These days, most cars, vans or trucks are fitted with expensive alloy wheels. A factory replacement could cost you hundreds of dollars (per wheel), but even if you have nasty steel wheels, losing them isn’t about the expense of the wheel, it’s the inconvenience and damage – a thief isn’t going to take the time or trouble to leave your car on jack stands – it will drop on the floor and stay there.
This could damage your exhaust, brake rotors, suspension, underfloor – pretty much every expensive component on the underneath of your vehicle – that’s a huge cost to pay.
The alternative is getting yourself a quality wheel lock – a lug nut which needs a ‘key’ to remove it. Sure, if a thief is really determined, they may still get the wheels off, but that’s with power tools and noise – not the sort of things any thief wants to be doing at 3AM.
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Best Wheel Locks for Real Security 2019
1. McGard 24157 Chrome Cone Seat Wheel Locks
McGard are the OEM supplier to over thirty different car lines worldwide, so they know a thing or two about making quality locking wheel nuts for the automotive industry.
These wheel locks are manufactured in the USA, using a ‘restricted chemistry’ steel made specifically for McGard, and then the whole product is through hardened – not just case hardened. You’ll need more than a high speed drill to get these off!
McGard say that the key code is computer generated, which allows for an infinite number of patterns. A neat touch with these particular locks is the combined 19/21 mm (3/4” and 13/16”) dual hex arrangement (so your wheel wrench should fit regardless), but it’s also worth noting that McGard offer wheel locks in 8 different sizes of hex.
These McGards 24157 are warrantied against manufacturing defects and corrosion under ‘normal’ conditions, and that’s partly down to the triple-nickel chrome plating. The kit comes with four wheel locks and one key, but replacement keys can be ordered direct from McGard using the unique identifier code.
2. Gorilla 61631 Acorn Guard Locks
The same standardized thread – 12 mm x 1.50 pitch, and featuring a conical seat (machined at 60 degrees), Gorilla say that all their locks and keys are unique.
These wheel locks are only case hardened, so once through the outer hardening, they’ll be easier to remove, but they do feature an added security bonus that the McGard’s don’t – a rotating outer sleeve. This sleeve will stop thieves from being able to hammer a standard lug nut removing tool on to the exterior of the nut – it will just rotate without actually undoing the lug nut, and thanks to the confined nature of a lug nut, you’ll find these locks virtually impossible to remove with the key (so don’t lose it!).
Available in either 19 mm or 21 mm (3/4” and 13/16”), these are some high quality wheel locks that will resist pretty much any attempt to steal the wheels (I’ve even heard stories of them doing such a great job that the thief takes the whole car to allow them more time and privacy).
Well priced, high quality.
3. Toyota Genuine Accessories 00276-00900 Wheel Lock
These genuine Toyota accessories are actually genuine McGard wheel locks – made to the exact same specification, in the exact same factory. The only difference being that these have been balanced to the same weight as the stock lug nut, which means the wheel balance won’t be affected, although in all honesty, any lug nut will be close, and given that it’s on a small PCD (Pitch Circle Diameter), the balance will be negligible.
They feature triple-nickel plating with a chrome overlay, giving excellent corrosion resistance. A key that’s near as damn it unique, and through hardening for the steel – want to keep your Toyota all original? Then these Toyota wheel locks are for you.
Before you rush out (actually, start clicking) to buy a set of the best locking wheel nuts, there are some things you need to consider first.
First and foremost is the ‘thread’ of the wheel stud.
Any machine screw, bolt, set screw or stud with a thread will have been manufactured to a specific size. The simplest guide for general use is Metric or Imperial – think of it as a wrench – we here in the U.S. tend to use imperial sizes … inches, whereas in Europe, they tend to go for Metric – millimeters.
A thread is just the same. More often than not, a lug nut thread is pretty standardized – 12 x 1.50 which means a diameter of 12 mm, with a pitch of 1.50 mm (think of it as the spacing between the ‘teeth’ of the thread). Don’t confuse this with TPI (Threads Per Inch) that you’d get with an imperial screw.
If you don’t know for a fact what thread your lug nuts are, check with a dealer, as forcing on an incompatible thread will cause untold damage, usually requiring the replacement of the stud, which then requires the removal of the wheel hub – with labor costs around $100 per hour, that could work out pretty expensive.
You also need to know what seating fixture your lug nuts use (against the wheel surface) – typically it’s a cone shape (around 60 degrees) but some manufacturers use other shapes. And another important factor is the length.
While it won’t matter so much if your locking wheel nut protrudes slightly (although too far and it will be an easy target for removal), you need to know that the depth of the threaded portion is enough for the stud, or it won’t tighten down correctly.
Many anti-theft wheel nuts use a fairly standard mild steel that goes through a hardening process – to stop people being able to easily drill it off, but some manufacturers ‘through’ harden the steel (meaning that the hardening process treats all of the metal), while others ‘case’ harden the steel – which is literally the outer casing of the steel – if you manage to get through the outer hardening, then drilling the rest is easy.
By its very nature, the hardening process can make the steel brittle, it’s for this reason that you should never be tempted to install a locking wheel nut with an impact wrench, wheel gun, windy gun or pneumatic gun (whatever you call it) – just tighten by hand and then torque to the manufacturers setting with a good torque wrench.
It must be said that there are tools available to remove locking wheel nuts without a key, so some designs will outperform others in this area.
I don’t think I’ve ever owned a vehicle that hasn’t had wheel locks fitted to it, but I know a few people that have, and the resulting costs in insurance or replacement have been horrendous. For the sake of a few dollars, I’d always recommend fitting a quality wheel lock to each wheel as soon as you take ownership of any vehicle.