Trailer theft in these parts is rampant and once it leaves your yard... it's history.  I had a very nice trailer stolen two years ago.  It was an extremely well built tilt trailer that a close friend (now deceased) helped me build.   I hated to lose it for two reasons..  it was a hell of a trailer and it was built by the friend... neither could be replaced.   I hope to prevent the replacements from finding another home. 


In my opinion, thieves are in the same catagory as drug dealers and child molesters.  They as a group are either too stupid or too lazy to work for a living and buy what they, they take it from others who have scrimped and saved enough extra grocery money or sold something they really wanted to keep to buy something else they really wanted.  When apprehended they should be hung from that big oak tree outside the courthouse, flayed and left for the crows with a large light on them at night and a sign that proclaims.. "this is what we do to thieves in our town, county, state, neighborhood." And, that's for first offenders !!!!!


Liability & Theft

Insurance and Insurance providers

You should have insurance on your trailer for two reasons.   Liability.  You're cruising down the road with a load of mulch in your trailer and you slow up for a traffic light and you see your trailer pass you on the left side... whether the hitch failed or the safety chains failed... whatever... it's still your trailer as it stops buried in the radiator of the car in the other lane.  Liability.    Another reason is the reason for this article.  Theft.   You'd hope that your insurance will cover replacement should your roving thugs disappeared with your hauler.  In an ideal world that would happen... In the world we live in right now... not so much.  Realistically, plan on a prorated, depreciated value being placed on the trailer by an adjuster who has never seen even a picture of yours and gets his estimate from a trailer dealer .   In my case, I still had the original plans and presented the plans with a cost of material to rebuild the trailer... it totaled 2400.00... just to buy the material... no labor.  The insurance adjuster offered me 800.00 for the trailer since it was 10 years old and had "depreciated".  My argument about new deck wood and new tires or the tool box and several hundred bucks in tools, jacks and straps (a 7-800.00 investment) made no difference to him... 800 bucks, take it or leave it.   They did offer to sell it back to me if it was found... for 800 bucks.  But, I still bought insurance on both trailers... insured for the purchase price and it cost me 8.00 and 12.00 every 6 months.   The coverage is a little complicated with the who covers what... if another person's property is damaged, it's covered... if your load is damaged it depends on what it is... either your homeowners or your car insurance will cover it...   legalese and smoke and mirrors.   Hey, you're no cheapskate... buy the insurance... it beats being sued and it's better than nothing if it's stolen.


If your trailer is stolen you'll want to make out a police report... hopefully including tag # and pictures of the trailer.  (BTW, buy a tag.. the police frown on trailers with no tag, at least in Alabama.) The insurance company likes the police reports and most require it, but don't think the insurance company is your friend in this.   Back to the police...  they will dutifully take the report information, hand you a business card and tell you they will be in touch if they find something.  When I asked about the possibility of finding it, the officer just smiled and said probably not... it's gone... we recover very few trailers and we get dozens of stolen trailers a year.. And, in the police's defense... they have bigger fish to fry.. as bad as I wanted my trailer back... I rather them be catching bad guys robbing, killing and doping our kids.   Mine has been gone for over a year and I still look for it on the road and every Home depot I visit.  I still want my trailer back and will probably recover it myself if I find it... with force if necessary.  I can prove it is mine in a parking lot. That brings up another good point..



Using a rough estimate (totally non scientific, it's a CWAG) there are approximately 36 million faded black utility trailers in the U.S. and probably 15 less than that in the in the car hauler catagory.  Can  you positivily identify your trailer ??  sitting in a Walmart parking lot ???  Well, it's black and the paint is dull and the boards need replacing... that sorta looks like mine.   So do 36 million others.  Your trailer probably has a vin number somewhere on it on a tag or a easy is that to remove ?  Mark your trailer in a hidden place (that you will remember) with your SS# or your DL #  or the Vin #.  A stamped plate riveted or bolted to the frame.  Your name written with a welder on the frame rail, etc  Both of mine have detailed identification that says the trailer is mine with proof and I'm the only one that knows where it is.  It doesn't hurt to have some way to identify it externally.. a permanent modification that's easily recognized.   It's as easy as a extra tie down loop in an odd place that would go unnoticed by most but you'll spot it in a heart beat... it helps in Home Depot's parking lot.  It might be a different color now or the tool boxes might have been removed but if you have something special that distinguishes it as yours it's much easier to identify.   I can recognize one of mine by the way the spare tire is mounted.  Like I said...paint colors change quickly but usually the permanent modifications will remain. 


