What to do if a wheel lock nut key is missing or broken?

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.
Wheel locks Wheel locks.
Often a wheel lock key simply wears out from repeated use. When this happens, and you cannot remove the wheel locks with the tools you have, there are a couple of options.

One option is to call your mechanic or any local auto repair shop. Many mechanics have special tools (sockets) for this purpose, so they might be able to remove the wheel locks without a key. In some cars it's fairly easy, in others it's difficult. They might need the help of a hammer and penetrating oil.

Another option is to visit the service department of your local dealership of the same brand. Dealership mechanics have the manufacturer-specific master set of keys so they 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 should also be able to remove the wheel lock nut 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 a way to remove the locks.

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 still stored somewhere in the trunk. With regular nuts, you don't have to worry about misplacing or breaking the key.

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.
Wheel lock set with the key Wheel lock set with the key.
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 owner's 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 they are bringing the car for service, so that the mechanic knows where it is, if needed. This way, when you get your car back, you will know right away if they misplaced the key, which does happen sometimes.

Are wheel locks necessary from a technical point of view?
No, 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.

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, wheel 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.