Picture this: You drive for hours to a destination, and then realize that you left a really important piece of gear back home. It’s so important that your off-road excursion is kaput without it. Has that ever happened to you?
There are numerous ways a 4-wheeling adventure can be thrown off kilter. One cause is a secured object that you can’t get to. It could be because the lock is rusted, you lost the key, or you left the key at home. In any case, you’re up the proverbial creek without a paddle unless you’re able to resolve the matter.
Your vehicle and gear spend the majority of the time in an urban setting where theft is common. We’re so used to seeing the locking mechanisms on our vehicles and gear, we sometimes fail to account for them as we plan for the off-road trip. But then we go off road for miles and need whatever it is that’s locked down. That is when we realize there’s one thing we forgot about – the key.
As part of your preparation, make sure you review all the items that use a lock. You may find it helpful to list them on your prep checklist.
Some items typically locked down include:
- Rims (with special wheel lug lock)
- Gas cans
- Hi-Lift jack
- Shovel and ax
- Vehicle hood
- Trailer hitch
Avoid getting locked out
- Some simple steps you can take to prevent a lockout from ruining your four wheeling experience:
- Cut extra copy(ies) of your keys. Hide them somewhere in your vehicle. Sometimes one key as backup is not enough. If you have more than one off-road vehicle and switch gear between them, one day you will leave the backup key in the wrong vehicle!
- Remove all locks when you hit the trail head or better yet at home just before leaving. At home you have access to tools or professionals to cut off a lock. Of course if the lock is integral to the device (like a lug nut), you can’t remove it.
- Inspect and test all locks at least every few months. If any are rusty, clean and oil them. The regular use of the lock keeps it freed up. Replace any that are questionable or being difficult.
Oil the locks. A drop or two of 10w30 (or similar) in the mechanism is sufficient.
- Use combination locks if possible. You’ll never have to worry about losing a key. But of course they can become rusted and gummed up just like any other lock. Test them frequently as well.
Use BOLT brand locking mechanisms http://www.boltlock.com. Designed for a variety of accessories, they operate off your ignition key which has a high probability of being with you. Insert and turn the key, and the BOLT technology remembers your unique ignition key. These sturdy locking mechanisms are designed for Ford, GM and Chrysler vehicles. They are available for Toyota vehicles now but mostly for later models. Check the application chart before you buy one. BOLT also has cable locks and trailer hitch locks that can retain the imprint of your ignition key. They are a bit pricy.
- Recently, I am seeing vehicles with rims where every lug nut is fully embedded and surrounded by a narrow opening in the rim. The lug nuts are smaller in diameter than the standard ones we are familiar with and are splined on the outside. A long deep socket-like key is needed to take all the lug nuts off. Security is achieved both by the splined lug nuts and the fact that there is no space to even insert a standard lug wrench or socket.
Carry a second lug nut key. This applies if you have placed one of the special wheel lock lug nuts on your rims or you have the special rim with splined lug nut system.
Last Resort Plan
Despite your best efforts above, Murphy’s law is in full effect. You or someone traveling with you will find yourself out of gas miles from anywhere and that 5 gallon can is not coming unlocked from the vehicle. Substitute gas can (in the statement above) with any of the other items locked on your vehicle. Any of which your salvations depends on removing a frozen lock. It is time to resort to your “deep” backup plan.
And that plan is to cut off the lock!
- Pack a bolt cutter to get past the cable or other part of the locking mechanism.
- Another option is a Sawzall and an inverter. Make sure the inverter has enough wattage to run the Sawzall. The added benefit of carrying a Sawzall is all the other uses. It makes quick work of a bent tail pipe. With the right blade you can cut firewood too!
- Carry some welding capability. This might consist of a few rods and jumper cables if you are going to use batteries. Or install a Premier onboard welder http://www.premierpowerwelder.com. With the welder you can burn through a lock or cable. You can possibly weld a bold onto the end of a wheel nut lock and use standard tools on the bolt to remove the lug nut. If you have the new small diameter rim openings and splined lug nuts, you need to carry a full set of new lug nuts. Once you have welded a bolt to each one and destroyed it, you need new ones to put the spare tire on.
- If you have an on board compressor and tank, carry a 3” cut off tool. It might be slow going as the compressor tries to keep up with you, but you have a chance of cutting the lock off. A battery powered cut off tool is another option.
Don’t get locked out of your next off-road experience. Take a few moments now to review all your locking mechanisms. Make sure all work properly, and also make sure you’ll have any keys with you the next time you go four wheeling. Stock up on your “deep” backup plan!