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Old 02-10-2020, 06:26 PM
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Are wheel locks a scam or are they useful?


I'm talking about the replacement lug nuts that require a special key in order to get them off. These are promoted as an anti-theft device for tires and wheels. But it seems to me that if you buy a set of, say, Gorilla brand wheel locks, the key will fit ALL Gorilla wheel locks. Same for other brands. So a thief would just need to spend $50 or so for the top brands, and would have the keys for any wheel he chooses to steal. What am I missing here?
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Old 02-10-2020, 06:38 PM
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It's been many years since I had them, but as a "prank" someone loosened the lug nuts on one of my wheels. And this led to bad consequences (but nobody was hurt).

So I went out and bought some locking lug nuts. At the time, there were different keys - one for each set (of 4). I bought 2 sets, so I needed 2 keys. I suspect there are only a finite number of different keys, but there are different ones.

They do help with tampering, but I will tell you the tire replacement guys will be cursing you (especially with 2 different ones on each wheel).
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Old 02-10-2020, 07:00 PM
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I have always thought of them as being a total pain in the ass. The keys always roll somewhere difficult to find when you need them and the last set I had experience with had really shallow engagement profiles, so god help you if the threads were frozen. What would break loose first? The bolt or the keyway?
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Old 02-10-2020, 07:19 PM
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Here's the biggest problem: most people keep the lock in the car's glove compartment or center console. Thieves know this.
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Old 02-10-2020, 07:54 PM
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I was riding the train home one day & "Dayum, what is that low & sexy car?" Turns out it was a car sitting on it's rotors which is why it was so low.

Another time I saw a guy (I believe) was stealing wheels off of a Vette. I've never seen someone deal with a wheel & not face said wheel. He was facing forward, like he was keeping a lookout. I called the cops but got on my train so I don't know the outcome as waiting for them to show up would have made me an hour late(r) than I already was.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crafter_Man View Post
Here's the biggest problem: most people keep the lock in the car's glove compartment or center console. Thieves know this.
Breaking glass makes noise, noise attracts attention. You can be almost invisible crouched down between two parked cars in a parking lot (unless, of course, someone is going into work late).


ETA: Do NOT buy them from a dealer; they're ridiculously marked up there vs Pep Boys or Auto Zone or someplace similar.

Last edited by Spiderman; 02-10-2020 at 07:56 PM.
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Old 02-10-2020, 08:01 PM
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We bought a used Toyota from a Toyota dealer and the wheel lock was missing. I went back and told them, and in the service department they brought out a box of maybe 12-18 wheel locks, found which one fit my car, and gave it to me. Presumably they ordered a replacement for their stock. I think there is a black market for everything, and I have no doubt that if someone needed a set of Toyota wheel locks they could get one.

Gorilla uses thousands of different keys.

IMHO a mechanical device that depends only on the shape of the key could be defeated by someone clever enough. I mean, if a guy could open a Kryptonite lock with a Bic pen, you can get a wheel off a car. I found a video by a car repair guy who demonstrates what he does if someone doesn't have the key or the key is stripped. You need some exotic tools: A socket wrench and a hammer.

And how common is it for thieves to steal wheels, anyway?
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Old 02-10-2020, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by CookingWithGas View Post
We bought a used Toyota from a Toyota dealer and the wheel lock was missing. I went back and told them, and in the service department they brought out a box of maybe 12-18 wheel locks, found which one fit my car, and gave it to me. Presumably they ordered a replacement for their stock. I think there is a black market for everything, and I have no doubt that if someone needed a set of Toyota wheel locks they could get one.

Gorilla uses thousands of different keys.

IMHO a mechanical device that depends only on the shape of the key could be defeated by someone clever enough. I mean, if a guy could open a Kryptonite lock with a Bic pen, you can get a wheel off a car. I found a video by a car repair guy who demonstrates what he does if someone doesn't have the key or the key is stripped. You need some exotic tools: A socket wrench and a hammer.

And how common is it for thieves to steal wheels, anyway?
There have been two vehicles de-wheeled in my neighborhood in the past couple of weeks, which is why I'm asking. Also, some custom wheels are very expensive.
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Old 02-10-2020, 10:18 PM
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One of my friends had some and lost his key. Took me about 90 seconds with a lock-splitter
https://www.amazon.com/ompait-Profes...a-830970350071
and a cordless Dremel to remove it.

