrecognized devices trying to communicate on the network might be flagged as a hacking attempt.

6. Extreme Weather Events

Environmental factors like a lightning strike, flood immersion, or very high electromagnetic interference can damage vehicle electronics and disrupt the theft detection sensors. This may lead to glitchy performance or false alerts.

7. Weak Transponder Signal

The radio transponder chip inside the key fob or ignition key communicates with a receiver in the car during starting. A degraded or insufficient signal during this authorization handshake could mimic an unauthorized entry attempt.

How to Reset the Anti-Theft System

The “Theft Attempted” warning on the dashboard is the anti-theft computer’s way of indicating something tripped the alarm sensors. But once the underlying cause is addressed, you’ll want to reset the system so the warning message clears and normal operation resumes.

The exact reset procedure varies by vehicle make and model. Check your owner’s manual for the specifics on your car. In general, the steps usually include:

  • Turning the ignition key to the ON position for 30 seconds, then OFF and remove the key.
  • Making sure all doors are fully closed and latched.
  • Opening and closing the driver’s door 5 times within 10 seconds.
  • Pressing any buttons on all original key fobs for 1-2 minutes continuously.
  • Waiting 5 minutes with the doors closed before restarting the engine.
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The indicators and warning messages related to the anti-theft system should disappear once the computer resets and resumes normal monitoring. If not, additional troubleshooting or servicing may be required.

When to Call the Dealer About a False Alarm

In most cases, the “Theft Attempted” alert will be resolved once you identify and address the trigger. But if the warning keeps returning persistently even after a reset, it likely signifies an underlying electrical or software malfunction needing professional service. Schedule an appointment with your dealership’s service department for further diagnosis in this situation.

Signs that the false alarm requires the dealer’s expertise include:

  • The reset procedure doesn’t clear the warning message
  • The message happens repeatedly without any obvious triggers
  • Other unusual warning lights or performance issues accompany it
  • The vehicle fails to start or cuts off shortly after starting
  • Key fobs or chips seem to sporadically not be recognized
  • You’ve ruled out environmental factors or changes that could trigger it

While an intermittent false alarm may not harm your car, a recurring one that won’t reset often indicates deeper repairs are needed. The dealership can scan for diagnostic trouble codes, assess the alarm system’s electronics, and potentially update software if a bug or glitch is found.

When to Call the Police After a Warning Message

Why Does My Car Say Theft Attempted, Why Does My Car Say Theft Attempted? [5 Steps to Reset Anti-Theft System], KevweAuto

Seeing a “Theft Attempted” alert understandably puts car owners on high alert. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean thieves were literally trying to break into your specific vehicle when it appeared.

Before calling the police, carefully inspect your car inside and out for actual signs of tampering, such as:

  • Smashed windows or damaged locks and latches
  • Disconnected wires or computer modules under the dashboard
  • Missing items or belongings rummaged through
  • Foreign objects inserted into ports or openings
  • Strange liquids or residues in or around the vehicle

If none of those indications of a break-in attempt are found, it’s likely the system glitched. But if anything does look physically altered, contact the police to file a report on the attempted car theft incident for insurance purposes.

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In rare cases where the warning keeps triggering persistently with no explanation, it’s possible an automated hacking attempt could be occurring. Report unresolved recurring alarms to law enforcement in case cyber security measures need investigation.

Protecting Yourself From Actual Vehicle Theft

Why Does My Car Say Theft Attempted, Why Does My Car Say Theft Attempted? [5 Steps to Reset Anti-Theft System], KevweAuto

While “Theft Attempted” alerts are primarily false alarms, vehicle theft is still a reality. Use these proactive measures to help deter criminals and recover your vehicle if it is stolen:

  • Never leave keys or key fobs in the car unattended, even hidden
  • Install visible deterrents like steering wheel locks or pedal bars
  • Park in busy well-lit areas rather than isolated spots
  • Keep valuables and bags out of sight in the trunk or glove box
  • Add aftermarket cameras, tracking devices, or alarm decals
  • Use engine immobilizer features built into your key fob
  • Engrave windows or etch VIN plates to identify your vehicle parts
  • Report suspicious activity around your parked car to the police
  • Document your VIN, license plate, year/make/model for recovery
  • Check if your insurance covers theft loss and compensation

Though vehicle security systems aren’t immune to glitches, they still provide effective protection in most cases. Don’t panic if you see a “Theft Attempted” warning, but do take it as a reminder to be vigilant about safeguarding your vehicle.

When to Take Further Action

  • Inspect for signs of physical tampering or damage after a warning message
  • Try resetting the anti-theft system per your owner’s manual
  • If the alert persists repeatedly, have the dealership diagnose it
  • File a police report only if there are clear signs of attempted break-in
  • Install physical deterrents and tracking devices as precautions
  • Caution: Never try “testing” the system yourself


Seeing “Theft Attempted” appear on your car’s display can raise alarms initially. But in most cases, it simply indicates a temporary glitch versus real malicious activity. With the right response, you can clear the false warning and continue enjoying the peace of mind of a protected vehicle.

Ejenakevwe Samuel

I'm Ejenakevwe Samuel, and my blog is all about sharing the love for cars. Through my blog, I pour my heart into educating fellow car enthusiasts in everything they need to know about their beloved rides. Whether it's driving tips, maintenance tricks, or the latest trends, I aim to empower others to make informed decisions and take care of their vehicles like a pro.

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