I have two trailers... one is a 6x14 utility trailer with a ramp gate and the other is a 18' dovetailed car hauler.  There is really no way to hide them successfully since I live on a corner lot with exposure on two sides.... so securing them is the best option.    I've installed hitch locks on both but still wasn't totally happy with the security.  I keep the safety chains wrapped tight and secured with the hitch lock.   I also have a padlock through the hitch latch... more for the thugs to go through to get it.

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Look around on the internet about trailer theft... there are too many stories about enterprising young thugs using the safety chains or cable or even rope to tie the trailer to their vehicle and just driving off with that Master Brand hitch lock still in place to be removed later at a secluded location

Then I tried the retail version of the wheel lock but didn't like the access to the lock shackle.  Battery operated grinders/saws can be used here or they can just remove the lugnuts, take off your wheel and put one of theirs on... or with a two axle trailer, just drive it away with three wheels OR use your own spare as the driveaway wheel !

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The quest continued...   surfing the net I looked a lot of full wheel locks and 'boots' and contraptions... high security stuff but while it did a good job it was way too expensive for me.  So, here's what I came up with... this is a prototype that will be beefed up and prettied up in the next generation.


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Basically it's a flat plate cut round and large enough to cover the lug nuts.  It has two arms with tabs on the ends that insert into the wheel spokes and the whole thing twists to the left  to lock the unit in place and line up the hole for the lock bar to come thru the plate..  Make the tabs (C) long enough that they will just barely fit into the wheel slot opening, that way there is less chance that the thug can force it back to the right and remove it...  you'll have to experiment with this length based on your wheel slot opening... another mystery dimension.

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After thinking about it more I think I might add a couple more arms to make it that much harder to remove... maybe one at the 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions in the picture above.  The cover plate is large enough to prevent access to the lug nuts and the center hole is just large enough to clear the hub. I'm considering adding an additional 'rim' around the plate to completely prevent the lugnuts from being accessed... just a strip of metal about 1/2" wide welded to the edge to make it look like a jar lid.   A flat tab extends out the other direction where the locking bar slides thru.  The locking bar is a piece of 1/4" x 1" flat bar that hooks over the axle spring and sticks thru the spokes, thru the flat tab and is drilled to accept a Master Brand  Puck lock seen on lots of enclosed trailers...   When making your locking bar pay attention to obstructions behind the wheel (I have brake drums on both axles so you have to twist the bar around these for access). Also,make sure that the bar will come out perpendicular to the cover plate so the puck lock will fit flush against the plate.  Also, when you cut the locking bar to the proper length... keep it as short as possible so the puck lock holds the cover plate tightly against the lug nuts... the less slack and slop in the fitment, the better the protection.   You want everything snug.  The precision of your fabrication and the tightness of fit give another layer of protection from the thuggery trying to get your trailer.   Now, that being said.. don't build it so tight that it's too much trouble to install... be realistic.


The Puck Lock

this lock is marketed by Master, American, Diversi-Tech and others... it's basically a hunk of steel (round)  with the hasp inset to the back of the lock and is virtually cut/grind/beat proof.  It can be picked as any lock can... but again... time is the thug's enemy.

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There is no way to get a saw on the lock, the shackle in inside the lock body and hidden. I add did add a shim plate on the back that fills in the inset part of the lock.  A half circle of 1/8" plate with the slot cut into it that matches the slot in the back of the lock.  this just allows it to sit flush on the plate and allows even less access for a saw blade or other device from slipping behind the lock.

