By on August 12, 2015


It was another glorious Saturday afternoon in the Bluegrass, and Mrs. Bark and I were traveling “into town” (which is how you know you live in the middle of nowhere) on I-64 West when I saw them: three girls, none older than twenty, standing around a late-model Hyundai Elantra on the left shoulder.

Well, to be exact, there were two, slender young women standing around while a third, fleshier girl was seated on the concrete near the front passenger wheel, which was completely blown. She was reading the owner’s manual and desperately attempting to use the “widow maker” jack to lift the vehicle into the air. The rear bumper of the poor little Korean car was lightly clinging to the car, having been dislodged by contact with whatever had flattened the tire. Bolted to the bumper was a Land of 10,000 Lakes license plate from Minnesota.

In short, they were a long way from home, they were in trouble, and it was clear that they had absolutely no idea what the hell they were doing.

“We have to stop,” I told Mrs. Bark.

Ever the fretful and careful one, she was convinced that the girls were conducting an elaborate ruse to plunder passing motorists. As I pulled my little Fiesta over to the side of the highway, she was busy taking pictures of the girls, their car, their license plate — anything that could help her identify them on the chance that they were planning to smack me over the head with the jack and take my wallet.

“Stay here,” I told her, and I hopped out of the car and walked back to the Elantra, trying to look as friendly and non-threatening as possible.

“Need some help?” I asked the young lady sitting, Indian-style on the shoulder as traffic whizzed by at eighty miles per hour, occasionally blaring their horns at her. The Elantra was dangerously close to the left lane, and it seemed inevitable that she would find herself as a rotund hood ornament on an official Kentucky Blue F-150. She had placed the jack right in the middle of the frame rail, and was in the process of bending the hell out of it when I physically took the lever out of her hand.

“Yes! Please!”

I lowered the vehicle, repositioned the jack at the jacking point closer to the wheel, and began to lift the vehicle again, making sure that there was still enough contact between the tire and the road to be able to break the lugs free. As I was doing this, another vehicle had stopped to assist, and the gentleman who got out of it was straight out of Central Casting for the role of “Kentucky Hillbilly Stereotype.” In his sleeveless blue and white UK tank top and denim shorts, he proceeded to tell me how I was doing everything wrong.


Unfortunately, he had a bit of a point. As I loosened the lugs, I realized that one of these things was not like the others. The fifth lug was actually a wheel lock, not a standard lug nut — because who wouldn’t want to steal a steel wheel off of a Hyundai Elantra? Unfortunately, the key was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t in the glove box. It wasn’t in the trunk. The owner’s manual was no help. Elantra owner forums (yes, there are such things) seemed to be just as confused as I was.

So there I was, possessing all the knowledge of how to change the tire, and I was totally and completely useless. Plus, it turned out that the car belonged to one of the other girls’ grandmothers, and she wouldn’t let them call the insurance company’s roadside assistance because she wasn’t authorized to drive the car. In other words, they were hosed.

I offered to drive them into Lexington, but there wasn’t room in the Fiesta for all three, so they opted to stay with the car. They were putting their stock in the fact that they had a mechanic friend in Louisville who might be able to drive 100 miles to help. “Make sure that he has a Hyundai wheel lock key, or see if he can find one somewhere,” I advised.

Feeling incredibly ineffective and incapable, I walked back to the Fiesta and said the following words to Mrs. Bark as I got back into the car.

“They had wheel locks. There was nothing I could do.”

So, to all my friends at Hyundai, I have this to say: I’m sorry about the Sonata Hybrid review. Really, I am. But there was no need to do that to me — to remove my manhood in front of those three young women. I should have been a goddamned hero. Instead, I was an automotive eunuch, powerless to do anything.

If you don’t know if you have wheel locks, check. If you do, find your key. If you can’t, you might find yourself in the same boat as these ladies.

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96 Comments on “Bark’s Bites: How Hyundai Kept Me From Being a Hero...”

  • avatar

    In my trunk you’ll find jumper cables, an emergency battery jumper you plug into the cigarette lighter, and a lug breaker bar and lug ripper (thanks BBALL) since I’m terrified someone will try to steal the “Goliaths” off my JGCSRT and I need to have wheel locks. You’ll also find my wheel lock key, extra fuses of varying Amps, a sewing kit, microfiber towels, Armor All Leather spray, Armor All wheel/Tire spray, “Jet Black” exterior spray, and extra bullets.

    If I had come across these girls, I could have helped them.

