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What Causes A Car To Go Out Of Alignment?
Your vehicle’s alignment keeps it going down the road in a straight line. Improper alignment can cause several issues, from uneven tire wear to premature failure of suspension components. This can cost you hundreds of dollars in repair bills and replacement parts if you’re not careful. If you’ve asked yourself, “What causes a car to go out of alignment?” you’re not alone. There are many reasons a car might go out of alignment, including basic use of the vehicle to improper installation of several different components. Tracking down the source of your car’s alignment issue can be tedious, but it’s a great way to prevent further issues if you find it quickly enough. The first step to complete before looking further into your alignment is to have one done. You can have a tire or suspension shop look at your car’s alignment to ensure it needs an adjustment. Sometimes that’s all the car needs to keep going down the road in a straight line. However, if the mechanics find you need an alignment, there could be more going on than you thought. Normal wear and tear As vehicles age and the components that keep them moving forward deteriorate, features like alignment tend to bear the weight of failures. Rather than having components that are new, supple, and restricting, old components tend to grind, crack, and bend where they’re not supposed to. Most drivers experience the wear and tear of their vehicles as the mileage continues to build. Most suspension components should last at least until you get to about 100,000 miles, depending on where and how you drive. If you are purchasing a used car, check out the suspension before you purchase the vehicle to determine if the alignment will be an issue or not down the road. Hitting a pothole or curb Life comes with a few bumps in the road. If your car hits a few minor bumps here and there, the potholes are not likely to affect your vehicle’s suspension. In fact, those bumps are more of a test of your suspension to ensure it’s working properly. It’s hard to imagine that with how annoying those potholes can be, but it’s true. However, if you hit a pothole or curb at speed, you can potentially throw off the vehicle’s entire alignment. Most normal forces acting on the suspension come from below, but deep potholes can trap some components while others flex and squish. This lack of certain movement can stress components to the point where they fail. Curbs are a direct side force that can do a number on your suspension components. If you hit a curb, for example, during the winter, it’s best to have your vehicle’s alignment looked at before too long. Collision or accident Most collisions or accidents have several components of damage involved, from potential personal injury to lingering suspension issues. If you were recently involved in an accident, your vehicle may need to undergo inspection for alignment issues. These issues can arise from almost any type of collision or accident, no matter the speed. The good news is that most automotive body and repair shops check the alignment of your vehicle before they release it to you. Should you need an alignment as part of the repair, they typically follow the instructions of the insurance company, whether you or the other driver are at fault. Worn or damaged parts Even if your car doesn’t go out of alignment after hitting a particularly deep pothole, it can do damage to suspension components beneath your vehicle. Enough of these bumps can cause worn or damaged parts to finally break and give way. In most cases, you’ll see some sort of component drop from underneath the car or feel a shift in how the car’s sitting. As are likely self-explanatory, most worn or damaged parts just need a new replacement. However, you should check the components surrounding the failure to ensure that there’s not something else going on. If you can catch the real issue before you break more components, you could save a lot of money. Uneven tire wear Uneven rubber all the way around can greatly affect your vehicle’s alignment. There are many reasons you could have uneven tire wear, from improperly replacing tires in the right way to failure to rotate them routinely. Tire wear depends on your vehicle’s configuration, namely which wheels do the pushing or pulling. Front- and rear-wheel drive cars will wear tires down differently than all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles. That’s why the tire rotation process differs among these various drive types. Should you get a flat tire and need a new one, it’s best to replace at least one more tire to make a pair. This helps your vehicle to wear down those new tires at a consistent, equal rate so that you’re not faced with an alignment cost on top of new tires. Even if you get new tires and align them properly on the car, your alignment can still suffer if you don’t rotate the tires correctly and in the right order. Mix up the order of rotation and you could be wearing down those treads unevenly and prematurely. Improper installation Installing anything improperly on your vehicle is certain to cause issues. Your car’s suspension is no exception. If you find that you think a suspension component or something beneath the vehicle hasn’t been installed properly, it’s best to go back to the source and have the experts who installed those components take a second look. If you installed those parts yourself, however, it might be time to take another look at a YouTube video or call in the experts. Troubleshooting your issue now could save you hundreds down the road in repairs, replacement costs, and ego. