Top 8 Best Wheel Locks
By | Last updated: May 7, 2021
best wheel locks

On occasion, it must seem like the architects of this series think danger and the nation’s criminals lurk around every corner. We’ve brought you Club-style theft prevention, bumper guards, and now wheel locks. Good job we balance it out with the likes of work gloves, tire shine, and floor jacks.

Wheel locks are sold by the aftermarket and every single new car dealership in which your author has ever stepped foot. When asked for a pricing breakdown of a new car, there is invariably a ridiculous line item reading ‘wheel locks’ or something similar, ranging in price from $50 to in excess of a c-note.

Bin that and get yer own, we say. Most options of on this list are less than half the price of what the Junior in the business office is trying to sell you. Just be sure you’re buying ones that are of the correct overall length and proper thread size. We’ve thrown in a few parking-style wheel locks for good measure as well but do note that none of these things guarantee security. If someone’s bent on taking your wheels, they probably will.

1. Editor's Choice: McGard Wheel Locks

By and large, it is very likely this is the brand of wheel locks with which you will end up should you choose to acquiesce to that dealership line item. McGard sells a metric ton of these things, in all variety of size and shape. As recommended above, be sure to find the set that fits your specific application.

McGard’s generally come with four or five lug nut locks (depending on the vehicle for which they are intended) and a key. That key has a pattern fitting the head of the locking lug nut on one end and a hex shape on the other end to fit your tire iron. Don’t forget the lock when you’re dropping off your car for a tire rotation.

Pros/Well known, many available sizes
Cons/Popularity breeds familiarity with thieves
Bottom Line/Likely cheaper than the same ones at dealer level

2. Gorilla Automotive Wheel Locks

Seeking to bring the heat to McGard by offering a similar product in direct competition, these locking lug nuts from Gorilla Automotive are likewise available in a yaffle of lengths and thread sizes. This ensures a good fit and no chewing up of difficult to replace wheel studs.

Reviews are excellent, with more than one real-world customer noting that locking lug nuts (from this or any brand) can be bypassed by a determined robber. Still, they are praised for being a good preventive measure whose color-matching is acceptable for the price.

Pros/Affordable theft deterrent
Cons/Check that sizing chart
Bottom Line/Blends great with black lug nuts

3. Trimax TCL65 Wheel Chock Lock

Yes, this extends outside the general realm of wheel locks and into something one might find featured on a show like Parking Wars when Garfield finds a wayward or miscreant vehicle. The difference here, of course, is that you’re trying to protect your vehicle, not fall into Philadelphia’s byzantine labyrinth of car impound lots.

These tools are great for protecting a trailer, for example, with its 7.25-inch clamp making for a quick and easy installation on the tires of a hauler you’re about to leave unattended. The design of this lock incorporates a wheel chock, helping to keep the thing from rolling away.

Pros/Different sizes available, doubles as an immobilizer
Cons/Weird pricing structure ($59 for one, $225+ for two)
Bottom Line/Not for playing tricks on yer buddies

4. Zone Tech Wheel Lock Tire Clamp

Similar in concept to the locking wheel chock profiled above, this thing also goes clamped around the tire of a vehicle or trailer. It does not have as robust a chocking feature, instead deploying a soft-coated to act as a deterrent to turning the tire. Its seller points out the lock is highly visible due to its striking red and yellow colors but we’re not so sure that’s a plus. We prefer stealthy security.

In any event, the lock cylinder has a cap on it to prevent unwanted intrusion of dirt and debris. The clamp’s design is supposed to prevent a wheel from being turned left and right as well. That soft coating also shows up on the clamp’s teeth, helping to prevent scratched wheels.

 

Pros/Reasonable price for the pair
Cons/The lock picking lawyer likely laughs at the lock cylinder
Bottom Line/They probably won't see you rollin' with this thing

5. White Knight Wheel Lock Set

Returning to traditional wheel locks. we find this company which offers its wares at a price well south of most other brands in this segment. Chrome in appearance and available in a multitude of sizes, there should be a style of lock from this brand to fit the wheels on your car.

One of the reasons for its sub-$15 price tag is that the washer, a feature normally found attached to the lug nut, is packaged separately. Presumably, this helps the manufacturer to churn out more of these things in a hurry but it does little to help with ease of installation. Getting one of those washers on an angle between the wheel and lug nut is a recipe for chewed up parts.

Pros/Very affordable
Cons/Improperly seated washer could ruin your day
Bottom Line/Cheap insurance

6. Toyota Genuine Accessories Wheel Lock

We’re including this product as an example that gen-u-wine products from an OEM are available in this segment. Since the company that built your car, truck, or SUV is printed right on the package, there’s an excellent chance they’ll fit with little fuss.

As with most products branded with the crest of a car company, these locking lug nuts are a bit more expensive than some other options. Many customers gave a five-star rating to these locks, with the few proffering a one-star review complaining about the fact these things don’t totally deter vandalism or theft. Those people would do well to remember or warning at the top of this post – wheel locks are deterrents, not anti-theft guarantees.