    Always remember…wheel locks don’t STOP thieves…they only slow them down.

    to protect your car, you need to hide it in a garage, own angry, violent dogs that don’t bark, but WAIT for you to jump the fence and try to get into said garage, an alarm system and a gun with a hair trigger.

  • avatar

    I owned a Miata with wheel locks that a gorilla had over-torqued to the point that one broke when I attempted to change a flat.

    The wheel locks aren’t as robust as the standard lug nuts, apparently.

    Before I took delivery of my wife’s car, I had the dealer remove the wheel locks for me, and install standard lug nuts.

    • 0 avatar

      If you buy a reputable aftermarket set, the instructions specify that your torquing pattern should do the locking lug last, and I always give the locking lug just a single click right at the factory spec. I had one set of locks on a nice set of aftermarket wheels for one of my cars, but after 10+ years of daily driving and the attendant abuse, I finally just swapped the standard nuts back on.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    One of the most hated things about auction cars was picking one up that had wheel locks but no key. In most cases they can be defeated fairly easily but the cheap ones that corroded loved to spin in place. I have a feeling this Hyundai was an advertisement car for a below invoice price and then when the future owner came in to buy they built their profit up by adding things like these wheel locks.

  • avatar

    My F150 came with these as a dealer add-on. Is there really a huge business in stealing factory wheels? Wouldn’t they just steal the whole vehicle and take it to a chop shop?

    Stealing wheels seems like a cliche from the movies of my youth, or something that happens in the inner cities where the truly ginormous after-market wheels hold some cultural cachet. It doesn’t seem like something the average suburbanite or rural customer need worry about.

    • 0 avatar

      Depends where you drive. A GM exec recently had the wheels stolen off his Tahoe in Detroit.

      • 0 avatar

        @bball40dtw: Depends where you drive. A GM exec recently had the wheels stolen off his Tahoe in Detroit.

        He got off lightly.–thieves-of-detroit

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      SaulTigh, I used to think exactly the same as you until I woke up one day to find my 1997 Sebring Limited convertible on top of bricks, back around the year 2000. A close friend had been nagging me to get wheel locks, and I kept saying to him that no one was going to steel factory wheels off of a car. How wrong I was, and what a terrible feeling it was to find my car like that as I was leaving for work. And, this happened to me when I was living in a “yuppyish” apartment complex in a very low crime area.

      I still haven’t learned, though…I drive a company car now, but my wife has a Grand Cherokee with 20″ factory wheels for which I haven’t bought wheel locks yet.

      • 0 avatar

        … who the hell would steal *anything* off a Sebring, let alone the wheels?

        • 0 avatar
          Roberto Esponja

          Back then the Sebring didn’t have the soiled reputation it acquired later, mine was actually a fun and reliable car during the time I owned it, and I only sold it because I moved overseas. It was identical to the deteriorated one shown on this video, and got me a lot of compliments back then.

          Makes me sad to see this one in this kind of shape, but I am cognizant that it’s already an almost twenty-years-old car.

    • 0 avatar

      Also, I worked in insurance claims for a short time and I would get a few of those claims a week. Brand new car, no wheel locks, up on blocks. You better have rental coverage, because chances are, it isn’t getting fixed that day.

      • 0 avatar

        When I was living in Detroit (granted it was in 2000-2002) the MO was to put the blocks under the car, cut the valve stems, and the car would slowly settle onto the blocks, likely not even triggering the alarm. Wheels would then be stolen.

        • 0 avatar

          Yep. Still happens like that. If they want your wheels, they will get them. Thieves would rather steal the wheels and tires intact on new cars and sell them to an indy tire shop. NEW TAKE OFFS…CHEAP. Craigslist is full of that stuff.

        • 0 avatar

          Somebody who I knew (and haven’t seen since he went to jail) told me he put blocks under the car, took all of the lugnuts off and kicked the car sideways to have it land on the blocks and spit the wheels out. This was around 1977 or so, I don’t know if that would work with today’s wheels/brakes.

    • 0 avatar
      Jonathan H.

      It happens…

    • 0 avatar

      It happened to me in Baltimore back in 2001 – 5 week old PT Cruiser. I was in college at the time and living off campus. Went to drive to class on a Friday morning and it was on blocks, all 4 wheels and tires stolen. I lived in a pretty decent neighborhood at the time (mount washington), but like most places in Baltimore, it wasn’t too far from some bad ones.

      I ended up putting 2 sets of wheel locks on it. Never had them stolen again, even after moving into a not-so-great neighborhood in Baltimore for a couple years (about a mile from the famous CVS that was torched in the riots)

    • 0 avatar

      Wheels on 2013-2015 Honda Accord Sports (18″) are popular among the “five-finger discount” set.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey look over there: a free yummy F150 tailgate!