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to learn something new and make the best of a bad situation. Modifications or upgrades Some automotive aftermarket companies make a living from suspension components you can bolt onto your stock vehicle. These modifications and upgrades can help you achieve the stance you’re looking for, but they can also create issues with your alignment. One of the more popular modifications is to purchase new tires and wheels that you can then camber out at an odd angle to gain attention. While these stances certainly make an impression, they can leave your suspension components and alignment suffering. Before you make any kind of upgrade or modification to your suspension components, it can be best to consult with a mechanic. They should be able to tell you if you’re tempting fate or won’t face any suspension/alignment issues. Overdue re-alignment It’s often recommended that you check your car’s alignment every year or every time you put new tires on it. This can help to ensure you’re getting the most out of your new tires and prevent any further issues if your alignment needs readjusting. Many people remember to rotate their tires or check their vehicle’s alignment with every oil change, depending on how often their cars need that maintenance interval. If anything, you should have your car’s alignment checked frequently. Don’t wait until the last second to worry about aligning your vehicle if you’re experiencing issues. The longer you wait, the more damage you could be doing to the other suspension components responsible for keeping your vehicle light on its feet. Zooming over speed bumps There’s a lot of temptation that faces you when you meet a speed bump head-on. While it can be incredibly thrilling to jump a speed bump, it’s the landing that will cost you money. That is, as long as you can clear the jump first. If you zoom over speed bumps, you can be sure that something in your suspension or undercarriage will contact the ground at some point. While this can be a harmless scrape down the length of the car beneath it, other times the damage can be much more serious. Suspension components can bottom out, including shafts that poke through the hood after bottoming out from a jump. The amount of damage you can do by zooming over speed bumps is ridiculous. You could end up with an entirely new suspension (and the bill) because you jumped a single bump. Think about the consequences before you zoom over speed bumps because it’ll be your ride that pays the price.
Why Does My Car Radio Turn On By Itself?
Driving down the road in silence can help you focus and take a minute to relax. If you’re suddenly jolted to attention by your car radio turning itself on, bad things can happen. You could swerve into traffic, slam on the brakes, or panic and punch the gas pedal. That’s not to mention the adrenaline rush stressing you out. If you’re asking yourself, “Why does my car radio turn on by itself?” you’re not alone. Car radios, like any other electrical component, can experience issues as they age. They may turn on by themselves, turn the volume up or down without your input, or even just quit working. Tracking down the cause of your car radio turning itself on doesn’t have to be a chore. We’ve put together a guide on how to address the issue of your car radio turning on by itself so you at least have a place to start. If you find yourself working through this entire list and not finding the cause of your car radio issue, it’s probably time to have a mechanic take a look. 10 things that could cause the car radio to turn on by itself As you work through the 10 things that could be causing your car radio to turn on by itself, makes note of what you find. These can be helpful if you don’t figure out what the issue is and need a mechanic to track the problem back to the source. It’s much cheaper paying for an hour of mechanic’s labor and putting in the leg work than paying for three or more hours of labor for an inspection. Faulty Wiring Faulty wiring can cause all kinds of electrical issues, not just with your car’s radio. If you find your car’s radio only turns itself on after you go over a bump or turn a certain direction, it could be faulty wiring to blame. The best way to find out which part of your car’s wiring is having issues is to start with all those wires that connect to the radio. One of them is likely not connected completely or could be slowly disconnecting. Wires, just like any other component on your vehicle, will decay with time and overuse. If you leave your vehicle outside, particularly in open country, you may also have small critters that eat your car’s wiring and cause issues. Rabbits and mice are known to chew through wires simply because they’re looking for a warm place to sleep and some food to get them through the night. Short Circuit You may experience a short circuit due to faulty wiring. In this case, the wires responsible for carrying power to the radio may come into contact with one another and cause a short. This is likely to cause other issues with your car radio or surrounding electronics, depending on how the radio is wired. If you smell burning electrical components, it’s likely you had a short circuit. It’s best to find the source of the short circuit as soon as you can so that it doesn’t start