Despite all the technological advancements made in the auto industry, old-fashioned wheel theft remains a problem nationwide: The value of tires stolen each year is at least $1 million, according to one estimate.
There are several reasons this type of theft is so prevalent, says Richard Reina, training director at CARiD; fortunately, there are also some anti-theft precautions you can take to help protect your ride.
Why Car-Wheel Theft Happens
Easy To steal
Determined thieves with a jack and a battery-operated tool—an impact wrench with a lot of torque—can pull off a set of wheels in 10 minutes.
Wheels don’t have serial numbers, and nobody’s going to ask for proof of ownership.
Easy To sell
Thieves might sell stolen wheels online, to auto body shops, or even from their front yard.
The Money’s Good
Aftermarket tires are some of the most popular automotive accessories—and the more expensive the vehicle, the more expensive the wheels. Depending on the model, a set of stolen wheels might go for $1,000–$5,000 or more—about half the cost of retail.
How To Help Prevent Car-Wheel Theft
Buy Lug Nut Locks
This solution involves replacing one of the lug nuts on each wheel with a lock, which requires a special tool to remove. Often a dealer add-on when you buy your vehicle, they cost around $100 for four (one for each wheel). They’re also available at auto stores or online for a little less; you can put them on yourself or bring them to a mechanic to install for you. For extra protection, you can buy lock kits for all of the lug nuts on your wheels. Just don’t lose the key, which you’ll need to remove the wheel should you have to change a flat tire.
Install An Alarm With A Sensor
Unlike standard car alarms, which alert you when your car has been broken into, alarms with sensors can detect a tilt or angle change if thieves try to jack up your vehicle. Some high-end, newer vehicles offer this type of alarm, or you can buy it as an aftermarket addition for $250–$500. A couple caveats on the aftermarket option: The sensors may not sync with your car’s existing alarm, and you’ll need to have a repair shop install them, which costs an additional $225, on average. All told, you might be looking at more than $700—a lot of money, but less than what you’d spend on a new set of wheels.
Park In Secure, Well-Lit Areas
Thieves almost always strike at night, staking out areas where they’re less likely to be discovered, like a dark street without lights. Stay in areas where there’s more traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, and where there are security cameras, if possible. If you’re parking somewhere overnight, make sure your car is visible.
Turn Your Wheels
When you park your car, turn the wheels to a 45-degree angle. This will make it difficult for a thief to get the lug nuts off, because the inner fender will likely be in the way.
Park Close To The Curb
When parallel parking on the street, get as close as you can to the curb. The closer your vehicle is, the more difficult it will be for a thief to put a jack underneath your car. While the street side of your car will still be exposed, at least the tires on the curb side of your car will be better protected.
Buy A Set Of Boots
Locking up all your wheels with metal boots—which cover the lug nuts like an earmuff—may sound a little extreme. After all, it takes anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes to attach each one and may require special tools. But if you need to leave your car outside while you’re away for a long time, boots will certainly be a deterrent. They cost about $70 a pair (you’ll need two pair) and can be found online and in auto stores.
Here’s another smart way to help keep your car rolling along: auto insurance from GEICO. It might even save you some money—get a quote now and see if you could save!
Read More: 5 Ways To Prevent Car Theft
By Ellise Pierce