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    The girl in the photo is piping hot. Is that Mrs. Bark, or one of the girls you understandably stopped to help?

  • avatar

    You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

    But cliches aside, this was likely a dealer add on that was proudly displayed on the sticker and some salesman tried to sell grandma as a security feature plus “we’ll throw in the wheel locks for FREE!”

  • avatar

    My wife’s old Accent had wheel locks on it (cause, you know, there’s a big illicit market for 14″s), and we conveniently forgot the lock at home while swapping the winter tires off once. Her dad was entirely unfazed, welded some spare nuts over the locking nuts, and got them off. We weren’t at all disappointed.

    But yeah, pretty sure they were only there because the original owner got bilked.

  • avatar
    Paul Alexander

    Hahaha! Nothing better than impressing a group of girls. Nothing worse than attempting to impress them and then having to impotently admit defeat.

    Cool that you tried to help.

  • avatar

    Wait…you risked YOUR life (by changing a tire on the edge of the fast lane) and wasted your time? I think you deprived these girls of a learning experience. Nothing about having a vagina prevents one from learning how to do this their selves, except for their knowledge that some guy will always come along to bail them out. It reminds me of this excerpt from “The Manipulated Man”, by Esther Vilar…

    The lemon-colored MG skids across the road and the woman driver brings it to a somewhat uncertain halt. She gets out and finds her left front tire flat. Without wasting a moment she prepares to fix it: she looks towards the passing cars as if expecting someone. Recognizing this standard international sign of woman in distress (‘weak female let down by male technology’), a station wagon draws up. The driver sees what is wrong at a glance and says comfortingly, `Don’t worry. We’ll fix that in a jiffy’ To prove his determination, he asks for her jack. He does not ask if she is capable of changing the tire herself because he knows – she is about thirty, smartly dressed and made-up – that she is not. Since she cannot find a jack, he fetches his own, together with his other tools. Five minutes later the job is done and the punctured tire properly stowed. His hands are covered with grease. She offers him
    an embroidered handkerchief, which he politely refuses. He has a rag for such occasions in his tool box. The woman thanks him profusely, apologizing for her `typically feminine’ helplessness. She might have been there till dusk, she says, had he not stopped. He makes no reply and, as she gets back into the car, gallantly shuts the door for her. Through the wound-down window he advises her to have her tire patched at once and she promises to get her garage man to see to it that very evening. Then she drives off.

    As the man collects his tools and goes back to his own car, he wishes he could wash his hands. His shoes – he has been standing in the mud while changing the tire – are not as clean as they should be (he is a salesman). What is more, he will have to hurry to keep his next appointment. As he starts the engine he thinks, `Women! One’s more stupid than the next’. He wonders what she would have done if he had
    not been there to help. He puts his foot on the accelerator and drives off – faster than usual. There is the delay to make up. After a while he starts to hum to himself. In a way, he is happy.

    Almost any man would have behaved in the same manner – and so would most
    women. Without thinking, simply because men are men and women so different from them, a woman will make use of a man whenever there is an opportunity. What else could the woman have done when her car broke down? She has been taught to get a man to help. Thanks to his knowledge he was able to change the tire quickly – and at no cost to herself. True, he ruined his clothes, put his business in jeopardy, and endangered his own life by driving too fast afterwards. Had he found something else wrong with her car, however, he would have repaired that, too. That is what his knowledge of cars is for. Why should a woman learn to change a flat when the opposite sex (half the world’s population) is able and willing to do it for her? Women let men work for them, think for them and take on their responsibilities – in fact, they exploit them. Yet, since men are strong, intelligent and imaginative, while women are weak, unimaginative, and stupid, why isn’t it men who exploit women?

    Could it be that strength, intelligence, and imagination are not prerequisites for power but merely qualifications for slavery? Could it be that the world is not being ruled by experts but by beings who are not fit for anything else – by women? And if this is so, how do
    women manage it so that their victims do not feel themselves cheated and
    humiliated, but rather believe to be themselves what they are least of all – masters of the universe? How do women manage to instill in men this sense of pride and superiority that inspires them to ever greater achievements?[/quote]

    That was written about 50 years ago.

    • 0 avatar

      A professor of mine told a story of his daughter being at the University of Notre Dame in the 80s with the VW Super Bug he had given her as a high school graduation gift. One day she called:

      “Daddy, I’ve got a flat tire on my Bug.”

      “Yes, Dear… and.”

      “I need someone to change it.”

      “Well the last time I checked, there are still boys on that campus aren’t there?”

