What Are Wheel Locks? (Definition, Purposes, Benefits & More)

Written by

Charles Bolte


Vernon Hoppe 

what are wheel locks

Ever wondered what are wheel locks? For your information, these are special kinds of lug nuts designed for your car’s wheels that help keep them secured and prevent the tires and rim from being stolen.

These wheel locks for cars have unique patterns in their socket that would allow a special locking lug nut key to remove it. Read on to know about its working mechanism and applications.

Origin of the Wheel Locks


The manufacturing company, McGard, specializes in making security products such as locks for automotive, marine transport, and various utilities. Therefore in the year 1960, they decided to invent an anti-theft wheel lock along with its matching key.

Tires and rims have become a target to car thieves because they have a specific serial number which makes them nearly impossible to trace unless you have actually written down their identification number. Its value, if sold to the proper venue, costs around  $700 – $1300.

What is a Wheel Lock?


Wheel locks, also known as alloy wheel locks, are a necessary tool to ensure that wheels are firmly secured on a car to stop car thieves from attempting to steal your tires and other wheel parts.

When getting each wheel lock set from your local dealer, it usually comes with a tire lock key, and it is important that you don’t lose them since the removal of the locks without the key can be laborious.

A lost wheel lock key can be replaced by your car manufacturer. The wheel locks can also be removed without the key with a certain set of tools.

Benefits of a Wheel Lock

wheel locks stop thieves

Since wheel locks have these special keys to remove them, it will be difficult for thieves to bypass the lug nuts’ pattern and simply remove them.

Having wheel locks keeps you from worrying about your tires being stolen, and it also helps you save a huge chunk of money should you be buying new sets of wheels in the event that it gets stolen.

How Does it Work?


A set of wheel locks contains four lug nuts with a car wheel lock key specific to each of the lug nuts.

To install the wheel lock, you will need the specialized key to do it while keeping in mind to follow the proper torque conditions so that it won’t budge from your wheel.

Once the wheel locks are in place, you should now have a worry-free mind about thieves attempting to steal your car tires.

Where is the Wheel Lock Key Located?


If you need the wheel lock key and don’t have an idea where to find it, here are the possible locations where it is stored:

  • Inside the glove compartment/glove box
  • With the spare tire under your vehicle
  • Under the driver or passenger seat
  • In the car’s trunk concealed beneath the carpet
  • A plastic bag containing spare car parts

Types of Wheel Locks

There are various types of wheel locks to stop thieves, and they differ in their design and function. Below, we have listed the many different types of wheel locks:

1. Wheel Clamp Lock


This type of wheel lock has a clamp that prevents the wheel from being moved, and it also keeps the wheel from being removed.

2. Splined Lug Nuts


This kind of lug nut has grooves in its seat which makes up its splined design. Due to its narrow depression, it has a smaller diameter to fit in the sockets.  A special rim lock key or spline socket is used to remove splined lug nuts.

3. Taper Lock


Tapered lug nuts that are lightweight and easy to install. It has a taper in the middle of the lug nut positioned at a 45 or 90-degree angle. These can fit most modern-day vehicles particularly BMW, Nissan, Ford, Honda, and Infiniti.

4. Alloy Wheel Lock


These wheel locks function as a fastener to keep the wheel compact to the vehicle.  They are made from alloy which involves a special socket or key to unlock and remove it.

5. Radius Seat Bolt


The radius seat bolt is a round, ball-shaped lug nut found at the seat of the bolt. This is mainly used for European manufactured cars such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

6. Lug Nuts


These are cylindrical-shaped wheel nuts that are firmly secured to the rim of the wheel. You can get these wheel locks off by using a locking wheel nut key.

Remove Wheel Locks Without Key


The most convenient way to get wheel locks off is of course with the key that came with it. However, there is also a way to complete this wheel lock removal process.

Step 1: Use a socket that would almost fit the wheel lock, preferably a 12-point socket, and hold on to it.

Step 2: Once you have positioned the socket, use a hammer to hit it until it is firmly placed into the lock.

Step 3: Loosen the lock and remove the socket by using a wrench. With the right amount of force, it will eventually fall off.

Step 4: Remove the wheel lock from the socket by prying it off with a screwdriver or hitting it with a hammer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the Locking Wheel Nuts Unique to Each Car?

Locking wheel nuts are not necessarily unique to each car. However, in terms of car manufacturers, they can have locking wheel nut that is specified for their brand but not for each and every car.

What are the Best Wheel Locks for Hyundai?

The latest Palisade Wheel Locks for Hyundai have been specifically designed to stop thieves from stealing your car’s wheels. They cost around $44.99 – $64.99.

There are other models that would best suit your Hyundai, such as the Tucson Wheel Locks and Kona Wheel Locks.

Where to Buy Custom Wheels and Custom Wheel Locks?

For custom wheels, Vision Wheels have been a reputable manufacturer and distributor of wheels since 1976.

You can purchase custom wheel locks in numerous online markets, and one of them is LugNutGuys.com where you can select a wide array of variations on lug nuts.

Where Can I Find the Locking Wheel Key for Lexus?

For Lexus vehicle owners, you can find them at the back of your car underneath the carpet. Just lift the lid to unveil the compartment which houses the different tools, including the wheel lock key.

What Happens If You Lose Your Wheel Lock Key?

You will have to buy a new wheel lock key from your car manufacturer. Make sure that you have the specific code for the wheel lock so they can replace it with the correct one for your car.

The wheel lock key replacement costs around $20 – $120, and they are being sold only as a set.

Wheel locks universal kits are also available, containing different kinds of key pieces which costs about $53.99 – $144.11.

How Can I Estimate My Car Loan Payments?

You can check your monthly car payments, by using an online car payment calculator at this link.  It shows a detailed estimation as it reflects the breakdown of different fees.


Wheel locks play a vital role in keeping your wheels intact. In addition, wheel locks stop thieves because of the specialized key needed to remove it. There are many different types of wheel locks that have a variety of designs.

It is best to choose the wheel lock that is appropriate to your car. You can do a visual check on your wheels to assess what kind of wheel lock needs to be used. We hope we were able to provide useful tips and information about the topic what are wheel locks.

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