How to Remove a Wheel Lock – With or Without the Key

If you drive a high-end car, chances are you have expensive wheels and tires.

And because you don’t want those wheels stolen, you likely have locking wheel nuts instead of traditional nuts to protect your vehicle’s rims from theft.

The types of locking nuts vary according to the type of wheel and vehicle, and whether a single nut is replaced, or as recommended for the best theft protection, all of the original nuts are replaced.

The best locking lug nuts can only be removed with a special key that comes with the kit. It’s just one key, the car doesn’t have a spare hidden away. So keep it in a place where you can find easily find it.

But what if you do lose it? Then you will have to know how to remove a wheel lock without the key! And that’s what we’re going to discuss today.

Close up of a locking lug nut on a car wheel

In this article, we show you step by step, how to remove a wheel lock.

For completeness, we first discuss how to remove one with the key, but if you don’t have it, don’t worry! We include a guide for this scenario too.

Skill Level: Basic.

Time to Complete: Under 10 minutes.

Tools Needed: This varies on the method you use. Please consult the different sections below for these.

How to Remove Wheel Locks With the Key

So, there you are! Quite some time ago you installed locking wheel bolts on your vehicle to protect your fancy rims and tires from theft.

This has worked out perfectly, but now a tire needs to be changed. You are lucky in that you remember where you kept the key. Excellent, let’s see how to change a tire with the key.

Items Needed to Remove the Bolts

For this task you will need the following tools:

The lug wrench usually fits the most common sizes of 17mm, 19mm, and 21 to 23mm. 19mm or 21mm are the standard sizes for most nuts.

Now let’s look at the steps needed to remove the bolts with the key:

Step 1: Align the Key With the Lock

Be aware that the lock and the key are made with the same pattern and there’s only one way possible to fit it in.

So line up the pattern of the key to the wheel lock, and then insert it.

Step 2: Turn Wheel Bolt

Turn the bolt while holding the key firmly in place. Be aware that once it is in place, it will stop moving.

Step 3: Release

Release the key.

Step 4: Mount Tire Wrench

Mount the lug wrench on the end of the wheel bolt. You will need some strength to release it.

First, turn your lug wrench carefully.

Then, increase the pressure until it begins to loosen. As soon as it starts rotating, use the wrench to finish unscrewing it.

Your wheel bolt is now off. Congratulations!

How to Remove a Locking Lug Nut Without a Key

You hid the key in such a safe place that you forgot where it is. What to do?

We’ve all lost a set of keys before. Luckily, there are ways to remove the locking lug nut even without the key. There are several methods to approach this problem. We’ll go over each one in turn.

Method 1. Buy a Wheel Lock Removal Kit

This is the easiest solution if you’ve lost the key.

It is a special tool for quick and professional loosening of rim locks or round turned wheel bolts.

It’s suitable for almost all wheel locks, without damaging the rims. In many cases, the bolts remain undamaged.

Step 1: Socket Size

Choose the socket from the kit that is closest in size to the bolt you want to remove. Be aware that it should fit quite tightly.

Step 2: Positioning

Turn the remover tool to position it on the wheel lock.

Step 3: Release

Turn the remover tool until the bolt is released.

Method 2. Standard Socket, Hammer and Brute Force

Buying a locking lug nut removal kit can be quite pricey, and it will not help you immediately unless you previously purchased one and have it in your car.

So let’s look at another, slightly more extreme solution that uses force to loosen the wheel lock.

With the following instructions, you’ll be able to get the locking lug nuts off on your own without a kit.

Tools Needed:

  • Set of lug nut sockets and a lug nut wrench.
  • Heavy-duty hammer.
  • Breaker bar

Step 1: Prepare the Car

Put the car in park. For extra safety, put the parking brake on too.

Step 2: Choose the Sockets

Pick a set of lug nut sockets. Usually, your best bet is a 12-point socket key.

You can use a short socket or a deep well socket. However, choose the size that fits tightly over the top of the bolt.

Step 3: Place the Socket

Put the socket on the wheel.

Take a heavy-duty hammer and force it on tightly as far as is possible.

Step 4: Unscrew the Bolt

Take a breaker bar, a half-inch one will be perfect. Place it on the socket which is now sitting firmly on top of the bolt.

Work to loosen it carefully until you can easily unscrew the bolt. You are truly lucky if it loosens on the first attempt. If not, keep trying!

Not to discourage you, but some sockets might just spin and not come loose. This is another safety precaution of the manufacturer, oh joy!

Step 5: if it Doesn’t Come Loose

If this is the case, what do you do now? Let’s look at some necessary extra steps:

  1. Repeat the procedure.
  2. Turn the breaker bar gently until the socket comes loose.

If at this stage you still can’t get it loose, you’ll need to seek professional assistance. Well done for getting this far and giving it your best shot though!

Step 6: Recover the Wheel Bolt

Now that this task is done, you will want to have your bolt back.

How do you get the socket off the lug nut? It’s almost as easy as removing the bolts!

You should have:

  1. A vice, or anything similar that can hold the socket firmly.
  2. Heavy-duty hammer.
  3. Blunt chisel that fits in the hollow of the lug nut.

Now all you need to do is:

  1. Clamp the lug nut with the socket face down into a vice.
  2. Insert the chisel in the hollow of the lug nut.
  3. Whack it until it comes out.
  4. If you’re lucky, it will be undamaged and you’ll be able to use it again.

Here’s a short video that shows you exactly how to remove wheel locks without the key:


Final Thoughts

Having a nice car with great wheels is a pleasure, but as with anything expensive, you need to protect them. That’s why wheel locks were invented, as a way to avoid having someone walk off with your wheels.

Any theft protection device works great if it stops thieves, but allows the actual owner access if required.

Locking lug nuts come with a single, unique key, making it incredibly hard for opportunists to break them while being easy for the key owner to remove their wheel still.

But if you lose the key? Well, with a bit of force and the right tools, anything is possible.

Have you ever had to remove locking lug nuts before? Did you have the key or did you use a more extreme solution? Tell us what happened in the comments section below.

From childhood go karting and motocross, to collecting and obsessing over scalextric, matchbox and radio controlled cars, I've always had an obsession with cars. Learning through manuals, books, trial and error, and more knowledgeable family members, I've also enjoyed tinkering with the mechanics and electronics of any vehicles I've owned. Now, over 3 decades later, I've started this site as a place for me to share my knowledge, to teach others how to care for and maintain their vehicles themselves, at home, so they can get the most of their vehicles and save a pretty penny compared to always seeking out professional help.

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