You’ve likely seen it before: A car sitting on bricks or concrete blocks after its wheels and tires have been stolen. Whether you have a nice set of aftermarket wheels or you want to prevent your factory ones from getting stolen, owning a set of wheel locks is a low-cost investment towards helping make sure those wheels stay on your car.
This article will take a look at five of the most popular wheel locks currently available, as well as go into detail on what wheel locks are, why you need them, and what to look for when shopping for them. Refer to the table of contents for more information.
Table of contents
1. Editor's Pick: Gorilla
One of the most well-respected and trusted brands when it comes to wheel locks, Gorilla Automotive has a wide assortment of products to help keep your wheels and tires on your car. The company’s lineup of wheel locks comes in various finishes, seat types, and thread patterns, so it’s very likely Gorilla offers something that fits your car. Every offering comes highly recommended, but we’ll take a look at some of Gorilla’s more popular products.
The Original System is a complete set of 20 wheel locks so that every lug nut on your wheels is a lock. Those locks use a single key and are made from case-hardened steel and chrome plated for a durable finish.
If you don’t need a full set of wheel locks, Gorilla’s X2 is another great option, featuring a patented dual-stage technology. The upper lock on these wheel locks is free spinning, making it even more difficult for thieves to try to force them off the wheel by protecting the lower portion from removal tools. The X2 locks are a bit more expensive than the standard units Gorilla has to offer, so if you don’t feel like you need the free-spinning upper portion, save a bit of cash by purchasing the regular wheel locks.
Another well-known brand for wheel locks is McGard. Available in a variety of finishes, seat styles, and thread patterns, McGard’s locks are triple-nickel chrome plated for beauty and durability. The company says its products are manufactured in the U.S. to meet or exceed OEM standards and is the original equipment wheel lock supplier for over 30 automakers around the world. Each wheel lock from McGard is fully machined from restricted chemistry steel made specifically for the company and is through-hardened for security.
McGard’s wheel locks are one-piece units that feature a computer-generated key pattern that has an extra narrow pattern groove to resist the intrusion of removal tools into the pattern. The key comes with a steel collar to guide it into the lock pattern.
The company also claims it is the only one that offers eight different key hex sizes so they match a vehicle’s factory lug wrench.
Like Gorilla Automotive’s locks, a very small number of users have complained about possible rusting.
Utopicar’s lineup of wheel locks isn’t as comprehensive as Gorilla Automotive or McGard, but they’re an affordable alternative if they fit your car. The company’s cone seat locks are available in 1/2-inch, 12×1.25, 12×1.5, and 14×1.5 which does cover a good majority of today’s cars. They are manufactured to OEM standards with heavy duty toughened steel and are chrome plated to prevent from chipping or peeling.
If you accidentally misplace or lose your key, Utopicar offers a free overnight key replacement program. A key storage pouch is also included, featuring a bright red finish.
These wheel locks won’t provide the same sense of security as Gorilla or McGard, since the key is the same for all applications.
Slightly more affordable than McGuard and Gorilla products are DPAccessories’ wheel locks. They come in a variety of fitments, styles, and finishes and each set has its own unique matching key. These locks are manufactured from cold forged and heat treated steel to offer dependable strength and durability. You can also choose whether you want four or five locks when purchasing.
The chrome units feature triple chrome plating with layers of copper, nickel, and chrome to provide strength and corrosion resistance. If you prefer a set of black locks, DPAccessories use a proprietary cathodic black coating, which is said to give the durability of high quality chrome but the look of satin black paint. You can also purchase a full set of matching lugs to go with the locks.
DPAccessories says it uses a lengthy multi-point quality control process to ensure each lock it sells offers the best quality and theft protection it can.
The cheapest option on our list comes from AccuWheel, which also offers a wide variety of lug nut and wheel lock sets. The locks do come with a unique matching key and feature a triple chrome plated finish to prevent against rust and corrosion. Overall, these wheel locks are fairly generic and there aren’t any standout features for them, but they are offered at almost half the price compared to some of the competition.
