Do Teslas Have Locking Wheel (Lug) Nuts?

When one has invested a lot of money in a car such as a Tesla, they undoubtedly hope that the OEM has provided every advantage they can to help keep that car safe and sound. Even though the vast majority of neighborhoods are safe — especially those where people can afford to buy Teslas! — you still hear stories of car crime going up and down.

You might hear of a wave of carjackings, or car thefts at night, or break-ins, wheel stealing and so on. It could be that any group of chancers is trying their luck at any particular time. Still, if you’re afforded the best protection, you’ve nothing to worry about, right?

One such protection measure is locking wheel nuts. This simple innovation has helped deter would-be wheel thieves in many places around the world, and their installation requires no access to high-tech gear, nor are they expensive to buy. This makes them a great way to affordably protect cars. But what do they do? Do Tesla cars have them? If not, why not? These questions and more we are seeking to answer in today’s blog.

Not to spoil things, but the news is that Teslas, by and large, do NOT have locking wheel nuts. Read on to learn more about the detailed reasons why this is the case.

What are Locking Wheel Nuts? How Do They Work?

Various car wheel nuts
Various car wheel nuts

Locking wheel nuts — also called lug nuts or alloy wheel nuts in many places around the world — are a special kind of nut made by car OEMs to help keep alloy wheels secure in place and safe from car thieves.

The idea is to make it much harder to remove wheels without the proper tools that will provide adequate torque. These are not necessarily tools that thieves will invest in, or be willing to use since it can lengthen the time it takes to remove wheels for stealing.

To remove locking wheel nuts, one needs a locking wheel nut key, and that’s not going to be something that a thief always has on them to match your OEM. The only way to speed it up would be to break into your trunk and take your lug nut key, but that of course means a lot more risk of activating the vehicle’s security measures.

If you’ve ever changed a tire before, you know how difficult it can be to even loosen these lug nuts, never mind removing them entirely to allow you to get at the wheel! No sane or experienced car thief would waste such time when they could find a car without lug nuts and remove the wheels quickly and make their getaway.

Benefits of Locking Wheel Nuts

1. Wheel Protection

As we covered above, they add an invaluable level or protection to your alloy wheels. This is useful considering that despite the ubiquitous nature of alloy wheels these days, many rims are still expensive and represent a considerable investment. This is especially true when brand-new rims are bought to spruce up a pre-owned car.

2. Lower Risk of Needing Insurance Claim

If your wheels are well protected and working against the actions of car thieves, then you can gain peace of mind and greater confidence that you’ll make it to the end of each year without incident and without claim on your insurance. That ultimately helps to make your insurance cheaper.

3. A Sound Investment

A set of locking wheel nuts costs somewhere between $20 and $120, depending on the brand and style. There are some really fancy ones you can get that exceed $200 if that’s the kind of car you’re shopping for. At any rate, purchasing a set and fitting them to your car is far cheaper than having to buy a new set of wheels!

The Case Against Locking Wheel Nuts

A winter tire being changed
A winter tire being changed

1. They Can Be a Hindrance

If you’re in a hurry to change a tire, or have temporarily misplaced your key, then removing them can be a real pain. It’s also very common for people to struggle with loosening 1 or more locking wheel nuts when changing a tire. It might be that all the others move alright, but there’s just 1 stubborn one stopping the task from moving forward.

2. They’re Not Often Necessary

As we’ve touched on, car crime does come and go, and there are many neighborhoods where one can easily feel safe enough not to require lug nuts at all. In these cases, even the limited expense of adding them is unnecessary, and the likelihood of them being a hindrance outweighs the chance of them being a savior.

3. Criminals are Crafty

If criminals feel that cars in a target area are likely to have locking wheel nuts, and they are very determined, they will bring additional tools to try and break them off, and in many cases they can. The lug nut relies mostly on deterring power rather than providing a lot of genuine defensive power to the wheels.

Do Teslas Have Locking Wheel Nuts? Why (Not)?

Photograph of Tesla Model S wheel and tire
Photograph of a Tesla Model S wheel and tire

As it happens, Tesla does not generally supply locking wheel nuts for their cars as a standard feature in most markets. The main reason given for this is that:

“alloy wheel theft has decreased considerably in recent years, coupled with the weight of the car and high torque setting of the nuts make it a challenge for anyone to attempt to steal the wheels.” (tesla-info.com).

Tesla-info.com

While that does suggest that there are markets where Tesla does supply them as a matter of course, it doesn’t specify which those markets are. One would assume that countries or regions that have high instances of car theft or car-related crime may well be places where wheel locking nuts are offered.

Can You Buy Locking Wheel Nuts for Your Tesla?

Yes, you can. Those Tesla owners who (despite everything) are still determined to get their hands on a set of wheel locking nuts for their Tesla can do so at the Tesla shop:

A screenshot from the Tesla shop showing the wheel locks option
A screenshot from the Tesla shop showing the wheel locks option

Tesla’s official locking wheel nuts come in sets of 4 locks with their own key for $50. Each key pattern used is unique, making it impossible for a would-be thief to simply purchase a set of their own and use their own key on your car.

Dashcam and Sentry Mode

The other big reason behind Tesla choosing not to supply wheel locking nuts is that they already supply one of the top-rated security features and that’s Sentry Mode:

When Sentry Mode is active, it watches for suspicious activity and movement in close proximity to the car, and will activate the dashcam and record would-be thieves if it senses them up to no good.

Sentry Mode works on a system based on “minimal threat.” Once the minimum threat level is detected, its security features activate. The usual minimum is when someone is leaning on your car while it’s in this setting. Sentry Mode must be manually activated every time the user parks up. It isn’t activated automatically.

After being switched on, it first sits in standby mode until it detects the minimum threat level. At that point, text appears on the touchscreen, warning anyone looking in that cameras are recording. This is called an “Alert” state.

When disturbed by something more threatening like a window being broken, the Sentry switches to its “Alarm” state and will alert you via your smartphone that something is wrong around your car. It will even send you the recorded video file of the incident which you can download.

Sentry Mode was first released in February 2019 on the Model 3, and then shortly after was rolled out further, including retroactively for any Model S or Model X made after August 2017.

Should You Get Locking Wheel Nuts for Your Tesla?

If you own a pre-2019 Tesla and don’t have Sentry Mode, and you also are worried about the potential for car theft and/or wheel theft in your area, then locking wheel nuts are not a bad addition to your car. They are mercifully cheap and relatively easy to install, and will give you that extra security boost in the absence of Sentry Mode.

Since all new Teslas and even all Model S and Model X cars made after 2017 have the feature, it’s a growing majority of drivers who do have and enjoy that feature, and that has proven itself a good deterrent so far. It’s safe to say that technology in that area will likely continue to improve. Car thieves tend to target vehicles for which they can guarantee quick results and a safe getaway, right now, virtually no Tesla car offers them that island of safety.

About Tristan Perry

Tristan is a software developer who is passionate about eco-friendly lifestyles - and products, such as green cars! He has loved seeing Nissan and Tesla sell loads of quality EVs over the last decade - with every other car manufacturer finally following suit.

EV adoption seems to be at a tipping point now, with 'ordinary folk' starting to order them too. This is naturally aided by very expensive gas prices, but also a genuine desire for people to try and improve the environment.

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