a fire. You might unplug the battery before you search for the short-circuited wire so you don’t have to worry about more of a light show. Battery Issues Speaking of the battery, sometimes a car radio turns itself on because of the battery. If the battery itself is not providing steady current to all the powered components in the vehicle, then those components may cycle through as a result. For example, your radio might turn itself on and off depending on the flow of electricity from the battery. If you think the issue might be your car’s battery, visit your local auto parts store to have it tested. Most places will test the battery for free, telling you whether or not the battery is the end of your diagnosing efforts. If it’s not the battery, you at least save the cost of replacing it unnecessarily. Remote Control The reason your car radio could be turning on by itself could be due to signals from a remote control. If your friends are playing a prank on you, they might use the remote control to turn the radio on and off and spook you for laughs. If that’s the case, the fix is probably the easiest on the list so far. However, if you lost your remote control and it somehow wedges between the seat rails, for example, any pressure on that remote could cause it to turn the radio on. Solving this issue is simply a means of figuring out if you’re the butt of a joke or finding that remote to stop it from turning your car radio on. Malfunctioning Buttons As car radios wear, the buttons on the face of the radio can wear down as well. If your car radio is turning itself on without any input from you, it could be a stuck button. Sometimes you can take the radio out of the car or remove the buttons to clean them. However, it’s often best if you replace the radio completely to stop it from turning itself on with malfunctioning buttons. Depending on how the buttons are manufactured, you may wear spots into them as you play your radio. Those spots could cause your radio to want to return to a specific setting. This could be playing the radio at full blast or turning the radio on without being prompted. Software Issues Car radios run off software programming that directs the unit to perform certain functions. If this programming is off in some way, the radio will not respond or act correctly. While software issues can be fixed in most modern vehicles, older vehicles may have a harder time with this type of fix. If the software has outdated the vehicle, the best option is to replace the radio with an aftermarket stereo. Though you may be able to narrow down your car radio turning itself on to software issues, you’re likely going to need the dealership to fix the issue. They can download the proper updates or troubleshoot any issues directly. Temperature Changes Rapid heat cycling can definitely impact how a car radio works. Any electrical components respond to extreme heat and cold, depending on what sort of exposure they have. If you live in a very cold part of the country, your car radio could wear out sooner and turn itself on without being prompted. The best way to avoid any issues with your car radio as a result of temperature changes is to keep the vehicle inside in some sort of climate-controlled environment. This can also lengthen the life of many other components on your vehicle, from tires and window seals to paint. Loose Connections As you trace out any issues with your car’s wiring, you may come across loose connections. This loss of connectivity could be the culprit for a car radio that turns itself on and off, or it could be preventative maintenance for a component that would have had issues in the future. Finding the loose connection can be difficult, especially if you’re not sure where to look. The best way to tackle a loose connection, like any other electrical issue, is to trace out the wires and make notes as you go. Tracing out wires is a lengthy, tedious process, but it can be well worth it if you don’t want to replace your car’s radio. Faulty Sensors In addition to faulty wiring, faulty sensors can give the wrong signal to the car’s computer, telling it to turn the radio on when there’s no input from the driver. If your car is experiencing faulty sensors, it’s likely something that could show up on a diagnostic run with the right equipment. At the same time, it can be difficult to know if you’ve got a faulty sensor if you don’t run diagnostics and have no other indication than a car radio that turns itself on. That’s why tackling the wiring with a strategic approach can help you make the most of your time spent tracing out any wiring issues. While faulty sensors may be more expensive to replace than certain wires, they typically last for the majority of your car’s lifetime. Because these sensors may not be in the most logical of places, it can be worth it to have a dealership or mechanic figure out which sensor you need. Interference Any electrical component, whether it’s in your vehicle, a plane, a train, or any other electronic device, experiences interference. It’s the signal that crosses over and disrupts the main signal your electronic device is putting out. Most of the time, interference will come from something within your vehicle, but this isn’t always the case. Remember the days of tuning the radio to a certain station? As you got closer to the station, you’d hear more interference as the signal came through. That’s similar to what you’d experience if your car radio was turning itself on because of interference.
