Of all the vehicle accessories one can buy, both necessary and unnecessary, wheel locks are one of the most affordable, effective, and underrated. Their main job is to protect one of the most vulnerable parts of your vehicle: its rims and tires.
Because a vehicle’s wheels are exposed, anybody who has a lug wrench could jack up your car, unscrew the bolts holding your wheels in place, and remove the wheels and tires relatively quickly. Wheel locks prevent this by requiring a key or special screw to loosen the lug nuts.
The Best Wheel Locks
It might be reasonable to think of wheel locks only being necessary for high crime areas – the pictures of vehicles on cinder blocks with their brake assemblies exposed are certainly shown in many movies. The reality is that wheel locks can provide peace of mind regardless of where you live, especially if you do not have a garage in which to park your car or truck at night.
1. Gorilla Automotive Wheel Locks
Gorilla Automotive Acorn Guard Locks are highly-rated by many automotive professionals and users. Only about twenty dollars gets buyers four forged steel locks with a patented free-spinning sleeve around the actual bolt for harder access without the key.
These can be bought in several thread patterns so that they can fit a variety of wheels. They can even be had without the spinning sleeve for less money.
Underneath the sleeve – or if buyers opt for purchase without the sleeve – Gorilla’s security key pattern is well-known to be one of the best. The acorn guard locks feature a cone-style seat.
2. McGard Cone Seat Wheel Locks
The McGard cone seat wheel locks are slightly more expensive than the Gorilla acorn locks, but there are five locks in a key in the package as opposed to four. This is specifically for SUVs with an extra spare wheel on the back.
They are made of restricted chemistry steel for overall strength, a steel collar for easy key placement and holding, and nickel-chrome plating for extended weather resistance. In addition to narrow groove patterns, McGard’s computer-generated key designs produce a nearly infinite variety of key patterns to deter wheel theft on multiple levels.
McGard currently manufactures OEM wheel locks for multiple automakers across the world, further cementing their reputation for building a quality product.
3. DPAccessories Acorn Locking Wheel Lug Nuts
DPAccessories black wheel locks add some style to a standard wheel lock’s functionality. These can be bought in silver as well and in a five-pack, if a four-pack will not suffice. All packs come with a key for a unique key-to-lock combination.
All DPAccessories cone seat locks are made from one-piece cold-forged and heat-treated steel. Precision-machined threads ensure that fitment will not be an issue and an extended and rigorous quality control process ensure that product quality is guaranteed.
Because the included key is designed to be unique to your set, DPAccessories can replace a lost key when you call and provide the original key number.
4. Zonetech Tire Clamp Lock
The Zone Tech security tire clamp is a different kind of wheel security device, but it accomplishes the same thing just as effectively. This clamp is as affordable as any set of wheel locks on this list, and it comes with two keys in case one is lost.
It is made of high-strength acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) to resist any movement of the tire, including towing. Both the handle and clamp arms are made with a soft rubberized coating for comfort while carrying and so that the clamp does not damage the wheel itself when mounted.
With adjustable clamp arms, the Zone Tech clamp is compatible with nearly every vehicle, and it is easy to install quickly. It is also easy to transport with a weight of three pounds.
5. Trimax Wheel Chock Lock
The Trimax TCL65 wheel chock lock is another wheel clamp option if the Zone Tech is not for you. Rather than an extended handle, the Trimax TCL65 features a wheel chock on the clamp to prevent rollaway and vehicle theft.
It is made of powder-coated steel, comes with two keys, and contains a pick-resistant locking mechanism for added security. Like the Zone Tech clamp, the TCL65 is bright yellow and red with rubberized clamp arms to prevent damage to your wheels.
A universal fit and easy installation make it compatible with virtually any vehicle or trailer, and it is even dishwasher safe.
What to Look for in Wheel Locks
Wheel locks and wheel clamps are both mentioned in our list above, and even though they both accomplish generally the same task, their design and installation procedures are very different.
Wheel locks are direct replacements for lug nuts. They take the place of the bolts that keep your vehicle's wheels on the car. Of course, they require a special tool or key to remove which is what provides the security aspect. There should not be a duplicate key type and pattern that would fit your purchased wheel lock set, and their collar patterns are designed to resist tools attempting to be used against them.
As replacements for lug nuts, they require one installation and do not have to be removed until the wheel needs to be removed.
Wheel clamps are external devices that get clamped onto a wheel. The two clamp arms are angled so that when they are tightened, they “pinch” the wheel and wrap around the bottom of the tire. As such, they do prevent a vehicle from being stolen by not allowing it to move at all, but a clamp needs to be installed each time the vehicle owner parks and leaves.
These are often utilized by police officers and other officials for violating parking laws and repossessing vehicles that are going to be towed since clamps can be installed on any vehicle by any person. These are sometimes called wheel boots.
Wheel Bolts vs Lug Nuts
Putting a wheel onto a vehicle is usually one of the easiest automotive-related tasks, but it may not be as straightforward as it seems if your vehicle has wheel bolts instead of lug nuts.
When a tire is mounted, it is placed on the screws extending from the wheel hub and tightened using lug nuts and a lug wrench. This is the case for most vehicles, but not all vehicles use this system.
Wheel bolts are primarily used by European manufacturers, and they function opposite to how lug nuts function. To mount a tire using wheel bolts, the tire must be aligned with the brake assembly and wheel hub before inserting the wheel bolts through the wheel and into the aligned openings.
Several manufacturers do offer factory wheel locks, but it is important to know if your vehicle has lug nuts or wheel bolts when shopping for aftermarket wheel locks. This will prevent you from purchasing the wrong type of lock.
Types of Wheel Locks
It might seem that wheel locks are generally the same across the board. This is correct in terms of their overall design, but they have to fit many different kinds of wheels. In addition to knowing if your vehicle requires lug nuts or wheel bolts, the proper thread and seat pattern are important for fitment.
Regardless of what kind of vehicle you own, most companies offer an online buyer’s guide that indicates whether or not a certain product fits the vehicle you specify.
Thread pattern is an important item in any industry that utilizes nuts and bolts. Your owner’s manual and sometimes even the lug nuts themselves will contain the size and thread pattern that your particular vehicle requires. Of course, if the thread pattern is wrong, you will not be able to fit your wheel locks to the wheels.
Seat pattern refers to the shape of the bottom part of the bolt that touches the wheel. If the seat pattern is wrong, the bolt will not be able to screw all the way onto the wheel. There are three main types of seat patterns.
A cone seat is the most common type from our list, though many manufacturers offer the same type of wheel lock with a different seat pattern. A cone seat forms a triangular or cone shape with a flattened bottom.
Radius seat wheel locks are bowl-shaped without any edges or flat areas like the cone seat. These are also sometimes referred to as spherical seats.
A shank seat looks almost like a hydraulic press: It is wider on the top and skinnier towards the bottom with no tapered edges. These come in several different lengths depending on the wheel.
Wheel locks are often overlooked by most as a security measure for their vehicles. Since wheels and tires are so accessible and easily removed, theft is not limited to crime-ridden city streets portrayed in the movies. They are affordable, easy to install, and practical for anybody who does not have a garage or other shelter in which to house their vehicle.
Even though they are not hard to install, they do require specific fitment needs based on the type of wheel your vehicle has. Most online stores and shopping sites have a buyer’s guide to help determine if a particular set of wheel locks will fit your vehicle.