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Wheel Locks - Do they actually work?

Wheel locks (lug nut locks) - Do they work, or can thieves defeat them easily? My son will be parking our Highlander with brand new Blizzaks on alloy rims in a questionable area. I’m from a part of the world where my dad woke to find thieves taking the wheels off his Acura not long ago (maybe 5 years back). So this is not just paranoia. My question is for the mechanically savvy. Are these things worth the hassle and do they slow/deter thieves looking for parts for their own car or for sale?

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GeorgeSanJose! I like a definitive answer, even if it is not the one I had hoped for.

Wheel locks will just slow determined thieves. If you really want to have on your wheels, I recommend McGard tuner style locks.


I’ve always had a knack with locks for some reason. Last year some teenagers were pulling pranks in the gym locker room, when nobody looking, they’d install cylinder locks on other people’s lockers. They got me, my clothes were locked inside the locker and I had to leave for a meeting. I had the lock opened in 60 seconds … lol … .


Interesting. I used to have locks for my wire wheel covers on my Buicks and Olds. They were nice because they kept the covers from falling off. When I had to replace one though, I ended up just welding a nut on the thing but then had to carry a socket plus the lock key.

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Of course a dedicated thief can defeat wheel locks. But just like the old Boy Scout joke*, you don’t have to outrun the bear. Just be harder to steal than a similarly-enticing target, and you should be good.

*(The joke, for those who haven’t heard: Two scouts are sleeping in their tent, when they’re awoken by angry footsteps and a growl. The one scout looks out–he sees a hungry, adult grizzly bear, with saliva dripping from exposed fangs. He quickly informs his tentmate of the news.

His friend starts putting on his boots, to which he scoffs: “You fool! You can’t possibly outrun that bear!”

At which point he turns and says, “Oh, but I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you!”)


The whole point of wheel locks is to get the thief to go to your neighbor’s car, not yours. ANY of them can be foiled if the thief is persistent enough.

Same for The Club. Anybody remember these big red steering locks? What a pain! But not for the thieves!


I still have a club, and use it the first 2 years after a buy a new car. Then it goes back into storage.

As was said, easy to foil by cutting the steering wheel, but then the thief has to replace the wheel. It’s just to add another step, make it more likely that the thief will move to another car.


I remember the club very well. One time, I was with a pal and we got in his car and he explained to me that he never locked his club, just propped it on the wheel in the way it would be if locked. He had @Mustangman’s point of view. His car was never stolen.

Maybe there are different types of clubs, but the one I have, you need to turn the key to adjust it to the wheel (or remove it), and then when you take the key out, it’s locked.

The club saved one of my cars back in the day. As mentioned, they just moved on to easier targets, like the car right next to mine in the work parking lot. I also got lazy and didn’t even lock mine. Pretty sure the key came out in either position so you could just pull it open or closed. It’s the illusion that works…

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Granny always said all lock was good for was to keep a honest person honest. IF a thief wanted somthing bad enough he could get around a lock.

I agree.
Most wheels are stolen by kids unprepared to overcome obstacles. So, if that number is 90% (I don’t know what it actually is), than you’ve reduced the chance of yours getting stolen by 90%. And even for pros that resell the wheels, they’ll likely just go to the next car up with nice wheels and no locks.

All anti-theft measures, whether for a car or a house, short of hiring armed guards are only deterrents for amateurs. You can put a club, a wheel lock, a wheel boot, a starter kill, a fuel kill, and even remove bits from the engine to try and keep your car from being stolen, but the professional thief serving a chop shop will just come snatch it in a quick-pick flatbed and be gone in under a minute.

I have wheel locks to discourage the dumb punks who walk around with a bottle jack and a couple of cinder blocks jacking rims. I hold no delusions that they’ll stop a pro, but then there are a lot more punks than pros out there.

I will say that many years ago when I lived in a nice apartment with a lot of nice cars in the parking lot, mine and one other car were the only ones with wheel locks. One night a gang of kids came through and ripped off every wheel in the lot except mine and that other car’s. That justified wheel locks to me permanently.

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Thanks @shadowfax. These things are so cheap I might do it just to set my mind at ease. So, one more question for those that are more adept with the spanners, can I just undo one lug on each wheel while it sits on the ground, or should I relieve the weight by jacking the car up at each corner when I undo and then install these new lock-lugs?

No need. Just replace a couple of them while still on the ground. Most thieves who steal wheels, resell them. No one wants to buy damaged wheels so I think he’d go look for another vehicle. Just make sure you buy a good quality lock for your wheels. Insurance company will cover your damaged wheel.

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Yes-crummy 10 character nonsence

One thing wheel locks are good for is keeping you from changing a flat tire when you can’t find the key.

Seriously, nothing is worse than having a flat tire on the side of the road and not being able to find that darn key. It isn’t worth it in my opinion.

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Keep the key hidden somewhere in the car. I know exactly where mine is.