Why Does My Car Leak Oil When Parked?
Finding an oil spot underneath your car can have you asking, “Why does my car leak oil when parked?” There are many reasons why your car could leak oil after it’s been sitting for a while. Tracking down the cause, however, doesn’t have to be a chore. Instead, you can use this guide to systematically go through the possible culprits leaking oil. Chances are you’ll find the reason your car leaks oil when it’s parked sooner or later. Even if you find the leak but aren’t sure how to fix it, you can save a lot of time and money by being able to tell your mechanic where the issue is coming from. If you fix something in the list below and want to check if your car is still leaking, you can easily put a piece of cardboard beneath your vehicle’s front end after you park it. If you find more oil on that cardboard in the morning, it’s time to check out the next possible culprit on the list. 10 things that could cause the car to leak oil when parked The important thing to remember when you’re looking for the source of an oil leak is that your engine requires more oil to replace what it lost. If you don’t keep enough oil in the engine, the critical lubrication it provides can cause extensive and devastating failure. To avoid even more costly fixes, be sure to check your oil daily and top it off as needed. Small leaks won’t make your car lose a lot of oil in a few days but if there’s enough oil on the ground to make up a decent-sized puddle, be sure to have an extra quart (or two) on hand. Worn-out engine gasket Engine gaskets are the seals that keep oil in your engine and ensure proper compression. Without these gaskets, your car is likely to puke out any oil left inside the engine itself. Most engine gaskets are made from a semi-stiff material that flexes to take up the gap between metal components. Gaskets all over your vehicle wear out over time as that flexible material becomes brittle and stiff. It’s the same reason your car’s interior loses heat if you have decaying door seals. One of the best ways to check for a worn-out engine gasket is to look at the engine block. If you see one or more spots where oil is leaking out of the engine and dripping down the sides, chances are it’s time to order a new engine gasket. Replacing engine gaskets is one of the more expensive maintenance jobs besides replacing the entire engine itself. However, most engine gaskets last for years at a time under normal driving conditions. Faulty oil filter If you changed your own oil or just happened to get a bad oil filter, it could be the cause of your car leaking oil when it’s parked. Oil filters can leak if they have a puncture or don’t seal well against the engine block. Most of the time, you’ll be able to visually identify if your oil filter is the source of the leak. Oil will drip down the sides and may cover the filter as well as any engine parts surrounding it. If your oil filter is the cause, you’ll need to replace it and potentially the oil at the same time. Damaged oil pan Replacing the oil in your car is the least of your worries if you have a damaged oil pan. The most obvious fix is to replace the damaged oil pan with a new one, which means having to replace any gaskets and the oil that sits within them. Oil pans get damaged in many ways. If you drove over something in the road and it struck the oil pan, causing it to leak, chances are the debris likely punctured the pan. Oil pans can also be damaged if you go over a bump and the suspension doesn’t lift the car’s body above it in time. Offroading and landing on your oil pan after jumping your vehicle can also cause it to become damaged. Cracked or worn-out engine block Engine blocks are a giant hunk of metal filled with oil, and when they puncture or rupture, oil is bound to leak out. You can typically visually inspect your engine block to look for oil leaks, but sometimes they might be hidden beneath other components. If your engine block is worn-out or cracked, there’s typically no better replacement than a new block. Replacing the engine block can be one of the most expensive repairs on a vehicle, but engines can last