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Wheel Locks: What are they, and why should you care? 

While instances of catalytic converter theft have been on the rise, one of the most common crimes related to vehicles is tire theft. Stealing rims and tires can be a quick and profitable proposition for thieves, easily netting more than $1,000 or more for a set of four tires. 

With some makes, any common socket wrench can remove the lug nuts that secure an individual tire to a vehicle, making them an easy target. To combat this problem, many manufacturers and dealerships have increasingly turned to installing locking lug nuts or “wheel locks,” which require an especially fitted tool to remove your tires and rims. While these can be effective anti-theft devices, it’s important to be aware of what they are, and where they are located in your vehicle, to make routine service (like brake inspections) or emergency repair visits easier–and possibly less expensive. 

Your dealer should tell you whether wheel locks are already installed on, or are available with, your car. We asked our expert Parts Manager, Claire, and Service Director, Dan, their thoughts on wheel locks, including where you might normally find them, and where to keep them during your daily drive. 

Q: What do wheel locks look like?

A: Dan: “Wheel locks are sold in a set of four locks and one key. Each one of the four locks is installed on each of the wheels, replacing a traditional lug nut. They can be identified by the unique pattern on the face of the lock or the unique shape of the lock itself compared to the traditional lug nuts. The “Key” is typically stored in some form of a plastic case or bag to keep it from causing noise while driving.”

Q: Are all wheel locks the same? 

A: Claire: “There are many many different keys to many different locks, even between separate wheel lock accessory kits from dealers, they can have different keys in each. There are usually about 30 different keys per manufacturer.”

Dan: “Wheel locks are typically offered by all manufacturers. They are considered a factory accessory that is installed by request of the client (often within an accessory protection type of package,) purchased after point-of-sale, or commonly wheel locks are installed during the Pre-Delivery Inspection at the dealership.

Q: How do wheel locks affect your service appointments?

A: Claire: “If you have a locking nut on your wheels, your technician will be unable to remove your wheels without the key unless they damage the locking nut. It is possible to remove them without the key, but you can not put it back on afterward…without being able to remove the wheels, the technician can not do any work that requires the wheels off, including but not limited to brake inspections and tire rotations or tire replacement.” 

Q: Where should you keep your wheel locks?

A: Claire: “If the dealership gives you a complete wheel lock accessory kit, the glove box is best, or the center console. Preferably, you can put these somewhere visible before service, like your cup holder. Finally, a technician may check the roadside emergency compartment in the back of your vehicle before service to locate your kit.” 

Dan: “Since the key for the wheel lock is necessary to remove a wheel, the key should ALWAYS be kept with the vehicle. For a newly purchased vehicle the location is specific to the year make & model. Some vehicles have a designated area for storage, typically near the spare tire and jack.”

At CarCare To Go, we pride ourselves on not only providing the best possible service for your vehicle but also giving owners the tools they need to maintain their car over its lifetime. If you have any questions about your vehicle or would like your mechanic to help you understand where your wheel locks are and how they work, book your appointment now.

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