You’ve likely seen it, but hopefully, it’s never happened to you. Seeing a car in the parking lot on blocks after its wheels have been stolen. It’s easy to believe that it won’t ever happen to you, until it does. It’s something that we don’t often consider, but if you know how to change a tire, it’s not that difficult to steal a set of rims and tires. When you think about how easy it is, it seems crazy that wheel locks don’t come with every vehicle.
There has been a surge of anti-theft devices that make it difficult to steal cars. Unfortunately, they don’t prevent thieves from stealing individual parts. That LoJack won’t be helpful in tracking down your hood ornaments, bumpers, rims, or quarter panels if someone makes off with them and leaves the rest of the car. Luckily, there are a ton of companies that have considered this, and there are plenty of options for securing your wheels.
Bottom Line: if you don’t have a secure garage or gated parking lot to store your ride, you’re going to want to pick up a set of good wheel locks. We looked around and found some of the best wheel locks on the market. Read on to find out which set is best for you.
Most locking lug nuts have one main weakness. A determined thief can jam a socket over the lock and wedge it into place, then unscrew it. Gorilla Automotive prevents this via a rotating outer sleeve. Even with a socket crammed onto the lug, the rotating outer sleeve will spin freely. This prevents the nut from unscrewing without the key. The key itself requires a little bit of rotation to fit, then secures and unscrews the nut.
In addition to this ingenious preventative measure, Gorilla Automotive uses hardened steel to make its locks. The locks are then bolstered by triple chrome plating over the steel. As many wheels are different, the locks come in a variety of thread sizes and lengths. The dual hex key comes in ¾ and 13/16 inches, so search out the right one for your needs.
If you want the burliest tire clamp lock available, Trimax’s Wheel Chock Lock is the way to go. Weighing roughly 8 pounds, this power coated steel clamp will provide some serious security. The jaws have a rubber coating to protect the tires and rims from damage. The pick-resistant lock prevents tampering, which is a plus. But it also means you’d better not lose your keys.
In addition to working as a tire clamp, the lock works as a chock as well. The wide plating on the back of the lock is serrated to dig into the ground and prevent the tire (and the vehicle) from rolling away.
In addition, the Chock Lock is backed by Trimax’s lifetime warranty. So, if you ever damage it or have any issues, have can have it replaced.
Utopicar offers a very budget-friendly option when it comes to locking lug nuts. Their locks don’t have as wide a range of locks as some of its competition, but at ½”, 12 x 1.25, 12 x 1.5, and 14 x 1.5, they will fit a good number of modern cars. They’re made up of chrome-plated steel for durability and corrosion resistance.
One of the biggest issues with locking lugs is the possibility of losing your key, making it near impossible to remove your wheel. Utopicar takes care of this with its handy free overnight key replacement. The lock kit also comes with a bright red storage bag labeled “Wheel Lock Key” to help prevent key loss. Of course, this also makes it easy for thieves to find the key if they’re rummaging through your car.
The keys are also all the same for each kit, which means anyone can buy the key that would unlock your wheels. While it would be an unlikely coincidence that a thief has your specific key, it’s still a possibility to consider.
One of the most popular wheel locks on the market, McGard wheel locks will likely be one of the first locks to show up in your search. Their cone seat wheel locks are made with hardened steel and triple-nickel chrome plating for durability. These locks function exactly the same as your regular lug nuts, but instead of the regular socket, they require a special key to screw and unscrew. The keys sport computer-generated patterns to ensure that each is different, so people can’t buy a set of their own to try to get to your rims.
The difference with this particular model is that the cone seat makes it easier to install your locks. The locks are already easy to fit, but the cone seats slide in that much easier.
One of the biggest downsides to locking lug nuts is that when you lose your keys, it usually takes minor automotive surgery to remove the locks. Luckily, McGard offers replacement keys if you end up losing yours.
There aren’t as many thread options for these wheel locks, so make sure that whatever set you order fits your wheels.
5. DPAccessories Black Closed Acorn Locking Lug Nuts
DPAccessories’ locks are also another great budget option. These locks come in a wide range of fits, styles, and finishes, so the odds are good that you’ll find one that works with your vehicle. The locks are made with cold forged, heat treated steel with multi-alloy plating for durability and to help prevent corrosion. The lock kits also offer four or five locks per package, so you can have a spare on hand if you need it. This also works well if you have an externally stored spare tire.
If you have black wheels, DPAccessories’ black lug nut locks have a proprietary black coating that has the same anti-corrosive properties as chrome but has the look of black satin paint. They also offer full sets of lugs to match your locks.