upwards of 150,000-200,000 miles or more with proper care. Before you fork over thousands of dollars to replace your engine block, it can be worthwhile to track down why the block failed in the first place. Excessive use is one thing, but if there’s another cause for concern, you could be saving yourself the cost of an additional engine if you pinpoint it before installing the new engine. Loose or damaged oil drain plug Forget to turn the sink off all the way and you could be faced with a steep water bill from that excessive dripping. The same concept applies to oil drain plugs that aren’t tightened properly or have sustained damage. Chances are your car’s oil pan will sustain damage before the oil drain plug, but anything is possible driving down the road. If something hits your vehicle in just the right spot, it could damage the oil drain plug to the point where it doesn’t seal properly. A loose drain plug can happen when you get your oil changed. Checking the tightness of the drain plug can help you determine if it’s loose or not. While there might be some residual oil left on the block near the drain plug location, you shouldn’t see any fresh oil seeping from it. High oil pressure The temperature of your engine causes the oil to expand and contract. With high oil pressure, the compression within the engine can cause various failure points because the pressure rating exceeds the normal range. High oil pressure most often occurs when you fill the engine with too much oil. While reducing the amount of oil within the engine can help reduce the pressure, it’s a good idea to check engine gaskets and seals to ensure there’s no lasting damage. Overfilled oil Overfilling your oil can cause just as many issues as not filling your car up with enough oil. This is why it’s critical to check your car’s oil level routinely, especially if you change your own oil. Be sure that your vehicle is on flat ground when you check the oil and don’t overfill it. In this case, less is more because it’s easier to add oil than it is to pull it back out of your vehicle. Coolant mixing with oil Many fluids help a vehicle drive down the road safely, but mixing them is rarely a good idea. If you find that you have coolant mixing with your oil, it’s time to shut the car off and call for a tow truck. Coolant is the liquid that helps your vehicle’s engine stay at operating temperature throughout your drive. Oil works similarly, but provides more lubrication than it does temperature regulation. However, both liquids shouldn’t ever come into contact with one another. If you find that you have coolant and oil mixing, you likely have a blown head gasket. This is the first cause of a car leaking oil that we discussed. Replacing an engine’s head gasket can be pricey and involve many other procedures, but it’s the only way to fix the issue of coolant and oil mixing. Faulty rings or valve seals Faulty piston rings can quickly cause high oil pressure and force your engine to consume more oil. As the rings fail, oil seeps into the combustion chamber. This is the last place oil should be if you want a working engine. The same concept applies to valve seals. The valves in your car’s engine are meant to regulate the flow of air and fuel for optimal performance. If you introduce oil into the equation, everything goes haywire. If by chance, your engine continues to fire, you’ll want to drive immediately to a mechanic to diagnose the issue. Missing or damaged filler cap Oil can enter and exit your vehicle at multiple points. We often associate the oil pan, drain plug, and filter with removing oil to change it. However, you also have the filler neck and filler cap up top where you pour the new oil into the engine as one of the last steps of any oil change. If your oil filler cap is missing or damaged in some way, it’s not creating the seal necessary to stop oil from leaking out. Without that cap, oil can slosh or seep out at any time. Most dealerships can order replacement filler caps for you at a reasonable price, making this one of the easier fixes if you find your car leaks oil when it’s parked.
Why Is My Car Air Conditioner Making Noise?
