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Best Locking Lug Nuts: Anti-Theft Devices for Your Wheels

Make it harder for thieves to steal your wheels with these high-strength locking lug nuts

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BYNoelle Talmon/ LAST UPDATED ON September 5, 2022

Locking lug nuts are common on newer vehicles as well as on custom and aftermarket wheels. They can only be removed with a special key, and their purpose is to deter theft. You can replace just one or all of the lug nuts on each wheel with locking lug nuts, aka wheel locks. This type of lug nut first became available when alloy wheels became popular because thieves started stealing them. Alloy wheels are fairly common these days, but criminals continue to covet them, making locking lug nuts a desirable piece of equipment. They are fairly simple to install and provide a lot of peace of mind if you worry about someone stealing your rims. Just make sure you purchase the correct size for your make and model vehicle to ensure a proper fit.

Best Overall

Gorilla Automotive Acorn Chrome Wheel Locks

Summary
These chrome-plated, acorn-style lug nuts are made out of alloy steel and they spin, setting them apart from other options.
Pros
  • Same length as standard lug nuts
  • Dual-stage technology
  • Hardened-steel construction
Cons
  • May be too long for some vehicle makes and models
Best Value

McGard Chrome 24157 Cone Seat Wheel Locks

Summary
These cone-style locking lug nuts are made of alloy steel and feature a chrome finish.
Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Rust-resistant material
  • Made in America
  • Easy to install
Cons
  • They can stick out a bit, which can be an eyesore
Honorable Mention

DPAccessories Black Wheel Locks

Summary
These acorn-style lug nuts are made of alloy steel and are available in either a black or chrome finish.
Pros
  • Unobtrusive looking
  • Made of cold-forged, heat-treated steel
  • Easy to install
Cons
  • Slightly pricey
Best Locking Lug Nuts: Anti-Theft Devices for Your Wheels
Anti-Theft Devices for Your Wheels. Deposit Photos

Summary List

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Our Methodology

I took many factors into consideration when choosing the best locking lug nuts. I sought out high-quality products that are designed to last and can withstand a little bit of abuse. After all, lug nuts undergo a lot of pressure, particularly if they are removed a few times over the course of a year. I made sure to choose locking lug nuts, from reputable brands, such as McGard and Gorilla Automotive Products, which are both based in the United States. I was unable to hand test these products, so I researched consumer reviews to see how they perform in real-world conditions. I also chose different types, finishes, and price points to suit a variety of users. For more information on our methodology, go here

Best Locking Lug Nuts Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Brand: Gorilla Automotive
  • Size: 12mm x 1.50
  • Seat type: Acorn
  • Material: Alloy steel
  • Finish: Chrome plated

Pros

  • Upper half spins for added security
  • Chrome plated for aesthetics
  • Hardened steel construction

Cons

  • They may be too long for some vehicle wheels
  • Users need to be careful not to over tighten them

If you have wheels that are particularly attractive to thieves, this set of locks should do the trick. The Gorilla Automotive wheel locks are high quality and are different from some other options in that the upper half spins, making them even more difficult to remove without the correct lug nut key. The design doesn't stand out in an obtrusive way, and it's the same length as a standard lug nut. They feature dual-stage technology and include a dual hex key that is 3/4 and 13/16 inches. They are made of hardened steel and are chrome plated for aesthetic purposes. However, you have to make sure not to over tighten them. They may also be a little too long for some vehicle makes and models.

Specs

  • Brand: McGard
  • Size: Thread Size M12 x 1.5; length 1.28 inches
  • Seat type: Cone
  • Material: Alloy steel
  • Finish: Chrome

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Made in America
  • Replacing a lost key is not difficult
  • Easy to install and remove with key

Cons

  • Shouldn’t be installed with an impact tool
  • They stick out a little, which can be unattractive

If you are on a budget, it's hard to go wrong with these wheel locks from McGard. One of the best things about this product is that you can register them on the manufacturer's website, so if you lose the key, it's not too difficult to get a replacement. These cone-style lug nuts are tapered to 60 degrees and come in a pack of four. They are designed for use with aluminum and steel wheels. They look okay design-wise due to the nickel construction and chrome finish, which prevents rust from forming. These locks are made in America and are thoroughly hardened and tempered during the production process. They are easy to install and remove with the key, and they cost much less than many competitor options. The manufacturer recommends using a torque wrench instead of an impact tool when putting them on your wheels, likely because you may scar them with that type of tool. Another issue is that they stick out a little, which can be an eyesore for some car owners.

Specs

  • Brand: DPAccessories
  • Size: Thread is 1/2-20; 1.39 inches long, 0.87 inches wide
  • Seat type: Acorn
  • Material: Alloy steel
  • Finish: Black or chrome

Pros

  • Blends in well
  • Cold-forged, heat-treated steel
  • High quality
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • Slightly pricey

If you want black lug nuts on your vehicle instead of chrome ones, check out this set from DPAccessories. These are a popular option with Jeep owners. They blend in well and appear to be from the factory without looking obtrusive compared to the rest of the nuts on the wheel. The kit includes five locking lug nuts made of cold-forged and heat-treated steel and one key. They fit vehicles with a 1/2-20 thread and wheels requiring a conical 60-degree seat with a 3/4-inch or 13/16 hex. If you lose the key, you can contact the manufacturer for a replacement as long as you have the original key number in your possession. These wheel locks are high quality, they look good, and they are easy to install. In addition, they don't stick out very much, unlike some other brands of locking lug nuts. There are a few downsides with these lug nuts except that they are one of the pricier options on this list.

