All about the wheel lock key

Wheel lock keys are often installed by dealerships before the car is sold. It’s one of the many little add on items that drive both the price of the car and dealership’s profit up.

We’re not a fans of wheel lock systems for several reasons.

Where’s the wheel lock key usually kept?

First, it’s hard to enjoy a game of hide and seek with the wheel lock key every time the car comes in for service. Is it in the glovebox? The trunk? The center console? The door pocket? The other door pocket? The magazine holder on the back of the seat? The little compartment under the radio? If we can’t find it, we’ll call, but sometimes people aren’t available, and the car is tying valuable rack space. Delay at $100+/hr is a bad thing.

Is a wheel lock key really necessary?

Second, we don’t feel that wheel lock key is necessary. We get a lot of post-theft cars, but we haven’t had a car towed in because the wheels were stolen since the 1990s. Wheel locks should go the way of the detachable face stereo; they solve a problem that no longer exists.

New wheel locks and key in package
Many times, the dealer tech will install the mag locks, then put the lug nuts he removed back in the package. The first thing I did when I bought my Sonata Hybrid is remove the wheel locks to sell on EBay. I’m hoping to convince you dear reader to do the same!

It’s no fun when you can’t remove a flat tire

Third, a wheel lock system is more likely to prevent installation of a spare tire than it is to prevent theft. The lug wrenches provided with most cars have a 20-degree offset. This makes it very hard to keep the key seated on the lug, making damage to the lock or key very likely. Finally, even if wheel theft were a problem, anyone can buy a kit to remove wheel lock keys for about $40, including would-be wheel thieves.

We can remove you wheel locks if you’ve lost your key

If you decide you don’t want your wheel locks, it’s simple to replace the locks with standard lug nuts. We stock most types of lug nuts and will gleefully install a set for you. You can keep your old locking lugs and key then sell them on EBay or Craigslist to cover the cost of the new lug nuts.

Wheel lock key
…to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.

So, you want to keep your wheel locks

Not convinced? Oh well, it was worth a try. If you want to keep your wheel locks, please follow the following protocol:

  • When dropping the car off, please leave the wheel lock key out in plain sight. The center cup holder is a good spot.
  • When picking the car up, please make sure the mag lock key was returned to the same spot.

This protocol is good for a couple of reasons. First, we don’t need to go hunting for the wheel lock key. Second, you can be sure that the wheel lock key has been returned when you pick the car up. Ask anyone who has been stuck on the road with a flat tire, and he’ll tell you that it really sucks discovering someone has not put the key back after the service at an inopportune time.

How to remove a wheel lock without the key (easiest method)

  1. Hammer a socket onto the locking lug

    There are special wheel lock removal sockets that work best for this, and if you have the time to wait for Amazon to arrive, then this is the best removal tool choice. If not, you can use an impact socket for the same purpose. Just find a size that will slip partway over the locking lug nut and won’t bottom out.

  2. Use an impact wrench to remove the locking nut

    Once the socket is wedged in place, use an impact wrench to loosen the locking lug nut. Push into the nut hard when you hit the trigger. A chrome socket isn’t as good for this task. I will be harder so it will be slippery against the hard chrome on the wheel lock. It’s also more likely to crack. A softer impact socket will stick better and is less likely to crack.

  3. Repeat until you’re successful

    The wheel lock won’t necessarily come off on the first try. Keep trying until the wheel lock comes off or you get sick of the project. Tow drivers are usually good at removing locking lug nuts.