What are Wheel Locks?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Wheel locks are specialized lug nuts designed to prevent the theft of customized wheels and rims, as well as spare tires. They work like conventional lug nuts to bolt wheels to a motor vehicle, and they come in a variety of sizes and configurations to support installation on most vehicles, rims, and tires. Most installations require the use of four locks — one for each wheel — while the rest of the tire’s lug nuts can be of the conventional type.

A wheel lock is an anti-theft lug nut.
A wheel lock is an anti-theft lug nut.

Usually, lug nuts can be loosened and removed with an ordinary lug wrench to change a tire, rotate tires, access the brakes, and perform other acts of car maintenance. Some car owners install custom tires or rims designed to enhance the aesthetic appearance of their vehicle, however, and as these systems can be quite costly, car owners are often reluctant to use ordinary lug nuts, which would allow the custom elements to be stolen. As a result, wheel locks were developed. These nuts must be unlocked with a key before they can be removed, protecting the car’s assets from theft.

Alloy wheels have high financial value.
Alloy wheels have high financial value.

For many car owners, customized aluminum or alloy rims and wheels are a source of immense pride, and they also increase the financial value of a car. Proper security for these vehicle modifications is of vital essence, especially in urban areas with high rates of theft. Most custom wheel sets do not have unique identifiers or serial numbers that would render them recoverable in the event of theft, assuming that law enforcement were able to track the stolen property down. Car owners can help to discourage theft not only by using locks, but also by acquiring their customized wheels legally and from a reputable source.

Manufacturers of wheel locks pride themselves on offering hundreds of uniquely keyed combinations to reduce the risk of theft with a similar key. Most companies provide only a single set of keys, and it is a good idea for owners to have another set made and keep them in a safe place, so that car owners are able to remove their wheels when they need to. Especially when traveling long distances or bringing the car in for service, it’s an excellent idea to keep a set of keys in the glove box or in some other convenient place so that if a tire needs to be changed or removed, the job can be done easily.

Wheel locks are used to prevent car theft.
Wheel locks are used to prevent car theft.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I would also add that adding aftermarket wheels (a.k.a. rims, same thing -- not wheels and rims) does not increase the value of the vehicle. Normally it devalues it for the general market.


Gorilla wheel locks offer replacement keys with a registration number.


By the way, storing the key in the glove box is not an "excellent idea". Assuming the thief doesn't already have a key to your specific lock, the glove box is going to be the first place they look once they break into the car.


"What can be done if one loses his only key to his wheel locks?"

You buy a new car or park them downtown. Thieves can remove them if a mechanic can.


I had a key to wheel locks lost and had to have a mechanic remove them. It cost $45.00.


Broke my rim key lock. How do I replace it?


What can be done if one loses his only key to his wheel locks?

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