They might be better engineered now, but I doubt it.
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Old 02-10-2020, 11:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CookingWithGas View Post
We bought a used Toyota from a Toyota dealer and the wheel lock was missing. I went back and told them, and in the service department they brought out a box of maybe 12-18 wheel locks, found which one fit my car, and gave it to me. Presumably they ordered a replacement for their stock. I think there is a black market for everything, and I have no doubt that if someone needed a set of Toyota wheel locks they could get one.

Gorilla uses thousands of different keys.

IMHO a mechanical device that depends only on the shape of the key could be defeated by someone clever enough. I mean, if a guy could open a Kryptonite lock with a Bic pen, you can get a wheel off a car. I found a video by a car repair guy who demonstrates what he does if someone doesn't have the key or the key is stripped. You need some exotic tools: A socket wrench and a hammer.

And how common is it for thieves to steal wheels, anyway?
Spend about 5 minutes on Lakeview neighborhood news and youll see. But this is very densely populated area with street parking at a premium as many places dont have parking.
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Old 02-11-2020, 01:26 AM
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ETA: Do NOT buy them from a dealer; they're ridiculously marked up there vs Pep Boys or Auto Zone or someplace similar.
That's the scam part of them. They'll try to charge up to $300 for the same brand sold at an auto store for $25-$30.
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Old 02-11-2020, 07:15 AM
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I'd say in general they're useful, they can be defeated though.

if you don't have the key, you can hammer a socket over the nut and remove the them that way.

if the lug nuts are recessed in the wheel you'll need to use non impact (chrome) sockets due to their thinner wall thickness.

for the locks with the inside pattern, you'll need to use a 12 point socket that you've taken a die grinder to to knock the edges off the points on the inside of the socket (to better match the perfectly round outside circumference of the nut).

the socket can split sometimes. once you've got the nut off, it's wedged in the socket which requires a vise, punch, and hammer to separate them.

if someone were to want to use this method to steal someones wheels they'd just show up with 4 modified cheapy sockets and have the wheels off about as quickly as someone would by using the actual key, just a little noisier.
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Old 02-11-2020, 08:06 AM
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In one sense they are useful in that theives may pass by a car with them in favor of one without. Crimes of opportunity, and all that.
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Old 02-11-2020, 08:36 AM
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After watching the guy at Discount Tire quickly spin them off, I'm less confident of their usefulness. Customer couldn't find the key, but it took them seconds to have the wheels off. I should note they had a pneumatic impact wrench, which a thief isn't likely to carry, so there's that.

I don't use them on my truck, but I have used them on boat trailers. These are frequently left at lonely ramps for many hours and I want to add some difficulty to the wheel removal process. I keep the key in the boat, so it's not nearby. This probably ensures I'll get a broken window in addition to missing tires.
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Old 02-11-2020, 09:02 AM
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Where I live, wheel theft isn't really a problem. My personal feeling is the inconvenience to me is far greater if I lose the key or the keyway strips out than the likely benefit to me reducing wheel theft. Your mileage may vary.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pullin View Post
After watching the guy at Discount Tire quickly spin them off, I'm less confident of their usefulness. Customer couldn't find the key, but it took them seconds to have the wheels off. I should note they had a pneumatic impact wrench, which a thief isn't likely to carry, so there's that.
You're right. I'd guess that wheel thieves would carry cordless impact wrenches instead. This one generates 700 ft-lbs of torque, which would work on even the tightest lugnuts.
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Old 02-11-2020, 09:53 AM
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It's been many years since I had them, but as a "prank" someone loosened the lug nuts on one of my wheels.
Dude, with friends like that, who needs enemies?
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Old 02-11-2020, 10:35 AM
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Spend about 5 minutes on Lakeview neighborhood news and youll see. But this is very densely populated area with street parking at a premium as many places dont have parking.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
There have been two vehicles de-wheeled in my neighborhood in the past couple of weeks, which is why I'm asking. Also, some custom wheels are very expensive.
I guess I live in a bubble. I find it interesting that there is such a market for used stolen wheels. I wonder how the thieves turn them into cash.
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Old 02-11-2020, 10:58 AM
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Came out once to a wheel on my pickup missing 4 of the 5 lugnuts. The one still on was my wheel lock. I suspect that was the reason my wheels were not stolen. Worth the $22 they cost me. A little hint the guy at the tire shop told me when I bought them. Keep the key with your spare tire. It will always be there when you need it and thieves won't want to try to get at the spare looking for it.
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:19 AM
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I had a Nova with a Chrysler Dana 60 rear end, so it had two different threads on the wheels. In my poor youth I could only afford locks on the back wheels. One night my fronts disappeared.