The company also creates a unique key to match every set. This prevents other people with the same lock style from accessing your wheels.
ZoneTech’s Security Tire Clamp is a great option if you want to have a visible theft deterrent. Anyone who considers stealing your wheels will see the bright yellow and red clamp, realize that they’ll only be able to get three wheels, and move on to an easier target.
Wheel clamps are also useful for vehicle and trailer storage. Besides protecting your wheels, they also help prevent your car or (especially) your trailer from rolling while it’s stored. ZoneTech’s clamp is made from a high-quality ABS with PVC coating to prevent dings and scratches. The red and yellow finish adds visibility to deter potential theft.
Setup is simple: unlock the clamp, open the jaw, then place it around the tire. Clamp the jaw around the tire, lock the clamp, and your vehicle is secure.
If you’re looking for another set of wheel locks that cost under $15, White Knight’s locksets are your huckleberry. These extremely affordable steel locks are treated to fight corrosion and meet to exceed salt spraying standards. They’re available in 7/16”, 12 x 1.25, and 12 x 1.5, so they’ll fit a range of wheels.
While very affordable, these locks do not feature an attached washer. Most locks will have the washer attached to the nut, a design feature that goes a long way in making installation easier.
If you decide to buy these locks, you’ll have to buy the washers separately. And when you install them, make sure that the washer is seated properly to prevent any installation headaches.
If you’re a Toyota owner, the Genuine Toyota Accessories Wheel Lock is a no-brainer. Since these are made by the company, it’s a safe bet that you’ll find a set that will fit your Toyota. Made of precision-machined hardened steel with triple-nickel plating and a chrome overlay, these locking lug nuts are durable and corrosion-resistant.
Going with an OEM is a great way to ensure a great fit, since the same company built both the locks and your vehicle. It also ensures that the locks have the quality that you expect from the people who made your vehicle. It also means that these locks are on the pricier side.
The price of this convenience averages in the mid-$30 range. This puts these locks about twice the cost of the bargain locks on this list.
Built for people who have stud bolts in lieu of the more common lug nuts, Cheriezing’s Wheel Stud Bolt Locks operate in the same way as locking lug nuts. The bolts require the included specialized key to install and remove the locks. The keys are unique to each locking set so that potential thieves can’t buy another set to access your wheels.
The locks are compatible with a wide range of vehicles that use stud bolts. If you’re in the market for these, check the list on the purchase site. Even if your specific auto is listed, it’s a good idea to check the part numbers and make sure they match before you buy.
The Abus GRANIT Detcto SmartX differs from the other locks on this list, as it’s built specifically for motorcycles. The smartest lock on this list, the SmartX uses your smartphone as a lock, so you’ll never lose it. Unless you lose your phone, in which you’ll have bigger problems. It also uses your phone to send a reminder that the lock is engaged, so you don’t ride off with it on your wheel. In addition, the lock also remembers the latest locking location in case you need to find out where you parked your bike after a big night out.
The lock itself fixes to your disc brake, preventing anyone from riding off with your bike. If tampered with, it will set off an alarm that alerts you to the potential theft and (hopefully) will scare off the thief.
The phone connection is simple. When your phone is within Bluetooth range, you can disengage the lock without taking your phone out of your pocket. This is perfect for people who ride with gloves.
For more useful products like this, check out our selection of the best motorcycle locks!
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Wheel Lock
Types of Wheel Locks
Wheel clamps attach to one of your tires and lock it in place like a police boot does. The car won’t be able to go anywhere, but thieves can make off with the other three tires. They are extremely visible, which works to deter thieves. When you see that bright yellow and red wheel clamp, you know that you’re not getting that tire. And even though you can snag the other three, it’s going to be a lot harder to sell an incomplete set.
But that visibility can be a downside, as well. It can be a bit of an eyesore. If you’ve got a sleek ride, having a garish device on one tire that makes it look like you parked in a loading zone is not a good look.
Locking Lug Nuts
Locking lug nuts are specialized lug nuts that are smooth on the outside, so they can’t be removed with standard wrenches. They require a special key to remove the nut. Generally, locking lug nut kits come with four lug nuts: one for each wheel. Even if the regular nuts are removed, the locking nut will prevent the wheel from coming off. If you’re concerned about all of your lug nuts matching, there are also kits available with 20 lugs. This makes sure that every lug matches and makes every lug a locking one.
This lock type is convenient for drivers who are concerned about aesthetics. They’re low-profile and unnoticeable. Until you get close enough to try to steal one. They’re also convenient because you don’t have to apply them every time you park. Once you set them up, they’re good to go until you need to change a tire. Just don’t forget where you put your key.
