Get Car Smart: Protecting Your Tires and Wheels

Thieves can steal all four tires, wheels and rims within minutes.

Tires
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Car theft is a common problem that is widely reported on a regular basis. However, your car is possibly vulnerable to another type of theft that doesn’t get reported nearly as often. The targets are your wheels and tires. Even cars with alarm systems are vulnerable, and high-end tires, wheels, and rims are often worth thousands of dollars to thieves. An experienced team of thieves can get the wheels off your car in minutes, leaving your vehicle on blocks and incapable of being driven.

If you have expensive rims on your car, you are at an even higher risk of theft. Awareness is your first defense, so reduce your risk of wheel and tire theft now before you become a victim.

Theft Methods

Wheel thieves typically work in groups, much like a pit crew on a racetrack. A car must be elevated to get the tires and wheels off, and this is a dangerous task to attempt alone, especially when you’re trying to do it quickly without getting caught. Thieves, therefore, work together to jack a car up onto a set of blocks. Once the car is in the air, the thieves each take a side and go to work on pulling the wheels off the vehicle.

In some cases, thieves actually bring a tow truck to elevate the car. While not as common, it has happened in the past. An experienced group working in tandem can remove all four wheels in under ten minutes if all goes well. Your goal as a car owner is to put up barriers that make the process of wheel removal take as long as possible.

If a thief thinks that it will take too long to remove the tires from your car, or that the risk of getting caught is too high, he moves on to an easier vehicle.

Prevention

  • Park your car in a closed garage whenever you can. If you live in an apartment or have a house without a garage, this is often not an option. However, a garage works as a barrier that has to be bypassed, and thieves usually have a harder time getting your car elevated in a garage without alerting anyone in the house.
    • Install a car alarm that includes sensors that attach to the wheels. The alarm detects when the car gets tilted, and the wheel sensors also detect when the wheels get tampered with.
    • Park in an area with a lot of traffic when out in public. The more car and foot traffic going by where you park, the less likely thieves want to risk detection by stealing wheels or tires in that area. Park in view of surveillance cameras whenever possible.
    • Turn your wheels when parking. This makes the wheels harder to remove because they get stuck in the wheel well. The car’s steering column lock makes it difficult for the thieves to turn the wheels forward again without a key for the ignition.
    • Use wheel locks on each wheel, including your spare. The locks fit on each wheel and make the lug nuts extremely difficult to remove without a key. It’s important never to lose the key because you’ll need it if you ever get a flat tire. However, the locks greatly reduce your risk of losing your wheels and tires. Lugnut locks are also useful since they require a specially sized wrench to remove. However, the lug nut locks can be melted quickly with a blowtorch to make them fit a regular wrench, so they are not as effective as wheel locks.

      People often spend a lot of money on their rims, wheels, and tires. Whether this is for performance or aesthetic reasons, they represent a sizable investment and often have sentimental value as well. Thieves steal them either to resell them to other collectors or to just get money for scrap. The first step in preventing this is not believing that it can’t happen to you. Secondly, get your wheels and tires insured against theft as part of your car insurance policy in case you do suffer theft. Once you make the realization that you’re vulnerable, you can take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your car.