scissors
Your safety is our priority. Curbside Service and Pickup & Delivery appointment types available now Schedule Now

Everything You Need to Know About Wheel Lock Keys

After buying a new car, you might want to go the extra mile to keep it protected. One of the solutions that drivers often turn to is wheel locks. Unfortunately, wheel locks often do more harm than good for drivers. So what are wheel locks? Do you need a wheel lock key? Chapel Hill Tire is here with the answers to all of your wheel lock questions. 

What is a Wheel Lock Key?

So what exactly is a wheel lock? Wheel locks are redesigned lug nuts for tires that contain theft-deterring sockets. They function just like standard lug nuts except they can only be removed with a wheel lock key. 

What is a wheel lock key? Wheel lock keys are special sockets that match the unique pattern on your wheel lock. Without your wheel lock key, the tire, rim, and wheel cannot be easily removed. 

Wheel locks only protect against the theft of tires, wheels, and rims. They do not protect against car theft. They are commonly confused with wheel chock locks and wheel lock clamps, which act as a tire “boot” to prevent vehicle theft. 

The History of Wheel Locks

Wheel locks and wheel lock keys were invented by McGard in the early 1960s. At the time, wheel, rim, and tire theft were widespread—especially for dealerships. Dealers often protected their car lots by installing one wheel lock on each tire. Unfortunately, the cars were often sold without the wheel lock key needed to change, replace, or rotate tires. This would chain drivers to their dealership for tire service

Thankfully, wheel, tire, and rim theft is no longer a prevailing problem. Additionally, in the unfortunate case of tire theft, most criminals have the right tools on their side—including a specialty wheel lock socket.

What Happens if You Lose Your Wheel Lock Key?

Can you replace a lost wheel lock key? If you have the code to your key, a dealer or manufacturer can replace the key. Additionally, if you know the brand, make, or model of your wheel lock, you can often order a replacement key online. Otherwise, you will have to pay to have your wheel lock removed by a professional.

How do mechanics remove a wheel lock without a key? Occasionally, your auto mechanics will have a key that matches your wheel lock. However, it is impossible to maintain all of the possible key combinations in any given shop. As such, they often use special sockets that dig into the metal to grip the outside of the wheel lock to twist it off.

When removing a wheel lock without a key, it is easy for inexperienced professionals to damage the wheel. As such, it is important to bring your vehicle to a car mechanic you trust. 

The Pros and Cons of Wheel Locks

Pros of wheel locks:

  • Wheel locks can prevent wheel theft for vehicles with high risk. 
  • These installations may help give you peace of mind if you find yourself worried about tire theft.

Cons of wheel locks:

  • Your tire services, rim straightening, and other car appointments may take longer as mechanics grapple with your wheel locks.
  • A misplaced key can make it impossible to change a flat tire in the case of an emergency.
  • Roadside assistance does not always have the right tools for wheel locks, which would require you to tow your vehicle. 
  • Wheel locks often do not provide much protection due to low risk and potential workarounds for tire theft. 

Are Wheel Locks Necessary?

For most drivers, wheel locks are unnecessary and will likely cause you more harm than good. However, you might benefit from wheel locks in a small variety of situations, including:

  • If you live in an area where tire, rim, or wheel theft is common. 
  • If you are worried about custom, expensive, or specialty rims being stolen. 
  • If you plan to leave your car sitting outdoors and unprotected in areas with low foot traffic for extended periods of time. 

While most drivers are safe without wheel locks—if you choose to install them on your vehicle, make sure you keep the key with you at all times. Otherwise, you might find yourself stranded on the side of the road without any way to change your flat. 

Chapel Hill Tire Mechanic Services

Chapel Hill Tire is your source for automotive service, insight, and all things tire-related. We proudly serve the greater Triangle area with our mechanic locations in Raleigh, Durham, Apex, Carrboro, and Chapel Hill. You can review our variety of car repair services here, or make your appointment online to get started today!

Back to Resources