What to do if a wheel lock nut key is missing or broken?
Why do cars have lock nuts? It's a security device that is supposed to make stealing the wheels more difficult. Wheel lock nuts or bolts have a unique pattern and come as a set
with the key that matches that pattern. In most cars, wheels locks are installed by a dealership technician during the pre-delivery inspection.
One lock nut (or bolt) goes to each wheel.
The key and the regular nuts that came from the factory are typically placed in the glove box or in the trunk, sometimes in a plastic case
or a little pouch
If you found that the wheel lock key is missing or stripped, or one of the lock nuts is broken
you are not alone. It's a very common problem. Often a wheel lock key simply wears out from repeated use. When this happens, there are several options.
One option is to call your mechanic or any local auto repair shop. Many mechanics have special tools (sockets) and might be able to remove the wheel locks without a key, although in some cars it's quite difficult. If your mechanic cannot remove lock nuts, another option is to visit a service department of your local dealership of the same brand.
Mechanics at a dealership have a manufacturer-specific master set of keys and can remove your wheel locks. Usually, you don't need an appointment for a simple service like that unless the dealership is very busy. Of course, the dealer may charge you some labor. A dealer also should be able to remove the wheel lock if it's broken or stripped.
The next question is, do you want to keep the wheel locks or just install the regular nuts? Wheel locks may prevent someone from stealing your wheels and tires, but how often does this really happen in your neighborhood? Then again, if someone really wants to snatch the wheels from your car, they can find the way to remove the locks.
Wheel lock set with the key.
With that in mind, many owners opt to install regular nuts if the vehicle is old or when installing winter tires on steel rims. It helps if you can find the original nuts stored somewhere in the trunk
. With regular nuts, you don't have to worry about misplacing or breaking the key.
Are wheel locks necessary from a technical point of view? No, the wheel locks are not necessary; regular OEM nuts or bolts will do the job as long as they are all in place, fit properly to the rims and torqued to specs. If in doubt, ask your mechanic or check the owner's manual.
Can you get a replacement wheel lock key? Some dealers can order a key separately, although it will take some time for it to arrive. Most dealerships will only sell wheel locks as a set. The price ranges from $20 to $120 for a set.
You can also order a new wheel lock set online; the prices are also within this range. Many cars have wheel locks supplied by the company called McGard
. They sell online, and you can even order the key only, as long as you have the key code, which is usually stored with the set as an ID card. It might also be in your owners manual pouch.
What is the best place to store a wheel lock key? The common practice is to store the key together with the jack and the wheel wrench, in the spare tire well in the trunk. Many car owners leave the key visible in the center console when bringing the car for service, so the mechanic knows where to find it if needed.