Pros/OEM fit
Cons/OEM price
Bottom Line/A safe bet

7. DS Parts Wheel Stud Bolt Locks

For those of you in the audience rocking certain types of German metal, there are wheel lock solutions for cars that have infernal stud bolts rather than lug nuts. Operating in the same fashion, these security devices require the included key for tightening or removal. This particular option is designed to fit a series of BMW vehicles but others are available.

Touted to be an aftermarket item with exactly the same function as OEM equipment, the listing goes so far as to provide an array of interchangeable parts numbers. In other words, there’s a solid chance you’ll be able to call the BMW parts desk, chuckle at the price they’re asking, then buy these things.

Pros/A solid replacement for lost or absent factory locks
Cons/Terrifyingly few real-world ratings
Bottom Line/Good option for German cars with stud bolts

8. Abus Granit Brake Disc Lock

“Hang on a minute,” you cry. “What if I want to secure a bike?” We’ve got you covered there, too. This brute from a company called Abus, which makes a number of locks that generally gets a thumbs up from the Lockpicking Lawyer – or as much of a thumbs-up as he tends to give, anyway. This type of lock is designed to slide through the bike’s front disc brake and discourage theft.

Reviews are stellar, as you’d expect for an Abus product. Also expected? A relatively high price, though it’s surely an amount less than the worth of the machine you’re trying to prevent getting stolen. The 13.5mm locking bolts, lock body, and structural parts of the locking mechanism are manufactured using specially hardened steel.

Pros/Will probably scare away all but the most hard-nosed crooks
Cons/Not cheap, again with the bright colors
Bottom Line/Your stuff will most likely be where you left it

Wheel Locks FAQs

Why are these things important?

Like most security items in this day and age, they serve the purpose of a deterrent. If your car has wheel locks but the car next to yours does not, chances are the thieves will choose the path of least resistance. There is always a chance that resourceful crims will foil these locks but an ounce of prevention can sometimes be worth a pound of cure.

Explain the importance of buying the right ones.

There is a bevy of lengths when it comes to wheel studs, which are the items on your wheel hub onto which the lug nut (or wheel lock) is installed. If the nut/lock is too short for the stud, it’ll stop threading onto the stud before tightly securing the wheel, potentially creating a dangerous loose wheel situation. The threading (those grooves on the stud onto which a nut/lock is spun) can also have different patterns of spiral or thickness.

Do I need to keep that special key?

Absolutely. Its toothed design will snug itself onto the wheel lock and permit a technician – or you, if you’re handy – the ability to spin off the lock and remove the wheel. Yes, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence saying a particular size socket rudely hammered onto the lock will do the same thing. We simply recommend popping your wheel lock key in the glove box until it’s needed.


From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main photo credit: Bizi88 / Shutterstock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

17 Comments on “Best Wheel Locks: Lock n’ Load...”


  • avatar
    gasser

    Living about a mile from where the above photo was taken, I am very sensitive to this issue. I strongly urge NOT buying special wheel/tire combos if you park anywhere that you don’t have a secure garage. If that fails, my advice is to buy the wheel locks the dealer offers (Those locks will fit and the dealer will have a universal key when tire rotation is needed) and BUY AN EXTRA KEY!!!!

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    My new Blazer came with these, not because I wanted them but the car came from another dealer who puts them on everything and charges 75 bucks. My dealer ate the cost rather than switch to the standard lugs. Hopefully if I ever need to take off a wheel I’ll remember that key wrench is in the glove box.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    There is a truism that when a thief specifically targets a particular item, it will get stolen.
    Sooner or later.

    However, the immense majority of instances, the thefts are opportunistic robberies. So it is always a good practice to stack the odds in your favor.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I’ve always wondered how many different keys are there for these things?

    Is it 3 or 5? As long as the crooks have a keychain full can they get them off?

    Or are we talking hundreds of different keys and preventing that?

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The crooks have defeat devices for all wheel locks. Some are improvised, homemade, others are pro tools sold to tire shops, mechanics, towers, etc.

  • avatar
    relton

    I resist locking lug nuts/bolts for a couple of reasons.

    1. I find it hard enough to get them off in my calm and cool workshop. Think of trying to change a tire in the rain at night. If the car came with them, I replace the locking lug nut with a regular one as soon as possible. My wife’s Ford came with an extra set of regular lug nuts, just for people like me I guess. I’ve been driving cars for 60 years (OK, some of those years not legally) and I have never had a wheel stolen.

    2. There are different kinds of seats on lug nuts, tapered and spherical being two that I’ve encountered. Even though the nuts/bolts may have the right thread, they may not have the right seat. Use the wrong seat and the wheel may be damaged, or worse, fail.

    If you live n a neighborhood where your wheels might be stolen, perhaps you should move.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I don’t know if the Gorilla locks are made in the USA, but I do know that the McGard locks are. The Toyota locks shown are made by McGard as well. McGard also makes tailgate lacks and spare tire locks (trucks, SUVs) that are available repackaged for the OEMs as well. Toyota typically charges something like $129 for a set of wheel locks that you can buy as McGard locks for $25-$30 at the local auto parts store.