When it’s hot and muggy outside, all you want your air conditioning to do is blast cold air in your face. You don’t want to hear your car's air conditioner making noise or malfunctioning. An unidentified noise in a vehicle is almost never a good thing. If you’re asking yourself, “Why is my car air conditioner making noise?” you’re not alone. However, there are many reasons why your car’s air conditioner might make noise. It all depends on the noise it makes and what else is going on with the car. If you’re not sure why your air conditioner is making noise, keep reading to learn more about what the potential cause (and solution) could be. You might find the issue simpler to fix than you thought. 11 Things that could cause the car air conditioner to make noises As you look through the following reasons why your car air conditioner might be making noise, take notes as to what you hear when the air conditioner is on, or what other things may be happening. These are clues that can help you figure out what’s really going on. Loose or damaged fan belts A loose or damaged fan belt can make a terrible noise if you’re running your car’s air conditioner. Most fan belts are supple and soft when they’re new, so they ride easily without much noise. However, when those fan belts wear out or get damaged, they can become the squeaky wheel that needs greasing. If you think you have a loose or damaged fan belt, be sure to turn the car off first. Then, wait until the engine has cooled down to visually and physically inspect the belt. If you see any signs of wear, it’s time for a new fan belt. If you have continued problems with your fan belt, it’s worth taking your vehicle to your mechanic. There could be a separate reason why the fan belt is loosening or sustaining damage that may need a trained eye. Worn-out compressor bearings Bearings help everything go smoothly, but when they wear out, you can definitely tell. If you hear a consistent squealing noise and you’ve already checked your fan belt, it could be the bearings wearing out. Most compressor bearings last about 10 years or so, but premature failure can occur. If this is the case, you should replace the bearings as soon as you can to avoid further damage to the compressor. Blocked or dirty air conditioning condenser Refrigerant makes a whole lot of difference when it comes to delivering cool air through your air conditioning vents. If that refrigerant can’t pass through the condenser efficiently, however, you could have serious problems in addition to a noisy air conditioner. One of the easiest ways to tell if you have an air conditioner condenser that’s blocked or dirty is a lack of cool air. This can be difficult to determine if the temperature outside is particularly hot, but you should eventually feel the temperature drop as the condenser works. If that’s not the case, it’s worth checking out the condenser to see what’s wrong. Pressure and flow can also help you to determine how your air conditioner condenser is operating. Leaks in the air conditioning system A refrigerant leak can easily lead to a hissing noise and loss of coolness in your air conditioner system. If you suspect you have a refrigerant leak, minimize the noise around you to see if you hear a hissing or high-pitched whistling coming from the engine bay. Leaks in the refrigerant will also cause your air conditioner to become less effective. While most refrigerant leaks are caused due to age-related failure, they can also become punctured in certain instances. Check your air conditioning system for other compromised components if you have a refrigerant leak. Debris in the air conditioning system Clogging up the air conditioning system can certainly cause noise. Since the air is moving through the system at potentially high acceleration, any blockages can distort that air and cause noise. If you are getting less airflow from one vent versus another, it could be because there’s debris in that one area. If you live out in the country or haven’t driven your car lately, you might have a furry critter in your AC system. Sometimes small animals like field mice and rabbits will take up shelter in an abandoned vehicle, specifically in tight spots they can use for warmth. Debris in your air conditioner system can also cause a smell depending on how long the debris has been there and what type of debris it is. If you notice a smell along with a noise when you run your car’s air conditioner, it might be time to take a closer look. Broken or worn-out fan blades If you hear a slight chopping noise when you turn on the air conditioner in your car, it could be that the fan blades are worn out or broken. These blades wear out over time, like every other feature on your vehicle. Replacing broken or worn-out fan blades can be difficult. If you’re not sure how to replace them or don’t feel comfortable, it can be worth the cost of a mechanic visit to get the blades and the squealing sound fixed. Broken or damaged fan clutch You’ll notice as you work the air conditioner in your car that a fan will turn on and off to move cold air through your vehicle. Power is sent to the fan to kick on at certain intervals, which is noticeable by a surge of energy from the engine that makes it run at a slightly higher pitch. However, if the fan fails to kick on because of a broken or damaged clutch, you won’t get the cold air you crave. If the fan can’t operate because of the clutch that gives it power, you won’t get any cold air in the cabin. While you might be able to diagnose a broken or damaged fan clutch, it’s often best just to take your vehicle