No One Is Safe From Wheel Thieves

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It appears America's automotive parts thieves have transitioned from catalytic converters to the lowest hanging fruit yet: your wheels.

Armed with battery powered impact wrenches and getaway cars, these burglars are bringing back the once familiar sight of cars on blocks. Only this time, it's not limited to crumbling urban neighborhoods. Everywhere from quiet residential blocks to fenced in car dealerships is being hit. Stock wheels are expensive, they're easy to steal, and they aren't difficult for the thieves to sell online.

We mentioned last month that a friend of mine had the wheels stolen from his 2011 Subaru WRX, and that the thieves had broken his passenger side window to get at the wheel lock key in the glove box. It happened right around the corner from the Denver Country Club.


But according to what someone from Help Eliminate Car Thefts (HEAT) told the New York Times, wheel locks don't make much of a difference. If the bad guys can't find your key (or have their own or don't feel like looking), they can easily buy a socket with little splines in it that will take the lock right off. You can buy that gadget online, too.

Searches on Google and Reddit suggest that Honda Fits might be popular wheel theft targets. But there really isn't much more of a pattern. Wheels are apparently easy to steal, and a search for wheels on the auto parts page of my local Craigslist led me to believe that distinguishing stolen wheels from legit ones is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

HEAT seems to think that nothing short of putting the boot on all four wheels will curb car wheel theft, but really, who wants to go through that hassle? New York City area law enforcement officials told the Times that security cameras and neighborhood patrols help. A few folks on a Honda Fit forum suggested etching your VIN on the inside of each wheel. That's the best idea we've heard yet. What are your thoughts?


Photo credit: Simon Bratt/Shutterstock