Specs

  • Brand: White Knight
  • Size: 1/2"-20 thread or 12mm x 1.50 thread
  • Seat type: Conical
  • Material: Steel

Pros

  • Several colors available, including blue, gold, and green
  • Easy to install
  • Inexpensive
  • Key works smoothly

Cons

  • Finish may scrape off during installation
  • Can be difficult to remove if installed with an impact gun

One of the best features of the White Knight wheel locks is their ease of installation. There's no need to put your vehicle on a jack: simply loosen and remove one original lug nut from the wheel and replace it with one of the White Knight locking lug nuts. Hand tighten it, and then use a socket wrench to further tighten and torque it to the proper specification. The other great thing about this product is the variety of colors available, which allows you to truly customize the look of your wheels. Colors include blue, gold, green, matte black, pearl black, orange, pink, purple, and red. They particularly pop on black wheels. Overall, the nuts are well machined, they don't stick out too far, and the key to tighten and loosen them works smoothly. However, the coating may scratch off a bit during installation. Also, if you use an impact gun, they can be very difficult to remove.

Specs

  • Brand: McGard
  • Size: 1/2"-20 thread
  • Seat type: Conical
  • Material: Alloy steel
  • Finish: Chrome

Pros

  • Extra one can be used on mounted spare tire
  • Rust-resistant
  • Meet or exceed OEM standards
  • Simple to install

Cons

  • Key may break in extremely cold temperatures
  • They stick out from the wheel a little bit

These chrome wheel locks are compatible with steel or aluminum wheels and are a good balance of quality and value. They're designed for use on the following trucks: 1971-1992 Dodge Ramcharger; 1983-1990 Ford Bronco II; and 1960-2013 Jeep CJ, Cherokee, Wrangler, and Liberty. The package includes five locking lug nuts and one key, which is great because you can use one of the nuts for an externally mounted spare tire. They are simple to install and are less expensive than a comparable set offered by Mopar. McGard's tempered lug nuts are made of multiple layers of nickel and one layer of rust-resistant chrome. They also meet or exceed OEM standards. Unfortunately, in extremely cold temperatures, the key may break. In addition, they are slightly longer than stock lug nuts.

Specs

  • Brand: Wheel Accessories
  • Size: 14mm x 1.5 / 14x1.5 / M14x1.5 thread
  • Seat type: Conical
  • Material: Steel
  • Finish: Black or chrome

Pros

  • Great for aftermarket wheels with small recesses
  • Meet or exceed OEM standards
  • They produce a flat look against the wheel

Cons

  • Tool to remove them is not unique

If you have aftermarket wheels with small-diameter recesses, spline lug nuts are a good option. They feature a smooth exterior finish and can only be installed and removed with a special spline drive adapter. You get 20 spline lug nuts in this package from Wheel Accessories, and they are available in black or chrome. These acorn-style lug nuts have a precise bearing surface and meet or exceed OEM standards. They are through-hardened and heat-treated and produce a flat surface appearance against the wheel, so they don't stick out awkwardly like some other locking lug nuts. However, while they require a special tool for removal, this tool is not unique and can be purchased online and in stores, making these locking lug nuts more susceptible to theft than the others on this list.

Our Verdict on Locking Lug Nuts

My top choice is the Gorilla Automotive Acorn Chrome Wheel Locks. Yes, they are a little pricier than the other options on this list, but you get what you pay for. They include a spinning feature, which can make them a little more challenging to remove without the proper key. They're also made of heavy-duty steel for strength. For a more budget-friendly option, consider the McGard Chrome 24157 Cone Seat Wheel Locks.

What to Consider When Buying Locking Lug Nuts

Type

Locking nuts with keyed heads is the most common. Another type has a rotating or spinning collar, like our best overall option, which spins around the nut. Spline lug nuts lock in place using a spline drive adapter, but they don't have a unique key and are less secure than other locking lug nut alternatives. 

Thread Size/Thread Diameter

Different wheels have different thread sizes, and they are measured in either millimeters or inches. Common sizes include 10mm, 12mm,14mm, 7/16-inch, 1/2-inch, 9/16-inch, and 5/8-inch. You can find this information in your vehicle's owner's manual, or you can use a pitch gauge. It’s critical you choose the proper size lug nut for safety purposes.  

Seat Type

To center a wheel correctly on the axle, it requires specific lug nuts. Otherwise, the wheel will vibrate, and the lug nuts will loosen. The most common style of lug nuts are known as conical, acorn, or tapered lug nuts. They come with either a 60-degree or 45-degree taper. The former is often used with aftermarket wheels, while the latter is used on race-style wheels. 

Locking Lug Nuts Pricing 

The good news is that locking lug nuts are fairly affordable, particularly if you choose a budget option. Many brands cost less than $50, and many options are available for much cheaper than that (and even under $20 like our Best Value pick). Since this car accessory provides good peace of mind, it's worth the investment. More expensive options may be slightly better in quality and less likely to experience scratches and other types of wear and tear. 

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: How many locking lug nuts should I buy?

A: Most wheels come with five lug nuts. Many manufacturers sell sets of four locking lug nuts. This allows you to replace one lug nut on each of your four wheels with a locking lug nut. You can also purchase a set of 20 locking lug nuts to replace every single lug nut on your wheels. If you have a Jeep or other vehicle with an externally mounted rear tire, you may want to purchase a package of five locking lug nuts.

Q: What do I do if I lose the key for my locking lug nut?

A: Contact the manufacturer of the locking lug nut. The company will use the special code from your set to determine the key pattern required for those particular lug nuts. To protect yourself, write this code down and keep it somewhere safe in case something like this occurs.

Q: Do locking lug nuts really work?

A: They are a good deterrent when it comes to preventing wheel theft, but like most security devices, it's not 100 percent guaranteed that they will keep your vehicle safe. However, since they require special keys to be removed, criminals can’t use a lug wrench or socket to remove them.

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