AccuWheel’s locks are ideal if you’re looking for an affordable option to add some peace of mind in securing your wheels and tires to your car. Some users have complained about rusting, so take that into consideration if you live in an area with rain or snow.
What are Wheel Locks?
Wheel locks replace your standard lug nuts and feature a special pattern on the face, which means they can only be removed with the special key that is included with the locks. They’re relatively inexpensive and you can swap them out on your own without having to take a trip to an auto repair shop or your dealership. That also means you need to keep the wheel lock key with you at all times, so you’re able to take the wheel and tire off your car when necessary.
Why do I Need Wheel Locks?
Even if you don’t have an expensive set of aftermarket wheels and tires, you’re still at risk of having your wheels stolen off your vehicle. Regardless of how old your vehicle is, there is value to your factory wheels and tires, especially if you purchased an optional upgrade. Think of wheel locks as a cheap insurance policy for your wheels and tires, since they are really difficult to remove without the special key.
In addition, thieves generally go for easy targets, so wheel locks may be enough to deter them from attempting to steal your wheels and tires.
What to Look for When Shopping for Wheel Locks
As you can imagine, most wheel locks are similar in design and style. The most important factor when you’re shopping for wheel locks is to make sure you’re getting the correct thread pattern (thread size, thread pattern) for your vehicle. You will also want to look at the seat type, length, and finish to make sure they match the rest of your lug nuts.
The seat type represents the area where the wheel lock actually makes contact with the wheel surface. Some of the more popular styles include conical or tapered seat, spherical or ball seat, mag seat, flat seat, and extended thread. Your car may also take lug bolts (often found on European vehicles) so keep that in mind when you’re looking for wheel locks.
Generally when you’re shopping for wheel locks, you can provide your vehicle and get the information you need to purchase the correct ones. It never hurts to verify however, as online guides and even guides in certain auto parts stores aren’t 100-percent accurate.
How Many Should I Buy?
Most wheel locks are sold in packs of four, under the assumption that you install one lock per wheel. For most car owners, that’s sufficient to add some security to your wheels and tires. But some companies do offer wheel locks in a set of 20, allowing you to fully replace all your lug nuts with locks that use a single key. If you want to go that route, you’ll want to make sure you’re picking up a complete set of wheel locks, otherwise you will be stuck with four different wheel lock keys – one for each wheel.
In addition, some companies offer lug nuts with four wheel locks, so that everything matches on your vehicle.
How to Install Wheel Locks
If you have ever changed a tire on your car, you should know how to install wheel locks. But there’s more to the process than simply taking off a lug nut and replacing it with a wheel lock. Here are some general steps to help you properly install you wheel locks.
1. Remove Wheel Covers: If your car has wheel covers or hubcaps, you will want to remove those first in order to gain easy access to the factory lug nuts. Some hubcaps are more difficult to remove than others, so refer to your owner’s manual to see how to safely and properly remove the hubcap.
2. Remove a Single Lug Nut to Verify: Before jumping in and removing one lug nut from every wheel, start by simply taking off a single lug nut from either the front or the rear of your car. You will want to use that lug nut to verify the wheel locks you purchased will be compatible. Check the style, seating surface style, and thread size and make sure it matches the lug nut you removed.
3. Check Your Studs: Depending on where you live and how old your vehicle is, there may be some rust on your wheel studs. If there is, use a wire brush to clean it off prior to installing the wheel locks.
4. Start Threading by Hand: Once you have verified the wheel lock is compatible with your vehicle, start threading it by hand. It’s highly recommended not to use an impact wrench when installing wheel locks as they could damage the lock and/or the key.
5. Properly Tighten the Wheel Lock: Using the McGard key and a torque wrench, properly tighten each lock to the torque specified in your owner’s manual. Make sure the key is firmly pressed against the lock when tightening. It is also recommended to retorque the locks after 25 miles of driving.
6. Repeat for the Remaining Three Wheels: Repeat the process for the remaining three wheels on your car until you have one wheel lock installed on each wheel.
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