      • 0 avatar

        And the spare was probably flat because it had been running the windshield washers since she got it! Gotta love that air-cooled technology.

        • 0 avatar

          The Beetle windshield washer would stop working when the spare got down to about 40 psi, so if you had a flat spare, it wasn’t because of the windshield washer.

          It was a great cost-saving idea when it was designed, but rather outdated by the 70s.

    • 0 avatar

      That book has been on my Amazon Wishlist for a while….it really should be required reading for every male on the planet.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, whaddaya know

  • avatar

    Bark, the hero you wanted to be was me (and my wife) just this weekend!

    Bulbous camry and sad sad girl in the parking lot of the gym we go to. I noticed her front tire and kinda asked if she needed help, but the desperation of her and her cell phone on her hand screamed PLEASE HELP ME. she had driven over a median and popped the overinflated driver tire. As we were chatting with her and her friend arrived, my wife and i changed her tire in under 15 minutes. she was speechless (though did take multiple selfies in the process) and asked to buy us beer afterwards. We politely declined and left.

    I basked in it and felt like a million bucks afterwards. It was like a little reward to my polite professional masculine self.

  • avatar

    Right. I discovered a couple of days ago that my new (to me) X5 has run-flats and no spare tire. I have a habit of running over nails and other sharp objects that would be trivial for a normal tire, but would destroy a run-flat. And it probably has wheel locks, too. Now, I know that’s a BMW thing, but some of the X5s I test drove did come from the factory with normal tires and a spare. Groan.

    • 0 avatar

      I hate run-flats. Not long after buying my 335d I replaced the run-flats with much better handling and riding conventional tires. Also bought a mini spare/jack kit from bimmerzone.

    • 0 avatar

      If I was buying a car equipped with run flats, one of two things would happen:

      1) The negotiated price would include a deduction for the full cost of a replacement set of tires, or

      2) No sale.

    • 0 avatar


      I’ve had run flats hold up during sidewall punctures, so I wouldn’t worry about getting home on one. My last flat was on the X3, and I was able to drive it with about 5 PSI for at least 20 miles without feeling like it was going to come off the rim. A lot of people obviously hate them, but they do work. I’d much rather pop one in the wilderness than a conventional tire.

  • avatar

    Well, you tried…no dishonor in that.

  • avatar

    Never getting lock nuts again. Spent two hours at the stealership a couple of weeks ago after breaking the key to the lock nut trying to get a flat off my car. A tire guy happened to be onsite and plugged the hole so I could get it to the garage. Then they broke their master key trying to get it off as well.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    The last new car I bought came with wheel locks already installed. I wouldn’t sign the purchase papers until the dealer removed them.

  • avatar

    One of my cars comes with a set of splined studs and corresponding splined adapter to back off those studs. From BTSR’s description, these should be even easier to defeat than most by just walloping an appropriate sized socket onto said studs.

    bonus – how to destroy a breaker bar. From time to time I recoat some metal fittings on my house with two part epoxy paint. Step a) place 1″ socket over nut w/ breaker bar b) back off nut(s) and recoat until c) encounter the one nut that they had trouble with and discretely welded to bearing plate d) slide 5 foot pipe over bar and apply several hundred ft-lbs to bar followed by return breaker bar under lifetime warranty for new one and told not to come back a second time

  • avatar

    The old adage “locks keep honest people honest” applies here.
    Or in this case “wheel locks make life annoying for honest people”.

    Anybody who’s gonna have the cojones to be a wheel stealer probably has the theft tool in his kit.

  • avatar

    If you’re lucky enough to park in a garage most of the time, wheel locks are a useless PITA. But there are a fair number of people in the world who park on the street at night.

    Suppose you are parallel parked on a street in a major US city and you come out to your car one day and find its wheels are stolen. Exactly what are you supposed to do? Do you think someone is going to deliver four replacement wheels with tires already on them? Are you going to have another car (what other car?) large enough to stuff the wheels + tires to bring them to the site? Remember, the clock is ticking. Your car probably cannot be parked in the same spot for more than 48 hours before street cleaning parking fines, time limits etc. start to kick in.