to the shop. The technicians will have to remove the broken or damaged clutch and install a new one to fix the issue. While you might be able to get away with not fixing the issue for a while, it’s not a good idea to leave it damaged. Malfunctioning compressor A malfunctioning air compressor can mean bad news if you’re trying to cool down. If you hear odd clunking noises or just aren’t sure what’s making noise, it could be time to replace your air conditioner compressor. Air conditioner compressors are responsible for moving cold air through the system into the cabin of the vehicle. The compressor takes the refrigerant and circulates it to create a cooler atmosphere you can appreciate when it’s hot outside. If the compressor isn’t moving cool air through the system, it could be an issue of electrical connection, a broken component, or simply a worn-out compressor. You’ll need to take a closer look at the compressor itself to see what’s really going on. Damaged or worn-out pulleys The air conditioner clutch and pulleys work together to engage the compressor and blast cold air into your vehicle. If the clutch engages but the pulleys don’t, then your compressor won’t ever get the power from the engine that it needs to cool you down. Pulleys act as the coupler between the air conditioner clutch and the compressor. If these pulleys are damaged, they could cause a large clunking or another type of odd noise in the engine bay. The clutch could be trying to engage, but the pulley may not be fully seated to then bring power to the compressor. Clogged air conditioning evaporator Most air conditioner evaporators that make noise will emit a buzzing or squealing sound. This stems from the ice that’s formed on the coils within the unit. Fixing this issue means you’ll need to thaw that ice and remove it from the coils. Thawing the built-up ice can either be done by turning the air conditioning itself off, turning the fan on, or inspecting the air filter. The coils within the air conditioner unit may freeze if there’s a particularly cold day, but they should easily thaw out as the temperature gets warmer. Overcharged or undercharged refrigerant levels Believe it or not, under or overcharging your refrigerant can lead to noises in your car’s air conditioner. It can also make it difficult for the system to work properly since there’s either too much or not enough refrigerant to cool you down. Most undercharged air conditioner units will just blow warm air, but overcharged units can squeal. The abundance of pressure in the system pushes components to their maximum, depending on how overcharged the system is. It’s often best to take your vehicle to a mechanic if you’re having issues with the refrigerant levels. Technicians can adjust the level to comply with the manufacturer’s specifications so your car air conditioner works properly.
What Are Wheel Locks On A Car?
Spend enough time researching aftermarket car parts like wheels and tires and you’re bound to come across wheel locks. “What are wheel locks on a car?” you might ask. These specialized lug nuts can help you prevent thieves from stealing your wheels and can also give your ride an upgraded look. Did you know that lug nuts do more than just prevent theft? They can also potentially earn you an insurance discount as well as give your ride a unique look. Who wouldn’t want to customize their wheels to let everyone know you’re the one behind the wheel? Keep reading to learn more about wheel locks. Once you’re done reading this article, you’ll know whether or not wheel locks are the perfect addition to your favorite set of wheels. What are wheel locks? Wheel locks are lug nuts specifically designed for a unique tool keyed to that particular set. Like regular lug nuts already installed on your vehicle, these custom lug nuts keep your wheel properly aligned on the vehicle as you drive down the road. The catch with wheel locks is that you need to ensure you have the key with you if you ever want to change the tires or wheels. That means you’ll need to hand over your wheel lock at every tire shop visit. How do wheel locks work? Wheel locks work like any other lug nut, except for the fact that you need a special key to remove them. Most wheel locks will come with the key you need to remove them. You can easily store this key in your vehicle’s glove box or set it inside your tool chest in an easily accessible spot. Many other vehicle accessories use specialized tools for installation. For example, you might need a specific Allen key to install roof rack bars on your vehicle. Special tools come in handy for various other automotive parts, including both stock and aftermarket products. Why do you need wheel locks? There are many reasons why you might need wheel locks. Let’s take a closer look at each to learn more about the benefits of installing wheel locks on your vehicle. Theft Prevention Most car owners install wheel locks to prevent theft. Whether it’s the lug nuts themselves, the wheels, or even the tires, wheel locks can help keep your car intact if you’re worried about thieves. In some cases, a thief can have a similar enough wheel lock key that can remove your wheels and tires successfully. However, the idea is that with a specialized set of wheel locks, you can at least slow the thief down enough to call the authorities or scare them away before they make a successful pinch. Protection Believe it or not, wheel locks can actually help protect your wheels. Factory lug nuts are not often the most well-made component on the vehicle, and can actually damage your aftermarket wheels if you’re