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Do Wheel Locks Work? Types of wheel locks: Gorilla, McGard & more – What to know to protect wheels!

Blog_Cars_Do Wheel Locks Work - Types of wheel locks Gorilla, McGard & more - What to know to protect wheels!

If you have aftermarket, expensive wheels, you might need additional protection to prevent theft.  Do wheel locks work?

What types of wheel locks are there?  Can they be removed easily and can anything else be done to protect your rims?

What about wheel locks from the factory or dealership? Are they any different?  And are there tools out there to remove them without a key?

What are the best anti-theft wheel locks?

Find out more in my review of the different wheel locks out there!

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As a car enthusiast, it hurts to see someone’s car left in a condition like this.  It’s a shame that there are people out there that can so easily turn a profit by stealing rims from peoples cars and leave them balancing on a couple of bricks.

So is there anything that can be done to prevent this?

One such product people turn to is Wheel locks, which are advertised as locks that are designed to protect your wheels and be virtually impossible to remove without the matching key.

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All these products say they give you peace of mind but in the end, as with most things, if someone else wants it bad enough they will find a way to steal it.

In case you didn’t know, these devices are not fail-safe.  The worst thing you could do is to have a false sense of security.  Using tools you can find in most garages, you could remove these fairly easily.  Granted you may need a bit more time and in some cases you may make a lot more noise doing so.

There are typically 3 different types of wheel lock designs out there.


  • These have a unique external security pattern in the splines.
  • One popular brand that uses this type is Gorilla


  • These have a unique grooved security pattern imprinted on the top of the lock
  • One popular brand that uses this type is McGard
  • A lot of car manufacturers now include wheel locks and most are using the patterned type locks.  One thing to note about this is that factory locks usually only have a small set of key combinations.  This means that it is easier to get your hand on a set of keys that will work on your factory lock.  So in the end it is not that secure.


  • These have a hollow center that can be patterned in a typical hex key or Torx key style socket or even a unique socket pattern.

Need new wheels.  Buy online but read up on sizing and fitment first!

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Two popular brands of wheel lock manufacturers are Gorilla and McGard. They both have sets of wheel locks that each comes with 4 lock nuts and 1 key.

When you buy a set of these make sure to keep the key code in case you lose your wheel lock key.  In that situation, you will be able to order a replacement from the manufacturer.

One more thing to remember, you should lock the key in your glove box or hide it in the car somewhere (Especially if your glove box does not lock).  And don’t forget where you put the key too.

Thieves know you will have to keep the key in the car and if it is just in your unlocked glove box, it’s as easy as breaking a window, open glove box, take key and remove wheels.

Often times these companies will come out with different and new models of their lock systems.  It may be better to get one of the newer ones because often times they improve on previous generations to resolve a deficiency or shortcoming.  As an example, a lot of the locks now come with a free-spinning metal collar around the lock nut that spins and is made of a hardened metal.  This is to prevent someone easily using a regular socket and hammering it onto the lock in a way that it allows the removal of the lock without a matching key.

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Gorilla Splined

  • The original Gorilla locks were upgraded several times to improve the design.  One type has a free-spinning top piece to prevent attacks using a socket.  These are called Gorilla X2 wheel locks.  Another type has a free spinning metal collar around the outside which is also used to prevent attacks from someone using a socket as well.  These are their Gorilla Guard wheel locks.

McGard Patterned

  • McGard has upgrades to these original style locks that add a free-spinning collar around the lock nut that is used to prevent attacks using a socket.

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Make sure to check for fitment first! You need to know your wheels seat type, thread size, length, etc…

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I have here a regular socket and 2 of the Gorilla locks that I own.

As you can see here, it may be possible for me to remove the Gorilla Guard II with a regular socket as it fits snug and is able to bite into the lock.  I could potentially use a smaller sized socket and hammer it onto this lock and then remove it.  Surprising to me because wouldn’t it make more sense to have the head of the lock in a non-standard size making it more difficult to find a readily available tool to use?

Next, can the regular socket be used on the Gorilla Guard Lock?  As you can see, the collar prevents someone from easily fitting a socket over top.  The person would need to remove the collar first or use some other method.

One other thing I noticed with my set of locks is that there is a potential for using a different key to open a non-matching lock.  These two locks have different keys.

In this case, my other key does seem like it could be used even though it doesn’t completely fit.  The keyed edges in the lock match up with some of the splines of the lock enough that it may engage properly for use to remove.  If that is the case, then if someone were to get a hand on any of these keys, they just might be able to use them to unlock a non-matching lock.

And lastly, you should know that most garages can remove any lock and for the better locks they do have specialized tools that are specific for removing these locks.

So the best you can do is use wheel locks in combination with a security alarm that has some sort of tilt detection, and 2-way communication.  Then at least you can be notified if someone is messing around with your wheels.  And if they were trying to steal them they would need more time and make a lot of noise doing it.  This will hopefully give you enough time to get to your car and catch or stop them.

In my case with my previous car, I used 2 sets of lock nuts as shown in this video.  Though it was overkill and an inconvenience when having to remove my wheels, I was fine with that as I was sacrificing a bit of convenience for more security.

Note that if you are going to use more than one wheel lock, it will be more inconvenient when you need to remove the wheels for servicing or for rotating.  That is something you will always have to balance … Convenience vs. Security.

So there you go… you now have a better understanding of wheel locks.  Don’t fool yourself or let others fool you into having a false sense of security.

If you found this post useful, please share with your friends and family so that we all stay informed!

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