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  • Wheel locks are specialty lug nuts that prevent thieves from stealing the wheels and require their wheel lock key for removal.
  • You can replace the stock lug nuts with wheel locks without jack stands.
  • Removing wheel locks requires you to use the wheel lock key.
  • Wheel locks have advantages and disadvantages, so think carefully before buying them.
  • You can expect to pay anywhere between $20 and $120 to get a new key with a set of locks.

Tire clamps, brake locks, and steering wheel locks are some of the most common anti-theft devices you’ll see on the market. It’s easy to spot these steel mechanisms on vehicles from a few meters away, and they send a clear message that thieves should think twice before trying to break in or steal something.

There is, however, another anti-theft device that works as well as the others despite its size一the wheel lock.

What Are Wheel Locks and How Do They Work?

Wheel locks are specialty lug nuts that prevent thieves from stealing the wheels of a vehicle. Also known as rim locks or anti-theft lug nuts, these locks require a specialized key to remove them from the wheel.

car wheel lock set for anti theft
Wheel locks are specialty lug nuts that prevent thieves from stealing the wheels of a vehicle.

Many wheel locks have their outer edges rounded instead of multi-sided. They also have a unique slot that only fits the matching socket or “key.”

There are also some wheel locks with their outside edges “keyed,” which also requires a special socket.

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How to Install Wheel Locks

Installing wheel locks is a pretty straightforward task, and it won’t require you to use jack stands, either.

First, make sure that your vehicle is parked. Then, you can proceed to remove the wheel’s hub cap.

Use a lug wrench to remove the stock lug nuts, and replace each of them with a wheel lock. Tighten the locks with the key, but avoid over-torquing them to prevent the key from warping.

Put the hub cap back in place, and you’re done.

How to Remove A Wheel Lock

Removing wheel locks involves simply reversing the steps stated above. The critical thing is to remember where your wheel lock key is stored. It’s ideal to keep a copy somewhere inside your vehicle in case you need to change a tire on the side of the road.

Do You Really Need Wheel Locks?

There are pros and cons to installing wheel locks.

On one hand, wheel locks make it hard for thieves to steal your wheels because there’s a great possibility that they don’t have a wrench with the same pattern as your specialty lug nuts.

Instead of trying to pry the locks off (which can take some time), they’ll probably move on to another vehicle.

On the other hand, wheel locks can be a hassle to remove when servicing your vehicle.

Losing the key can be frustrating to deal with, too. Without it, you might need to break the wheel locks, rendering them useless once removed.

Dealing with a Lost Wheel Lock Key

You can expect to pay anywhere between $20 and $120 to get a new key with a set of locks.

Some vehicles already come with wheel locks. The key code of these locks can usually be found in the service manual.

Tips to Prevent Car Theft

According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a motor vehicle was stolen every 32 seconds in 2022. There were over a million vehicles stolen that year, and half of the cases were attributed to driver error.

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You can never be too safe with your vehicle. Aside from installing wheel locks, there are other things you can do to prevent car theft.

Park In a Safe Space

It’s always a good idea to park your vehicle in a garage. But in case you don’t have one, parking in a well-lit area is the next best option. Doing so makes it easier for people to spot sketchy bystanders who intend to steal something from your vehicle.

Invest in Car Alarms

A lot of car alarms are triggered when there’s a sign of forced entry, and some also have a feature that detects movements like jacking. However, there are also alarms that are built for wheels.

Wheel alarms go off when the vehicle is tilted and the wheels are being tampered with.

Install a Vehicle Recovery System

A vehicle recovery system is another anti-theft tool that uses GPS to track your car once it gets stolen. This device also uses transmission technology to help law enforcement locate the stolen vehicle.

Always Hide Your Valuables

Wheels aren’t the only thing thieves have an eye for. Exposed money, jewelry, and other valuables can turn your vehicle into a hotspot for car thieves, so make sure they’re well hidden before leaving your ride.

Install a Security Camera

Security cameras aren’t cheap, but they can be a good investment.

Security cameras let you monitor your vehicle in real-time, so you’ll be able to see if somebody breaks into your car or tries to steal its wheels.

The Bottomline

Wheel locks are small yet effective anti-theft devices that keep your wheels safe. These specialty lug nuts, however, have a unique key that you should always store in a safe place.

A vehicle with wheel locks won’t necessarily be a hassle to maintain as long as you don’t lose the key. If you do, you risk damaging the locks by trying to remove them, so you’ll need to buy a set.

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Installing security cameras, car alarms, and vehicle recovery systems can reduce the risk of car theft, as well as practices like parking in well-lit areas and hiding your valuables.

Get Reliable Wheel Lock Sets For Your Car

Like the lug nuts they replace, wheel locks undergo wear and tear and might also experience corrosion. Damaged and rusty wheel locks can get in the way of removing the wheel for repairs, forcing you to find ways to remove the stuck locks first. Fortunately, a wheel lock set has the parts you need to replace old nuts, and you can order high-quality sets at understands the importance of getting compatible parts on the first try, so we make it easy for you to find the right wheel lock sets for your car. Plug your vehicle information into our website’s integrated vehicle selector, and you’ll get a list of our products that meet your requirements. After finding the part that meets your application, you can complete the ordering process with only several mouse clicks or screen taps. You don’t have to wait long for your new wheel lock sets. If you live in the continental US and order before noon ET, you can get your order in as fast as two business days.

Whether you intend to upgrade your car’s lug nuts or need replacements for damaged or worn-out wheel locks, make your first and only stop. View our array of wheel lock sets and order one today.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at

Tony Harlin is a Master Gas and Diesel Diagnostic Technician with over 18 years of experience. He works full-time at a large independent automotive shop as a driveability and repair technician working on all types of vehicles with a focus on diesels. ASE certifications include A1-A9, L1 and L2, as well as X1.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

File Under : Wheels and Tires , DIY Tagged With :
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