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Odds of having my tires stolen?

7875 Views 44 Replies 35 Participants Last post by  campisi
I always use snow tires in the winter - I drive in the mountains for xc-skiing and snowshoeing and even on flat roads modern snows stop dramatically better on ice than "all-season"'s do.

I just bought new Michelin X-Ice on el-cheapo steel wheels at Town Fair Tire in Nashua NH. and I was leaving and they were giving me my paperwork they handed me something that looked like an oversized lug nut. "Don't lose this!" they warned me gravely.
"What is it?", I asked.
"It's a lug nut key. One of the lug nuts on each of your wheels is different from the others and you need this to take it off."

They explained that it's to prevent wheel thefts. I was pissed about this! They didn't mention this on the phone when I ordered these tires. I've bought a zillion tires in my life (I'm 60) and no one had ever done this to me before. Just one more thing to worry about losing. Yet another complication in my life, another detail to keep track of that I didn't have to think about in the past.

So I demanded that they give me four matching conventional lug nuts so I could replace the odd ones they sold me. They broke up a new set to do it.

I've personally never known or heard of anyone having their tires stolen. Is this something that happens in cities? Or to people with expensive, exotic alloy wheels? My guess is that the odds of my losing the key is far greater than having my tires stolen, or that a thief would already be prepared to deal with "special" lug nuts? Opinions?
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I wouldnt have gotten mad. They obviously care and dont want your stuff stolen. Plus peace of mind.
Having a locking lug nut is quite common. Although having your wheels/tires stolen is not. Well, none that I ever heard of.
There are more than a few places in this country that almost anything can and will be stolen. That includes wheels & tires, catalytic converters, in dash electronics, or anything else that can be sold.
I wouldnt have gotten mad. They obviously care and dont want your stuff stolen. Plus peace of mind.
I think it reduces peace of mind. Because then I have to worry about losing the key whereas I never worried about my tires being stolen.

Furthermore, any tire thief will already have a pocket full of such keys or some other workaround (there are zillion things for this available online) so he's not going to be inconvenienced, just the car owner.

Furthermore the logical place to keep a lug nut key is in your car (so you can change a flat). So now you've provided an invitation to break into the car. So the whole thing just seems ridiculous so I'm glad I badgered them into giving me replacement lug nuts.
There are more than a few places in this country that almost anything can and will be stolen. That includes wheels & tires, catalytic converters, in dash electronics, or anything else that can be sold.
I don't doubt that that's true, but:

1. I think the chances of my being a victim of a tire theft are remote, whereas the chances that the lug nut key itself will inconvenience me (by my losing it, by it breaking, or something else) are much greater.

2. I don't think lug nut keys are a deterrent because stealing tires takes more planning to begin with than stealing something you can walk away hidden under your coat, like a radio or GPS unit. So a tire thief will already be prepared either with a pocket full of lug nut keys or a tool. And he knows he can always break into you car to get yours because that's the logical place to keep it so you can change flats.

PS - if you Google "lug nut keys" you will see countless horror stories about them! People lose them, they strip, they take their car into a shop for a tire rotation and the shop gives them back the wrong one, etc, etc. All over the web I'm seeing advice not to use them, or to swap them out for normal lug nuts as I did.
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Seems kind of unlikely here in New Hampshire. We're friendly. Massachusetts? Depends on where you live there.

Seems kind of unlikely here in New Hampshire. We're friendly. Massachusetts? Depends on where you live there.

Close to the NH border. I spend more time in NH than MA. BTW I see you're from New London. I lived the first 6 years of my life in New London, on Knights Hill Rd.
I lost my wheel nut key, figured it was when I changed brake pads, it must have rolled away during clean up. The Subaru dealer had a dozen or so keys, unscrewed the 4 keyed nuts and I replaced them with regular ones. I won't buy them again. Who ever steals stock wheels anyway? Unless you live where your whole car is more likely to be stolen.
tell ya what, send me your new winter tires and I will send you an extra set of stock tires. You wont have to worry about losing your brand new tires anymore. :D
I'm guessing depends entirely on where you live and what tires you have. I have never had it happen. Now, if you happened to have some very nice rims, that might be a different story, but it doesn't sound like the case here. Honestly, if they didn't charge you for it, it really doesn't matter, though it does sound like they were looking out for you. If they DID charge you, request the originals, a refund, and put the originals back on. Really not something to waste time even thinking about.

FYI, every single lock nut can be bypassed. Period, end. My friend owns a tire shop and he said it doesn't matter what it is, he can have it off one way or another in a few minutes.
YMMV... I've never had it done to me, but I know of 2 people that have come out of their house to find their vehicles on cinder blocks and wheels & tires gone. They weren't steel wheels though, they were expensive aftermarket sets.

Your insurance will cover the theft, but it will take you a while to get replacements on the car, and it probably won't be cheap.
My locking lug nut key is kept in the most logical place in the car for it, with the spare tire. Never a problem forgetting where its at.
I wouldn't have lost my cool over something like that, it's for peace and mind. Yes, sometimes people do have wheels and tires stolen (even stock wheels, and it "nicer" parts of town too). If you don't like it, then just swap it out for normal lug nuts, job done. No need to create a big deal over it. If anything you can turn around and sell the locking lug nuts as those kits can get pretty pricey.
I have this wrench called the gator or something like that. Ouse that since I lost my key. It has hundreds of steel pins that let it fit over any nut, bolt, or lug nut. That and a locksmiths vibrator pick is a thiefs best friend
Just replace them, they are no good! And they will break... Once a week, we have a costumer with these lock nuts, and nobody knows, they are supposed to be around 120newton force. Turns in to a 1 hour job. No one steals steel rims?
Standard thing for pretty much every car with alloy wheels sold here, and has been for the best part of twenty years if not longer. In fact the nuts I'm considering replacing my crusty originals with (chrome is flaking off) are all locking nuts with smooth outers and a key which plugs into them. The ones my car came with (not sure if genuine Subaru or if the importer fits them) handle the same torque as the other nuts with no trouble at all.

Most people just leave the key in the car, either in the glovebox or with the wheel changing kit. It doesn't seem to be a problem.

It isn't 100% thief-proof as nothing is. As with all anti-theft measures it relies on making your stuff just a little harder for them to take - with locking nuts they'll have to either obtain a key or hammer a cheap socket onto them (this is well-known, so don't think I'm giving anyone ideas they couldn't find elsewhere) in order to undo them. The former requires planning and the latter requires time, as well as making noise and looking suspicious to any passers-by. If your wheels aren't seriously expensive branded ones they'll go after an easier target.
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So if someone steals your curb-rashed wheels, you can have your ins co replace them (minus deductible) with shiny new ones. Yeah, think I'll leave the lock-nuts off.

BTW, check with your agent to learn the difference in price for different deductibles. Ours is a whopping $14 per year to go from $500 to $100. Takes almost 30 claim-free years to make up that difference, whereas we used comprehensive - and the lower deductible - to repair hail damage just last month. Checking can be as simple as sending an email to your agent, and it might be a tiny bump in the premium price.
Always try to park near a vehicle with better/fancier wheels/tires so the thieves won't notice yours.:woohoo:
So the lock nuts were supplied free? Or did the new wheels require different nuts from stock and you paid for them?
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