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What is a locking wheel nut?

May 05, 2022 by

Almost every new car nowadays comes with a locking wheel nut (sometimes referred to as a wheel lug nut or an alloy wheel nut), and it’s a very important part of your car because they prevent a criminal from taking your alloy wheels off your car and stealing them.

Because locking wheel nuts are a small-but-crucial component on your car, keeping on top of what they do and how to take them off when you need to change a punctured tyre is especially handy. Read on for a full breakdown on your car’s locking wheel nuts.

What does a locking wheel nut look like?

At first glance, a locking wheel nut will look quite similar to the other bolts on your car’s wheels, though there are important differences. Whereas many car wheel bolts tend to be hexagonal in shape, a locking wheel nut tends to be cylindrical.

On this Vauxhall, the locking wheel nut is less pronounced and doesn’t have a cover.

Depending on the make and model of your car, there may be other ways that can differentiate a locking wheel nut from a standard wheel nut. For example, your car’s locking wheel nut may stick out further on your car’s wheel than the other nuts, or it may be less pronounced. The locking wheel nut may also not have a cover over it like the other nuts, and it will have a pattern engraved into it.

Do all cars have locking wheel nuts?

While not every new car on sale today has locking wheel nuts, an overwhelming majority of them do. As a general rule of thumb, if your car is fitted with alloy wheels, it will almost certainly also have locking wheel nuts.

How do I remove a locking wheel nut?

To remove a locking wheel nut, you will need what’s referred to as a locking wheel nut key. This is a specific attachment that is designed to fit your car’s locking wheel nuts, and will allow you to undo the bolt and re-secure it.

The locking wheel nut key fits over the locking wheel nut to remove it

You need a locking wheel nut key because your locking wheel nut will have a specific pattern. This pattern works the same way in which a key is cut to match a door lock: only the car’s locking wheel nut key will be able to ‘unlock’ this specific wheel nut.

Where do I find a locking wheel nut key?

Your locking wheel nut key will more often than not be in some sort of container. Where this box is stored in your car varies between models and manufacturers, though they tend to either be in the glovebox or where your car’s spare wheel or tyre inflation kits are stored. Your car’s owner’s manual should say where your locking wheel nut key is kept.

On this Vauxhall, the locking wheel nut key is in a labelled box underneath the boot floor

What should I do if I’ve lost my locking wheel nut key?

If you’ve lost your car’s original locking wheel nut key, you may be able to replace it with a genuine part from your car’s manufacturer. This will depend on the availability of the locking wheel nut key, and whether you have your car’s locking wheel nut key code – this will be able to determine which specific key you need.

You should be able to find the locking wheel nut key code in the box

If you don’t have this code at hand, you can also go down the route of using a replacement locking wheel nut from a third-party company. These ones won’t be as secure as a genuine manufacturer’s item, though they tend to be much more affordable and are still a good way of preventing your car’s alloy wheels from being stolen.

Locking wheel nut FAQs

Are locking wheel nuts necessary?

Strictly speaking, a locking wheel nut isn’t 100% necessary if your only concern is keeping your wheels securely attached to your car. However, as a locking wheel nut makes it much harder for thieves to remove the wheels from your car, they do provide extra security and peace of mind.

How is a locking wheel nut different to a wheel nut?

A locking wheel nut differs from a regular wheel nut in that you need a specific attachment to remove it from your car – a regular socket that you can pick up at your nearest autocentre won’t cut it.

Locking wheel nuts will also look slightly different to your car’s regular wheel nuts (in most cases, they’ll stick out further from the alloy wheel than the standard nuts).

Can I replace my locking wheel nut?

It is possible to replace a locking wheel nut, which you may need to do if you’ve lost your car’s locking wheel nut key. Replacement locking wheel nuts may be available from your car’s manufacturer, though if these are hard to come by you can use a locking wheel nut from a third-party company.

How do I find my locking wheel nut code?

Since your car’s locking wheel nut key is designed to fit a specific wheel nut pattern, it will have a specific part code. This code will in turn help you find a replacement part if you can’t find the original one that came with the car.

You’ll find your locking wheel nut key’s code in the plastic container it originally came in. Usually, this will be stored under the boot floor near your car’s spare wheel or tyre inflation kit, though it may instead be somewhere else like the glove box.

It’s important that you have this container if you want to keep on using your car’s original locking wheel nuts, as without the code you won’t be able to get the same locking wheel nut key.

Can I remove a locking wheel nut without the key?

All is not lost if you lose or can’t find your car’s original locking wheel nut key, as there are ways to remove them from your car’s wheels. There are more specialised tools that can remove a locking wheel nut without the corresponding key.

While it’s possible to remove a locking wheel nut yourself at home, you may want to consider getting a mechanic or tyre fitter to remove the nut for you if you’ve never done this before. Removing the locking wheel nut may require tools you don’t have, and it also helps reduce the chances of a mistake being made and your car’s alloy wheels being damaged.

How can I get a replacement locking wheel nut key?

You should be able to get a replacement locking wheel nut key through an authorised dealer for your car’s manufacturer. If you need a replacement wheel nut key for your Ford Fiesta, for instance, your first port of call should be your nearest Ford dealership.

As explained earlier, you will need to have your locking wheel nut code in order to get a replacement key for it, so make sure you have the code before trying to get a new nut key from the dealer.

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