Earlier in the week a TrustMyMechanic.com reader asked me what drives me crazy about the auto repair business. Although my list was rather long, my main gripe always seems to relate to frustrating things that ignorant customers do to themselves. I have a laundry list of examples to share, but this week I'll concentrate on one subtopic that falls under the heading of auto theft…locking wheel lug nuts.
Locking wheel lug nuts require a special wrench to remove the lug nuts from the wheels. The idea is that these lug nuts will deter would-be car thieves from stealing your tires and wheels. In theory this idea is beautiful. Could this be a great way to curb auto theft and possibly reduce auto insurance premiums? Let me blow this theory right out of the water.
OK, think with me in your mind as I paint a picture for you. Your car has a set of theft resistant wheel lug nuts, and you bring your car in for service at my shop, or any shop for that matter. You politely approach the service counter with your laundry list of repairs that need to be made to your vehicle, hand over the keys, and return to work.
One of your listed items is to inspect the brakes for wear, and that item requires us to remove the tires and wheels from the vehicle. My mechanic is going to do the same thing a would-be thief would do: ponder over all the possible hiding places for this special locking lug nut wrench. The first place either of them is going to look is the glove box. And usually...Bingo! After removing layers of expired insurance cards and quick lube receipts that serve no real value other than to provide locking lug nut wrench camouflage, he uncovers the sacred wrench needed to remove the tires and wheels.
If by some chance you don't have a glove box, or you think you have cleverly out witted the would-be thief by hiding the wrench in the center console along with a few of your outdated cassette tapes, gum wrappers, and multiple hair brushes…think again. They are on to your tricks. If you have never moved your lug nut wrench in the first place, it is still firmly attached to the jack or the spare tire in the trunk. And don't think that you are doing any better taking it out of the car. Probably the worst place to "hide" this special wrench is at HOME!
I see this scenario played out in my shop at least 3 times a week. We probably spend a few hours a week cleaning out glove boxes and center consoles, removing golf club bags from the trunk, and making phone calls to customers asking them where we can find the wheel lock wrench. The standard reply is usually, "I don't really know, don't you guys have one?" It is not uncommon at all to wait for hours for the customer to run home and get the wrench from the secret locking lug nut hiding place. Ummm…and if you get a flat tire, you will need this special wrench-so don't leave it at home!
By now you are probably asking yourself, and possibly your co-workers, "Where am I supposed to hide this tool?" I have two suggestions: start a trend and wear it around your neck like some of the rap stars did with Mercedes hood emblems, or take the wheel locks off the car and replace them with standard plain-Jane lug nuts that the car industry has been using for years! If a thief really wants your tires and wheels, he will figure out how to get them, so there really is no sense in making life difficult for yourself or your mechanic. If you have special wheels or expensive tires, you might want to put a call into your insurance agent and tell the agent you need additional coverage.
If by chance you are a wanna-be tire and wheel thief, remember to look in the glove box first, center console second, and on the spare tire or jack in the trunk last. If you still can't find it, look on one of the quick lube invoices and get the home address. Happy hunting!
Next issue's discussion: radio security codes. Do you know your number? (Me either!)
Austin C Davis
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