Ford can now 3D-print custom wheel locks—but is it worth it?

The question of whether to use wheel locks is a polarizing one. Some owners swear by them as a means of protecting their automobile’s wheels, while others focus on how easily the locks can be defeated. (In case you’re wondering, I fall into the second category.) Ford, however, spotted a third option—utilizing 3D-printing technology to create custom wheel locks.

That’s right. Ford has harnessed the seemingly unending potential of 3D printing—which Porsche is even using to keep old cars on the road—to create a security device which can be defeated by hammering a socket over the outside rim. Make no mistake though, these are different in important ways from any off-the-local-parts-store-shelf wheel locks.

Ford creates the shape of the security lock by using the audio file of the owner’s voice, making no two locks the same. Engineers record the owner saying a phrase, then convert that recording to a singular soundwave, which provides the profile of the security lock’s indentation. One could also request a famous shape, like a racetrack, though we don’t recommend attempting to fit the Nürburgring Nordschleife on a lug nut.

Of course the giant catch with these fancy lugs is the same feature that makes them so interesting—each one is unique. Ask any mechanic who works in a tire shop and they will give you a mean glare when you bring up wheel locks. Owners often lose the keys, and shops are saddled with purchasing universal adapters to remove the most common security lug nuts themselves. These new versions from Ford, though, will likely cost shops some serious labor time, should the key to the oh-so-custom locks be lost or damaged. Ford even varied the depth on the key so a wax cast could not be made. An admirable safety measure, indeed, but a nightmare for mechanics trying to duplicate a lost key.

I am all for custom touches and utilizing the latest technology, but this might be the line for me. Do you agree, or is this a truly unique item that you will be adding to your next Blue Oval purchase? Tell us in the comments below.

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