Nowadays more than ever, car wheels are made from valuable materials and no longer rely on bland-looking iron and steel that collect dirt and grime (while using a hubcap). Many vehicles now take advantage of chrome and sporty designs that not only look better, but have a substantial cost. Because wheels are made up of such valuable materials and a set of four wheels can cost a few thousand dollars, a wheel lock is necessary to make it more difficult to steal the rims. However, you will need to replace your wheels from time to time. That's why you need to know how to remove a wheel lock.
What Are Wheel Locks?
Wheels attach to your vehicle using a series of lug nuts. These are tightening nuts that screw over the connecting rods that slide through your wheel. The lug nuts tighten to secure the wheel, allowing it to turn without falling off. Most lug nuts are of a universal size, making it easier to jack up your vehicle and remove the nuts should you find the need to replace the wheel or tire on the side of the road.
However, because the lug nuts are of a universal size, it is easier for someone else to jack up a car and steal the wheels. While standard wheels are not all that desirable, more expensive metals like chrome are desirable to steal because of the value. This is where a wheel lock comes into play.
A wheel lock is a specially designed lug nut. While it is still the universal size of the lug nut, it features different kinds of grips so that a regular car-set wrench is not going to fit over it. In order to remove the wheel lock, a wheel lock key is required. The key is an adapter that fits into the wrench and is able to slide over the lock. The key is specific to the wheel lock, so one key is not going to work with another vehicle. However, there are typically only so many lock designs so in some instances, though it is possible to use one wheel lock key on a different vehicle if the locks match.
Basically, a wheel lock is an added form of protection to make it more difficult to remove the wheel. However, this can make it a problem sometimes to remove your own wheel. You might find that you have a flat tire and need to put the spare on, but you can't find the key. This makes it problematic. In order to work around this problem, you will need to know how to unlock your wheel using varying methods.
What Do Wheel Locks Do for Your Car?
The wheel lock is all about providing added protection to your wheel. Not all vehicles use wheel locks. If your vehicle has a basic wheel that uses a hubcap over it you'll likely not have any wheel locks. This is because even if someone were to steal the wheel, each one is not all that valuable when sold on the open market, so it doesn't offer much in the way of a reward.
However, if you have sporty rims, chrome rims or wheels made of a more valuable material, an experienced crew can steal these non-lock rims in the matter of a few minutes. Being able to cash the wheels in for potentially a few thousand dollars makes it a much more desirable crime that is difficult to track down unless the people are caught trying to steal the wheels.
The wheel lock makes stealing the wheels more difficult. While there are workarounds, which will be covered in the three ways to remove wheel locks, these other methods take far longer. Stealing wheels is all about doing it quickly. If someone is forced to take three or four times the amount of time to steal the wheels, it isn't as financial beneficial. So the lock, while providing you with some physical security, provides a deterrent from would-be thieves looking to score some quick cash.
3 Ways to Remove Wheel Locks
If you ever find yourself in need of removing wheel locks, there are several ways you can go about doing this. You need to know how to remove these locks should you ever encounter a flat tire or have other problems where you need to take the wheel off in a pinch. In fact, here are three ways to remove the wheel locks, when it comes time for you to remove the wheel.
The best way to remove a wheel lock is to turn to the lock key. The key will come with the vehicle when you purchase it. This key is an adapter that fits over the wrench, allowing you to remove the wheel locks just like you would with a lug nut. Often, you will receive two of these to have as a spare. You need to keep at least one of these in your vehicle and one back in your home garage. Make sure to keep the key in your glove compartment so you can find it should you need to remove the wheel.
The other methods for removing the wheel locks opens up the potential for scratching the locks. Although if you need to remove the locks in a pinch, there isn't many other things you can do about it. That's why you need to do what you can to keep the lock keys in an location that is easy to remember, as well as always check your vehicle to make sure the key has been returned to you after taking your car in for servicing, such as a tire rotation or new tire installation.
It is good to have a 12-point socket set. You'll need to test out the different sockets to see which has the nearest fit around the lock. It won't be an exact fit, but you want one that will fit over the lock and doesn't continually twist. It might have some movement when initially twisting the socket but eventually locks into place.
It is best to have longer sockets so that you have space to move over the wheel lock. However, there are going to be some wheel locks that have a curve to it which makes it difficult to fit any kind of socket over it. When this is the case, you're going to have to break out the hammer, slid on a socket that is close to size, and hammer it into place. You should only do this if you are in dire need of removing the wheel from your vehicle. If you are not in dire need, then spend more time looking for the lock key, or contact a service provider like AAA to come out and remove the lock.
The good thing about removing the locks is the locking lugnuts are likely made of a softer metal. This way, the lug nuts will mold to the lock when you fit it over the lug nut, although some premium locks may contain the same strong metal as a standard lug nut (some chrome wheels will feature the softer, chrome metal nut, which can be molded easier to form).
Outside of having the locking key and forcing the 12-point socket onto the key, you now need to turn to the professionals. A professional towing service will have a number of keys that can be used to help remove the lock and the wheel from your vehicle. While you may not want to pay for the towing service to come out and address the issue, it may actually be less money up front than what it would cost to replace all the wheel locks you end up damaging by hammering the socket over the lug nut. If you have roadside assistance or subscribe to AAA, these services will often be covered.
Contacting the towing service is helpful, and they can help you change the tire if that is what you're trying to do. If you're unable to contact a towing service, or if you can still drive the vehicle, you should take your car into a service center nearby and ask for help. Most of these service centers will help you remove the key for free. They may also be able to help you replace the key.
With more and more vehicles now upgrading the quality of the wheel, many of these vehicles are now placing wheel locks on the wheel to protect it from theft. It is important for you to keep track of your key lock and to keep it in the vehicle at all times. This way, you know where it's at in case you need it on the spot.
However, there might be a time where you can't find your lock key. When this happens, you need to take advantage of one of these other methods for removing the locks. Knowing how to remove the locks without the key on hand can save you some problems while also saving you the time of contacting a towing company to come out and remove the wheel lock for you.