Wheel locks worked, at least then.
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Old 02-11-2020, 12:34 PM
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I guess I live in a bubble. I find it interesting that there is such a market for used stolen wheels. I wonder how the thieves turn them into cash.
Chop shops, Craigslist, eBay. Pretty easy, really, for the fancier wheels.
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Old 02-11-2020, 01:19 PM
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Dude, with friends like that, who needs enemies?
Tell me about it. Remember the discussion about Vincent's car being keyed from "Pulp Fiction" ? If I ever catch the guy....
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Old 02-11-2020, 03:14 PM
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I'd say in general they're useful, they can be defeated though.

if you don't have the key, you can hammer a socket over the nut and remove the them that way.

if the lug nuts are recessed in the wheel you'll need to use non impact (chrome) sockets due to their thinner wall thickness.

for the locks with the inside pattern, you'll need to use a 12 point socket that you've taken a die grinder to to knock the edges off the points on the inside of the socket (to better match the perfectly round outside circumference of the nut).

the socket can split sometimes. once you've got the nut off, it's wedged in the socket which requires a vise, punch, and hammer to separate them.

if someone were to want to use this method to steal someones wheels they'd just show up with 4 modified cheapy sockets and have the wheels off about as quickly as someone would by using the actual key, just a little noisier.
Old style locking lugs work like that, but the new ones have a special collar that prevents a hammered-on socket from spinning the nut. I know this because I tried the trick when we lost the key to the ones on my wife's car, and it did not work. My options were to do one of many things that could end up damaging the wheel irreparably, or take it back to the dealer we leased it from and have them remove the locking lugs.
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Old 02-11-2020, 05:50 PM
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I guess I live in a bubble. I find it interesting that there is such a market for used stolen wheels. I wonder how the thieves turn them into cash.
For very common cars, crooked mechanics and body shops will buy them as a set but sell them onsie-twosies. A lot of rims get cracked during pothole season and sometimes people want a replacement after serious curb rash. Being substantial chunks of decent grade aluminum, they're also as good as money at a scrap dealer.

One morning a few years ago, I saw my neighbor's new Honda Accord up on blocks, brake rotors dangling. Popular car, quiet city street, middle of the block, easy mark.
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Old 02-11-2020, 07:34 PM
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The only thing wheel locks did for me was to piss off tire shops, when I forgot to give them the key.
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Old 02-11-2020, 08:41 PM
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I think the ones we have on our daughter's car (she's away at school and the car is parked outside in a marginally questionable neighborhood) have a key that has a code on it. I suppose if you need a new key you are supposed to contact the manufacturer with the code and they can send you the key that fits the specific locks you have. Wont be much use if you have a flat tire on the side of the road and cannot find the key. I keep the key with the spare tire changing kit.
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Old 02-11-2020, 08:50 PM
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After watching the guy at Discount Tire quickly spin them off, I'm less confident of their usefulness. Customer couldn't find the key, but it took them seconds to have the wheels off. I should note they had a pneumatic impact wrench, which a thief isn't likely to carry, so there's that.
The battery powered impact wrenches you can buy these days are pretty amazing though.
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Old 02-12-2020, 02:04 AM
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I should note they had a pneumatic impact wrench, which a thief isn't likely to carry, so there's that.