    And yeah, if you’re going to buy a set, get a spare key to keep at home, which usually means mailing in a card that comes in the package with the locks, along with a check or credit card info. That also serves to register the locks (you can also do that without buying a spare key. You can also order spare locks, in case some hamfisted tire installer cross-threads one of your locks.

    As far as wheel locks go, they’re not a slam dunk. If a thief is determined and has the time, there are ways to get the locks off. The locks just make it more difficult for the thief to get them.

  • avatar
    Rick Astley

    I’ll point out that McGard is a US company which does most all of it’s manufacturing here in the US.

    I’ve had about 10 different sets of their products and have NEVER had a materials or finish failure with their products. Haven’t seen them rust or had any issues whatsoever.

    They run enough permutations of their locking lugs that it’s highly unlikely a thief has the proper key, especially as the locking lugs are smooth-sided, so it’s not just a matter of having something to jam into a deep well.

    If you care about the finish of expensive aftermarket wheels, their “SplineDrive” lugs can be had with a floating seat so the seat won’t turn after it makes contact and you continue to torque down to spec. Having had a few sets of wheels with expensive finishes, the SplineDrive system system has resulted in zero damage to the finish of any wheel they have been on.
    https://mcgard.com/automotive/lug-nutslug-bolts/splinedrive-lug-nuts/

    Full disclosure: I’m not associated to them in any way. Have bought all McGard products at full MSRP. They have never let me down and that’s worth something to me.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Currently I’m more paranoid about catalytic converter theft than I am about wheel theft.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    You all realize how easy it is to defeat any of these, right?

    It takes a thief way less time to get these off than it does you or your mechanic, up on a lift, in a well lit, controlled garage. Shoot, if nothing else just bang a slightly undersize socket over it real hard and just turn.

    Wheel locks are like the “mom hatch” on a submarine. It makes you feel good, but real people know there’s no substance there.

  • avatar
    NC2MiataDude

    This is a general question re all this, not a specific one I already made, in case it’s mis-located.

    Here’s the Q: why does NO ONE, never in these tests, analyses and rankings EVER raise the obvious issue of whether the substitute one out of 4 or 5 locks (for one of your lug nuts) balance the same as do the lug nuts they replace? Why is this not an issue? I’m not saying it won’t, or that McGard being a premier manufacturer won’t sell their locking nuts for specific vehicles, which may imply that they’re the same mass from a rotational balancing point of view, but it’s just never addressed, not once have I ever seen it. Why not? And if it’s not an issue, either because of my misreading of physics, or it’s dealt with in manufacture, why not address it? Is this not a problemo? Yours sincerely, Me.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      I am curious about this (specifically whether we should include a square term when considering rotational inertia).

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        Here is my take, which may be off by a factor of ~4.

        Visual aid:
        https://www.amazon.com/Harzole-AW-M70-70pcs-Weight-CWC-M70/dp/B07Q5MK149

        Here is a way to think about it. On my car the rim of the wheel is approximately 9 inches from the center of the wheel, and the lug nuts are about 2 inches from the center. If we took a wheel weight mounted on the rim and shifted it to be in line with the lug nuts, it would have to weigh around 20 times more to still do its job of balancing the wheel and tire (because there is a square term in the rotational inertial formula) [I think]. So a one-ounce wheel weight would turn into well over a pound (which would be ridiculous).

        Stated another way – if you hung a 2.5-ounce wheel weight (the largest size on our visual aid link) on one of the lug nuts, it would take a 0.25 ounce weight at the rim to offset it – that’s the tiny little guy.

        So I believe (could be wrong) there are three reasons why you’ve never seen this issue addressed:
        a) The whole ‘balancing’ thing in practice with a wheel and tire is a compromise and is never close to absolute perfect.
        b) The lug nuts are close enough to the center of the rotating mass that any difference in mass (or even removing a lug nut completely) is immaterial in the context of (a).
        c) At most legal U.S. speeds the wheel isn’t spinning fast enough to make the balance imperfections noticeable (see bonus link).

        Bonus:
        http://www.csgnetwork.com/tirerevforcecalc.html

        • 0 avatar
          ToolGuy

          Math error – the 2.5 ounce weight would need 0.13 ounces to offset, or *half* the little guy.

          Here’s where I am struggling with this whole thing: If I have a torque wrench twice as long as another torque wrench, the torque [for a given force of my hand on the wrench] is multiplied by 2 (linear, no square term, absolutely sure of this). Yet for rotational inertia we *do* square it [I think]. Brain hurts now.

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            I now *don’t* think the square term applies for a ‘point’ weight (such as a wheel weight or wheel-lock-which-differs-in-weight-from-other-lug-nuts), so take the 20X factor and make it 4.5X; the ‘principle’ would still apply but not to the same extent.

            If this is correct and say a typical lug nut weighs 2 ounces, doubling the weight of a lug nut (on ‘my car’ example) would be the equivalent of adding a 0.4 ounce wheel weight out at the rim. But the wheel lock probably doesn’t weigh double, and most wheels/tires on most cars (in the U.S.) aren’t balanced down to that extent. [If it did become an issue at a given speed, you could swap the wheel lock position to a different stud.]

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