    Many years ago I parallel parked my Nissan on the street in San Francisco and I came out one morning to find it sitting on its brakes. My insurance company (perhaps this is where the problem started) recommended I have the car towed to a tire shop. Even getting a tow truck to come and deal with the problem took several hours. Finally a guy showed up. Since the tow truck could not get in front of the car, the only choice was to drag the car out of its parking spot on its brakes until it was in the middle of the street. Assuming the street has not been repaved, the grooves from this operation are probably still there. Getting this far apparently caused so much stress for the driver that, once the proper lifting cables were fitted, he accidentally engaged the truck into reverse instead of lifting up the car and managed to do $3000+ worth of damage to the front end. Fortunately the tow truck was owned by a body shop, so I ended up with a fixed front end plus brand new wheels and tires for free. But it mystifies me why people think the minor inconvenience of remembering where you keep your wheel locks is worth the risk of that sort of trauma? It’s not the value of the wheels and tires — that will be covered by your insurance’s comprehensive coverage.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      30 years ago a friend bought a brand new Buick Grand National, whose wheels were stolen from it while parked on the street in front of his employer (a city church!). They, too, left it sitting on its brakes.

      The wrecker dragged that poor car off the pavement, inflicting thousands of dollars of damage to its underbelly. The insurance company had the car repaired, but it was never the same again.

      • 0 avatar

        I had the wheels stolen off my Mk2 GTI 16V (factory 2-piece BBS alloys, about $1500 each at the dealer back then) in the driveway in front of my house. The thief was kind enough to leave the car on blocks, though, so my interim solution was to put the snow tires on the car.

        Oh, and park it in the garage instead of leaving it outside.

  • avatar

    “Fleshier” LOL!

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    After reading these tales, I went outside and checked to see if my 14 Honda LX Accord had wheel locks. It did, and I found the key on a bag attached to the jack in the trunk. I was never charged for these official Honda wheel locks which is why I didn’t know I had them.
    One of the reasons that I chose the LX over the upper level trims was that it came with 205/65R16 tires instead of the obnoxious 17 or 18 inch low provilfe tires on the other trims.
    I wonder if anyone would ever want to steal stock 16″ wheel?

  • avatar

    All you need to know:

  • avatar

    When i was still living home my Father brought a new 1954 Nash Ambassador. Drove the car home to Kew Gardens to the Apt house we lived in and parked the car in the building garage. Next morning the car was on cinder blocks with all the new white wall tires including the spare gone. Family had a heart attack. The dealer was great 1 hour later they showed up with 5 new wheels & hub caps and were done within 1/2 hour. The insurance company paid the bill and my Father brought a new car from this dealer every 3 years. The dealer was on Rockaway Blvd right next to Richmond Hill High School. Long gone now. I still keep locks on my wheels as i used to park in the Battery garage in NYC and a lot of stuff used to go missing from cars left all day. I switch my wheels to snow tires every year and know just where the lock is. Same with my wife’s car. I got caught years ago with my VW Corrado with BBS wheels when the key broke and i drove 12 miles home on a flat with 2 passengers. The lock Co sent me a new key but a new tire for that car was $180.00. The new locks are much better and all VW’s come from the factory with them. All of the dealers have a set of keys that fit all of the locks.

  • avatar

    BTSR’s mention of Queens, NYC and Cabriolet’s of Kew Gardens remind me of a fine spring morning in 2008 when my wife and I were walking down the streets of the Forest Hills neighborhood and came across a new 2008 Honda Accord stripped of all 4 wheels. We were visiting our son and his wife who then lived in nearby Briarwood. The residential area of Forest Hills is fairly nice, with lots of greenery, fine old apartment buildings, and mid-century single-family houses. The Accord was resting on 2 cinder blocks near its rear wheels with the front end sitting on its brakes and all the lugs strewn under and around the car. This was not a top-trim Accord, although I’m sure no one would have bothered to take steelies from such a car!

  • avatar

    My younger son received his interstate blowout “baptism by fire” earlier this month. We sold him our 2004 Camry with nearly new Continental tires and a matching brand new spare tire on the full-size alloy wheel earlier this year. (Toyota was one of the last automakers to supply full-size spares in their sedans.)

    He ran over something on I-95 near Portland, Maine with an audible “pop,” resulting in the right rear tire going flat in less than a minute. He called me and I walked him through the procedure of changing the tire, which was accomplished in about 35 minutes, including driving a little on the flat to get to a wider area of the road shoulder.

    Even though he lives in Brooklyn and parks on the street, I decided when I sold him the car to remove the wheel locks. Who is going to bother with 16-inch factory alloys today, along with the attendant worry about if he’d be able to keep track of the key?

  • avatar

    When I did tire work, customers would always lose or forget their wheel keys. Either by hammering a socket over them or actually having the Snap-On tool for that, the locks were off in minutes.

  • avatar

    Owner of a 2014 Elantra here……one of the first things I did after buying it was to remove the wheel locks. Too much of a pain in the ass if you misplace the key……

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