not careful. With wheel locks that have the proper contact shape, you can easily protect your wheels in more ways than one. Insurance Discount Wheel locks may not necessarily be at the top of the list for insurance companies when it comes to anti-theft devices. However, wheel locks do act as a type of anti-theft device if you consider that the specialized key you need to remove them is no different than the key you need to unlock the door and drive away. If you cover your aftermarket wheels and tires with your insurance policy, wheel locks can help protect your investment. Plus, even if it’s a few dollars off your policy premiums each month, it’s well worth the time and effort to install wheel locks on your car. Durability The durability of the wheel locks you choose will depend on several things, including the material, finish, and quality. Most wheel locks are an alloy of some kind, though the more expensive variants could be made from a single metal. While alloys lack some strength, many wheels are made from alloy metals and they hold up fine under the weight of your vehicle. The quality of the wheel locks you purchase will have probably the biggest impact on how durable they are. Higher quality wheel locks may fetch a higher price, but they should last you for at least five to ten years. Unless you’re taking your wheels on and off every week, you can often get by with a single set of wheel locks. Easy to use Aside from the fact that you need a special wheel lock key to remove wheel locks from your vehicle, wheel locks are no more than fancy lug nuts. They’re often just as easy to use as a regular lug nut set, whether you’re taking the wheel off or putting it back on. Most wheel lock keys come in standard sizes that allow you to attach them to a breaker bar. Once you break the lug nuts loose, you can use the wheel lock key alone to spin them off the rest of the way. The same goes for mounting wheels. Factors to consider when buying wheel locks When purchasing wheel locks, you’ll want to ensure they fit with your vehicle, are made from quality materials, offer reliable security, and are at a price you can afford. You may also want to weigh brand reputation and ease of use before purchasing wheel locks for your vehicle. Compatibility To be as safe as possible when driving down the road, you’ll need to make sure your wheel locks fit securely against the surface of your wheel once they’re tightened down. You may need to purchase a specific seat type to achieve this union. Common wheel lock seat types include flat, mag, conical, spherical, and extended. If you’re not sure which seat type fits with your vehicle, you can look this up in your owner’s manual or ask your local dealership or tire shop. Size Car manufacturers refrain from reinventing the wheel when it comes to lug nut sizes. You can easily look up which lug nut size fits your vehicle, either on the internet or in your owner’s manual. If you’re feeling extra creative, you can take an extra lug nut to the hardware store and find a piece of all-thread that it threads onto. When you measure your lug nut size, you’ll actually be measuring the stud it sits on. These studs are most often SAE sizes, including 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, and 5/8. Jot this size down as you’ll need it when you order your new wheel locks. Material Most wheel locks are made from high-grade aluminum or solid steel. They are durable like most lug nuts, built to withstand the impressive forces that turn your car’s wheel and keep it attached to your vehicle. In addition to a metal body, many aftermarket wheel locks will include a nylon insert that ensures a tighter fit. You can find wheel locks with various kinds of exterior treatments, from anodizing to chrome. Security Wheel locks can provide an element of security, especially if you have expensive wheels and tires installed on your vehicle. As long as someone knows how to change a tire, they can potentially steal your car’s wheels out from under it. That statement isn’t true if you have a set of wheel locks on your vehicle, unless, of course, the thief owns a wheel lock key identical to your own. Price Most wheel locks come as a set, with the number of lug nuts necessary to fit your car’s bolt pattern as well as the key. You can spend as little or as much as you want on a set of wheel locks, depending on quality, color, performance, and customizability. For example, most basic wheel lock kits cost around $30-$50. However, you can easily spend over $100 or more if you want to up the ante. Custom colors and configurations will only increase how much you spend on wheel locks. Ease of use Standard lug nuts require a specific size socket, breaker bar, and some elbow grease to remove. However, sometimes finding the right socket size can be a pain, especially if you have to walk back and forth from your wheel to your toolbox. Wheel locks offer ease of use because you know exactly which socket to use to remove them. Having this tool handy and ready to go can help you save time if you need to remove and replace your wheel locks. Brand Reputation If you’re looking for the best wheel locks on the market, McGard is often a popular brand that has a stellar reputation. This company is actually often referenced as the first to produce wheel locks as we know them today. McGard wheel locks are often customizable and well-made. You can purchase them in several finishes of various colors. While McGard wheel locks are one of the more expensive variants on the market, they do carry a reputation unmatched by many other inferior brands.