:
New Years 'weekend' 1979/1980 we were in Manhattan for the vacation, can't remember offhand why we were there, we normally went over Thanksgiving vacation [[to shop for Christmas presents mainly, I have many years of wonderful memories of Brentano's Books and FAO Schwartz and being turned loose and told to pick ONE item =)] but I sat on the little balcony one morning at about 0600 and watched a crew of guys in a generic white RAM van stop, open the back, pop the hood of a car, reel out a couple hoses with impact tools and a engine lift boom and remove the engine, all 4 wheels and the Recaro seats. Not sure what the car was exactly, I was about 8 stories up and looking down from the top. It was a 2 seater though. Took them 15 minutes, it was like watching an F1 race pitstop. They hopped back in when they were done and were gone. They may have been stealing to order and didn't want to take the whole car or something.
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Old 02-12-2020, 05:27 AM
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New Years 'weekend' 1979/1980 we were in Manhattan for the vacation, can't remember offhand why we were there, we normally went over Thanksgiving vacation [[to shop for Christmas presents mainly, I have many years of wonderful memories of Brentano's Books and FAO Schwartz and being turned loose and told to pick ONE item =)] but I sat on the little balcony one morning at about 0600 and watched a crew of guys in a generic white RAM van stop, open the back, pop the hood of a car, reel out a couple hoses with impact tools and a engine lift boom and remove the engine, all 4 wheels and the Recaro seats. Not sure what the car was exactly, I was about 8 stories up and looking down from the top. It was a 2 seater though. Took them 15 minutes, it was like watching an F1 race pitstop. They hopped back in when they were done and were gone. They may have been stealing to order and didn't want to take the whole car or something.
Whole car=Grand Theft, Auto=15-20years.

Stealing parts=Petty Theft=6 months.

At least that is how I remember it.
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Old 02-12-2020, 08:10 AM
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2 guys stole 124 wheels early one morning at a dealership.

https://driving.ca/chevrolet/auto-ne...ana-dealership

similar thefts occurred at different times, in different cities
  #29  
Old 02-12-2020, 12:30 PM
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Harbor Freight sells sets of keys for wheel locks - obviously it won't take off every single wheel lock in existence, but it's a good start... Tire shops maintain similar sets.

That being said, I run locking lug nuts on my truck. It's possibly a deterrent, same as any other lock. A potential thief just might move onto the next victim if he sees wheel locks.

https://www.harborfreight.com/Lockin...-Pc-63739.html
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Old 02-12-2020, 02:25 PM
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I doubt they offer much resistance, and lots of dealerships put them on and sell them for 10x the price.

Our car that we bought a few years ago has them. The dealership added like $150 to the price we had already negotiated. No thanks, I said. But they're already installed, said the salesman. That's ok, I can wait while you take them off. They left them on for free.

I of course leave the key in the glove box. You have to carry it with you otherwise you can't change the damn tires. I guess I could find somewhere better to hide it, but I'd probably forget where it was, and that wouldn't stop a determined thief from breaking my windows anyway.
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Old 02-12-2020, 03:49 PM
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I guess I could find somewhere better to hide it, but I'd probably forget where it was, and that wouldn't stop a determined thief from breaking my windows anyway.
Now that I think about it, keeping the key near the lug wrench probably isn't a bad idea. You can't use one without the other and it's less likely for a thief to be looking there.
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Old 02-12-2020, 04:13 PM
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2 guys stole 124 wheels early one morning at a dealership.

https://driving.ca/chevrolet/auto-ne...ana-dealership

similar thefts occurred at different times, in different cities
it's possible my link description didn't prompt others to read the story, just in case - it was just 2 guys. and that's wheels & tires. off of over 30 new cars. cars they had to jack up, support, and remove the wheels/ tires from before moving on to the next car. then they brought a uhaul in and loaded them. they started at 3 a.m. they did this in multiple cities and no one's be caught. terrible, yes. impressive, absolutely.

Last edited by cmore; 02-12-2020 at 04:16 PM.
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Old 02-12-2020, 07:06 PM
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Here's the biggest problem: most people keep the lock in the car's glove compartment or center console.
Guilty. Its been many years ago, but once bought a car that didnt have the special lug nut key to get those kind of lug nuts off. Shop said no problem. If my memory serves me correctly, all he used were vice grips.
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Old 02-13-2020, 07:46 AM
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In one sense they are useful in that theives may pass by a car with them in favor of one without. Crimes of opportunity, and all that.
Yup, locks, ALL locks, just force the thief to take more time and make more noise. In general, locks just give the good guys more opportunity to notice the bad guys.

Don't believe me, there's a number of YouTube channels dedicated to showing just how useless some locks are, even the best locks are just 'speed bumps'.

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