Do RFID Chips in Car Tires Really Present a Privacy Threat?


Ever since 2003, tire manufacturers have been putting RFID sensors in their tires so they can better regulate how the tires wear and keep tract of tire pressure. The technology was brought on by the debacle that Firestone’s Ford Explorer tires caused with many of them blowing out while still being fairly new. But many privacy rights activists are wondering if this new radio frequency technology in our tires can lead to invasions of our privacy.

If you are not already familiar with RFID technology you should be. These little Radio Frequency Identification chips are everywhere and more common products are getting them installed. They are in our passports, driver’s licenses, credit cards, car key fobs, and even clothing in some instances. But it’s the use of RFID chips in car tires that has many wondering how useful this information can be to hackers and identity thieves.

The sensors in the tires are used to help car owner’s know the pressure of each tire and be able to keep a constant pressure in each one, but the data in the RFID chip also contains your vehicle’s VIN number if the tires are original with the purchase of the automobile. And of course, your car’s VIN number is tied to its registration which contains your name. Essentially, someone with an RFID reader can find out exactly who the car belongs to. This is especially alarming for those who drive luxury cars, as crooks like to target people with money, and if they can find out who you are they can find out where you live before they even break into the vehicle.

Most of the information that these RFID tires contain is fairly innocuous, but just the fact that it is readily available is cause for concern. After all, hackers only need bits of information about you here and there to be able to crack your identity wide open and expose you to all kinds of financial disasters.

When you get new tires, often the used tires will get placed on another vehicle if the tread is still good, and this could cause someone to think the car belongs to someone different. The issue becomes more interesting when you factor in the use of roadside monitors that are used at toll booths and all along the road as well. “Big brother” can see not only the tire pressure of your tires, but all the information that goes along with the VIN number as well. And unlike other scanners, RFID readers can read an RFID chip from well over 100 feet away. In fact, the government is not disclosing the length of the range of these readers as it would probably upset a lot of people.

The bottom line is that hackers are probably not going to use your tire’s RFID chips to steal your identity, but if you do not like the idea of any random stranger being able to tell your tire pressure than just get a tire without one of these sensors. After all, your VIN number is easily seen on any vehicle anyway, and anyone with the right skillsets can access this information.

Phillip helps consumers find the best identity theft protection available and also recommends using an RFID blocking wallet to thwart ID theft through an RFID scanner.