Whether or not your wheel security device is highly visible is a matter of preference. More visible options like wheel clamps protrude from one of the tires and are generally bright yellow and red. This works very well as a visual deterrent. Potential thieves will see the tire clamp and know immediately that stealing that wheel requires extra work. Since many auto-related thefts are crimes of convenience, it’s likely that the thief will move on to an easier target.
However, some people consider the clamps to be an eyesore. If you’re looking for a less visual way to secure your wheels, go with locking lug nuts. Locking lug nuts can match your current lug nuts and blend in with the rest of your car. They won’t deter anyone from a distance. But when thieves get close, they’ll see that those wheels are not an easy get.
You need to make sure that your wheel locks fit your specific wheels. Fortunately, there are many different wheels and tires out on the market. When you’re checking out one of the locks on this list, check the listings to see if they have a locking system that will fit your vehicle.
Ease of Use
No matter how good a lock is, it’s useless if it’s too much of a pain for you to use it regularly. When it comes to ease of use, locking lug nuts are the way to go. Since they’re always on your wheels, you can forget about them after you put them on. Until you need to take them off. If you lose the key or don’t have it on you when you need to change a flat, you’re out of luck. Best advice is to keep a lug nut key in your center console so it’s always there. Better yet, lock it in your glove compartment, in case any thieves happened to read this article.
Tire clamps, on the other hand, require you to put take them on and off every time you park. Not convenient, but also not convenient for a thief and a large visual deterrent.
The price for wheel locks varies not only between brands, but also between sizes. Which is why we don’t have specific prices on the items in this list. Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere between $15 and $40 for your average set of wheel locks. Locking lug nuts tend to be cheaper on the whole, with some of the sturdier wheel clamps creeping up into the $50+ range for the larger ones. OEM (original equipment manufacturer) brands like Toyota’s locking lug nuts tend to be a bit pricier as well, costing around $35. If you’re on a tight budget, you can find locking lugs in the $15 and under price range as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best wheel locks on the market?
The best wheel locks are the ones that fit your vehicle and deter thieves. If you’re shopping for locking lug nuts, the first thing you need to do is make sure you’re getting the correct thread pattern. Also, make sure that the seat type and height fit as well. Finally, make sure the finish matches your other lug nuts for a clean, consistent look.
Then, look for a set that has a unique key for your set. This prevents people from buying the same set to have access to your rims. Also, spinning casings like the ones featured on some of Gorilla wheel locks prevent one of the more common ways to bypass a locking lug nut’s security.
Since there is always the potential to lose your key, check to see if the company that makes your lock offers replacements. Few things are worse than being stranded with a flat tire you can’t change because you lost your lug nut key.
If you’re shopping for a tire clamp, find one with a sturdy chock. These locks can act as an effective chock to prevent your car or trailer from rolling away in addition to securing your vehicle’s wheels.
Do wheel locks really work?
The reason that it’s generally easy to steal tires is that the tools to remove lug nuts is common to every vehicle. In theory, anyone with a jack and the correct socket wrench can make off with your tires. Wheel locks require a key that is specific to those locks, so they make it much more difficult to steal.
And while the locks themselves are not 100% theft-proof, that difficulty itself is an effective deterrent. Often, thieves tend to go after easier targets. The faster a thief can get your wheels and leave, the more likely it is that the thief will take a shot at them. A tire lock makes your vehicle a more difficult (if not impossible) target. That alone will deter many thieves from even attempting to steal your wheels.
Can rims with wheel locks be stolen?
Wheel locks go a long way towards preventing theft, but they do not come with an absolute theft-proof guarantee. In general, they are labeled as theft deterrents. This means that they are meant to make a theft much less likely.
That’s not to say that they are not effective, however. Having one lug nut that requires a special tool to remove makes it much more difficult to remove any given wheel. Not only does it take different tools to remove, but it also takes more time, which is of the essence when it comes to getting away with stolen goods.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of having wheel locks on your car is that they go a long way towards preventing a theft from even being attempted. Since many thefts are crimes of opportunity or convenience, many thieves will see the lock, then move on to a different car.
Billy Brown loves automotive adventures. He has tested and reviewed autos for various print and digital outlets for the past decade. His testing methods have included doing donuts in a Volvo XC90 in Barcelona, drifting a Lexus ISF around switchbacks in Northern California, and jumping a Subaru Crosstrek in a mountain bike park in Miami. If you couldn't guess, Billy loves to have fun with vehicles and share his enthusiasm and expertise with others.