Locking wheel nuts. They can be your best friend or your worst nightmare. In this article, we’re going to be looking at what exactly locking wheel nuts are for, if they are worth putting on your vehicle, and what to do if you end up losing the key.
What is a locking wheel nut?
To put it simply, a locking wheel nut is a uniquely shaped fastener that is designed to prevent the theft of alloy wheels. They are difficult to remove with conventional tools and require a specific key to remove them.
Since the use of locking lug nuts on cars, the number of alloy wheel thefts has decreased. And because almost all car manufacturers install these types of bolts onto their vehicles, most thieves don’t even bother checking to see if you’ve got them on.
It’s important to state, however, that although locking wheel bolts have their strengths, they also create plenty of issues to
One of the most common problems we face as a mobile tyre-fitting company is when a customer has either lost their locking wheel nut key, or the key has been broken by another garage.
In these unfortunate cases, a locking wheel nut removal service is required.
Pros and cons of locking wheel nuts
Where can I find my locking wheel nut key?
The most common places you can find your locking nut key are:
- The glove box
- Compartments in the boot
- The centre console
- The seat pockets
- Underneath the passenger or driver’s seat (Renault)
- Behind the rear passenger seats (Mercedes)
- In the rear car door compartment (BMW)
Common problems with locking wheel nuts
If you’ve got a locking wheel nut issue, you’re not the first. We’ve helped many customers in your situation before, and we’ve got the battle scars to prove it.
Some problems are more common than others, and so we thought it would be handy to make a list of the most frequent issues we see on a daily basis – and a few tips on how to deal with them.
The wheel nut bolt/nut is too tight and I can't get it off
How frustrating. You’ve got a flat tyre and need to fit your spare wheel, but you can’t get the locking wheel nut off because it’s too tight. What do you do?
First and foremost, in most situations, an overtightened locking wheel nut can be resolved with little to no specialist equipment. All it may require is a slightly longer breaker bar or some extra upper body strength.
However, what you don’t want to do is place too much force onto the key as you could potentially break it and end up with fragments of metal left inside the bolt/nut. In which case, you would now have to order a new key and call a specialist to remove the damaged bolt.
There are a couple of things you can try in order to prevent this from happening:
- Use a lump hammer to strike the head of the breaker bar whilst trying to loosen the bolt off. By striking the bar with a hammer you are keeping the key pressed firmly in the bolt, whilst also shocking the fastener and assisting the removal process.
- Place a trolley jack or scissor jack underneath the socket to support it and keep it level to the ground. By doing so, you reduce any form of shearing force on the key, which is often what causes it to snap in the first place.
When I try to loosen the locking wheel nut, the key slips off
The locker slipping off is a problem more common with the newer Kia, Vauxhall, and Volvo style lockers; but, it can also occur if a locking wheel nut has been put on with a powerful impact gun. An impact gun can distort the shape of the key if used carelessly.
In either case, you’re best option is to apply the same steps as above: striking the head of the breaker bar to keep the locker in place, and using a jack to keep the socket parallel to the ground.
If you suspect that your key is damaged, we suggest that you contact your nearest dealer as soon as possible for a replacement.
My locking wheel nut key is missing/broken
You’ve checked everywhere but you can’t find your locking wheel nut socket. Or perhaps you’ve found your locking wheel nut key but didn’t realise it was broken.
At this point, if you’ve got breakdown cover with the AA or RAC then you should give them a call as may be able to assist you. Depending on your policy, you may or may not be charged for this.
Assuming that you haven’t got breakdown cover then you are now looking at having to call a professional locker removal service to get the wheel nut off.
Note: While there are ways of removing a locking wheel nut without the key, we wouldn’t advise you carry these out yourself. Common methods include drilling, chiselling, and welding – but all of these can cause damage to the wheel and often end up being ineffective.
How we remove locking wheel nuts
Our preferred form of attack when it comes to wheel nut removal is to use the Dynomec locker removal kit. This kit can remove lockers from all car makes and models, with little to no wheel damage.
Quite often, we can remove a set of four lockers in just 10 minutes using this wonderful piece of kit; however, it does require quite a bit of experience to use it properly. Our technicians are well trained in the area of locking wheel nut removal and we back this up with a 100% success guarantee. We also offer a free mobile service within a 10-mile radius of our depot.
We also keep various master-key sets for a number of car manufacturers, however, these only seem to work on the older models. You can find these master key sets on websites such as eBay and Amazon.
These ‘master sets’ could be a cost-effective solution if you plan on removing the locking wheel nuts yourself, but bear in mind you may end up purchasing a kit only to discover that your specific locking wheel nut is not to be found in the kit.
How much does it cost?
The cost to remove locking wheel nuts varies from company to company. Some may charge a labour fee, others may charge a flat fee. We choose to charge a flat fee of £40 for a single bolt, £60 for two bolts, and £80 for all four bolts.
Our mobile service is free up to a 10-mile radius, however, we do offer an out of area service if required.
Are some locking wheel nuts more difficult to remove than others?
Lockers come in all shapes and sizes, and because of this, there are some lockers which are more troublesome to remove.
To give you an idea of how challenging your locking wheel nut might be to remove, we’ve created a table of difficulty for various car manufacturers.
Locking wheel nuts - Are they worth it?
Locking wheel nuts are a fantastic idea in principle, but can cause more hassle than they prevent. Unless your car is relatively new, or your wheels are in pristine condition, then it would be worth considering pre-emptively removing your locking wheel nuts.
Wheel theft is less common these days, and the money to be made is not the same as it used to be (in the majority of cases). In addition, there are now numerous anti-theft systems now built-in to most vehicles – one of which actually sets off your car alarm when it detects the car is being lifted by a jack.
Take Tesla as an example. Most of their cars do not come with locking wheel nuts as standard, yet their factory fitted wheels are worth thousands of pounds, and they have some of the most expensive tyres on the market.
Just take them off
In summary, unless you live in a particularly rough area, you’ve got a new-ish car, or you’re alloy wheels are significantly more valuable than others, then just put normal bolts/nuts on and save yourself any future headaches.
If a thief wants your wheels, they will find a way to get them off anyway – with or without lockers.
Other questions we get asked
My neighbour has the same vehicle as me. Could I just try their locking wheel nut key?
Not the worst idea, and it could be worth a try; But what I would say is don’t get your hopes up. While locking wheel nuts are not strictly unique, there are still 20+ variations for each type of locking key. So, it’s unlikely that your neighbour’s locker will be an exact fit.
Halfords sell a locking wheel nut removal kit made by Laser. Should I buy this to try and remove my lockers?
Don’t waste your money. The locking wheel nut removal kit in question is only useful for the Halfords aftermarket locking wheel nuts, which again are a waste of money.
Most genuine lockers come with a protective rotating collar, which means that you cannot simply beat a left-hand thread socket onto it to remove it (the theory behind the Halfords tool). If you try to do this, then the socket will get stuck on the wheel.
I need a new set of locking wheel nuts, but the ones from the dealer are very expensive. Should I buy an aftermarket set from a car parts place?
You’ve got two options, either buy a genuine set from a dealer or buy standard wheel bolts. The aftermarket locking wheel nut market is crap. They are extremely easy to remove and so offer no extra protection, yet they cost 4x the price of standard bolts.
My locker is broken and I want to replace it. What information do I need before I call the dealership?
Most locking wheel nut keys have a code inscribed on the surface of the head; however, if this is not the case then you will be able to find the code on the bag/box that the key comes with.