BELVIDERE, Ill. (WTVO) — Owners of Kia or Hyundai vehicles damaged by thieves may have a long wait before parts are available to repair them, due to a surge in thefts inspired by a TikTok challenge.

A viral TikTok and social media trend, which shows car thieves how to steal a Hyundai or Kia vehicle without using a key, is causing serious delays in owners of those cars getting repairs.

Car thefts in Rockford exploded from 477 in 2021 to 783 in 2022, and Rockford Police Chief Carla Redd said Kia and Hyundai thefts were a prime cause.

According to Jack Barnes Automotive, at 740 W Locust St, wait times on necessary parts to fix a car after it has been stolen can be three to six months.

“They’re causing thousands of dollars worth of damage and that’s why we can’t get parts right now because there are so many of them being broken into and stolen at once,” said automotive general manager, Jackie Schultz.

Hyundai and Kia models from 2011 to 2020 have a manufacturing defect that makes them easy for criminals to steal using only a cellphone and a USB cord. The thieves remove parts near the steering wheel to access the starter system.

“It’s not just one part. When they break it off you have to pretty much change over the upper and lower steering column covers, the headlamp switch, the wipers switch, the lock cylinder set. I mean, they’re breaking everything,” Schultz said.

New 2022 Kia and Hyundai models have an engine immobilizer to help prevent thefts.

Schultz says the increase in thefts means manufacturers “can’t make the parts fast enough.”

Most auto body repair shops say they can fix the car enough to make it safe to drive, but it may not look the best.

“I can rig it up enough where they can drive it until the rest of the parts come in, but a lot of times they don’t want to do that because they aren’t comfortable with it,” Schultz said. “But, unfortunately for them, insurance companies aren’t going to cover months of waiting.”

Some insurance companies, such as Progressive and State Farm, are not insuring the cars anymore because of the high risk of theft.

Repairs, depending on model, can be anywhere from $1,000-3,000.

At least one class-action lawsuit has been filed against the automakers, claiming the vehicles violate a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard that requires vehicles to be equipped with a starter system that prevents activation of the engine if the car’s key has been removed.

Schultz said the best way to keep a car safe is to take precautions before thieves can get to it.

“The only thing I could say is: lock your doors. They are breaking windows, but the best thing to do is keep your doors locked. If you have a garage put your car in the garage,” she said.

Law enforcement agencies have also recommended installing a steering wheel lock, like The Club, whenever a car is left unattended.

Hyundai and Kia released a software update for owners last month. The software updates the theft alarm software logic to extend the length of the alarm sound from 30 seconds to one minute and requires the key to be in the ignition switch to turn the vehicle on.