Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Wheel locks

Wheel locks — pros and cons

Here are the pros and cons to installing wheel locks on your vehicle

No wheel lock offers 100% protection against theft and some offer little protection and are a pain in the ass to use.

Wheel locks only slow down the thieves, they don’t prevent theft

Contrary to popular lore, wheel thieves don’t carry sets of “master” keys. They’re far more sophisticated than that.

reverse thread wheel lock removal socket

Reverse thread wheel lock removal socket

They carry wheel lock removal sockets and a battery powered impact wrench.

If you install wheel locks, don’t think for one second that you’ve protected your wheels from theft.

Types of wheel locks

There are 3 basic styles of wheel locks:

Keyed with unique shape wheel lock

The key pattern is computer generated. To install or remove the lock, insert the key into a socket, align with the keyed wheel lock and tighten/loosen

The major drawback to this design is that it is EASY TO STRIP. In most cases, the wheel lock manufacturer recommends loosening/tightening by hand to avoid damaging the key or the wheel lock. Tire shops HATE this type of wheel lock because it strips so easily.

Pros: Inexpensive. Easy to find in auto parts stores

Cons: Strips easily. Very easy to remove

stripped wheel lock key

Here’s an example of how the wheel lock key strips and damaged the wheel lock key. At this point you have to use a lug nut removal socket just like the crooks

using a lug removal socket. Offers very little theft protection

Advice: If you’re going to use this style wheel lock, make sure you order extra keys because the keys strip so easily.

types of wheel locks

Spinning sleeve with internal key lock

The spinning sleeve design requires a matching key that fits onto the splines that are protected by the spinning sleeve. Due to the small surface area of the splines, these lug nuts can also strip if installed/removed with an impact wrench.

The outer sleeve spins if a thief tries to use a lug nut removal socket. To defeat this type of lug nut, thieves simply create a crack in the sleeve using a chisel. This takes longer, requires more physical effort, and makes more noise. It can be defeated, but it’s far more difficult than either of the two other designs.

Pros: Much harder to defeat. Offers the most protection

Cons: Should be installed and removed by hand. Costly

Advice: If you’re going to use this style wheel lock, make sure you order extra keys because the keys strip so easily. Also, install two spinning sleeve wheel locks on each wheel for deterrence.

Unique spline

This type of wheel lock can be removed easily with a lug nut removal socket. In fact, the splines offer a better grip for the removal socket than the smooth cylinder shape of the unique keyed style lock.

Pros: cheap

Cons: Easiest to remove.

Advice: If you’re going to use this style wheel lock, install one on every stud. That’s the only way to make the crooks job so hard that they’ll think twice about stealing your wheels.

©, 2022 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat


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