The locking arms could be cut off the round cover plate and removed but the plate is still over the lugnuts so the locking bar and plate are still secure. If the trailer was wanted by one of the more industrious thugs, he could lay under the trailer and cut the locking bar off the spring.... if he had a saw/grinder... and the time, but I'm hoping most are the average lazy thug that would just drive on by when they saw the locks.  My other intent was to build something that was easy enough to install for me so I wouldn't skip putting it on... you see, I'm your average lazy old man also !

Future generations

As I said before, this is a prototype.  The next generation will be from 1/4" plate (much beefier) much more resistant to bending and beating out of the way.  Usually the thieves are looking for a quick snatch and grab and don't really want to spend a lot of time/noise stealing a trailer.   Besides, they still have to deal with the tongue lock.  Short of removing the wheels completely and tying a pit bull to the trailer tongue... this is about the best I can do with limited resources... total investment was 25 bucks for the lock and a little welding wire...   I had all the metal from other projects. If you have lots of money and little time... google "wheel locks", "tire claws" "wheel boots" and give them your visa number.  I'm not in that position and besides I like making things myself, and where are you gonna keep that lock/claw/boot when you're traveling ???  too big and cumbersome for me.


I purposely didn't give you sizes or any dimensions.  My original attempt was made on a wheel that is similar to the one on my trailer... standard white spoke trailer wheel.. they're all standard, right ???   NOT !!  the holes in my test wheel while looking the same were not shaped exactly like my actual wheels and the locking tabs wouldn't work... then I had to modify the locking tabs to fit the actual wheel in use.  So, because it totally depends on your trailer design, spring size and distance from the wheel, wheel design and spacing of get no numbers  BTW  if you don't have holes in your rims ???  this ain't gonna work, see the google comment above or come up with your design for a 'holeless' wheel lock and write and article for the internet.

If you see some way to improve this I'm open to suggestions... I want to make my trailers more trouble than it's worth to steal, without having to feed a pit bull every day.


Disclaimer and boilerplate  My Trailer Wheel Lock Disclaimer.  


this device is by no means a way to prevent your trailer from EVER being stolen by a highly industrious thug.  IF they want your trailer bad enough...     THEY WILL GET IT.  Even with the pit bull chained to the hitch... that's why they make steak and bullets.  There is NO WAY to completely thwart a determined thief.  Your only advantage is time and noise and nosy neighbors. With an unprotected  trailer it only takes seconds to hitch it up and drive away like you know what you are doing and passerbys or neighbors will think you loaned it out... unless they know you don't loan your trailer... tell them that.   another layer.  With some type of lock it will take the thugs time and noise (attention) to take it... multiple levels of protection increase the time and noise needed.   Usually they don't want either to hinder them...  whether you use this lock or another, do something to hinder them and it's possible that your trailer will remain in your possession.

Boilerplate denial of liability statement…   i.e.  the fine print This device is something I came up with to prevent me from spending too many dollars on a commercial patented device.  It is not patented, engineered or even perfect… it is what it is, a home made contraption.  I’m sure there are alternatives to this design some even better/cheaper/easier, I just didn’t think of them or warrant them necessary... there are several similar units on the internet waiting behind Google for you to see/copy/build/adapt…(just like I did) This work was done by me and for me . I only ask that if you reproduce it give me credit for it and if you make money from it… give me my percentage. Since I have no way of knowing your level of competence, welding or cutting skills, mechanical ability, clotting factor or estimated intelligence, there are no guaranties or warranties either verbal, written or implied with this article. Along with this article I am giving you absolutely free of charge…that’s right !  FREE !!...the liability, total and complete liability for the use or misuse of this contraption will be yours and yours alone. It belongs to you and keep that in mind… I am in no way responsible for any damage, injury or embarrassment you may suffer from the use of this homemade device.  If it doesn’t look like something you’d be comfortable using… don’t build/use it. If you’re not intelligent enough to make that decision about your comfort level… ask a family member or friend.. but here’s a hint… if you have to ask someone… don’t build it ! Pictures were made at different stages of construction and all assemblies in pictures may not be complete in each shot. I.e.. a picture showing ‘some parts’ only means that it was not finished, but I’ve tried to make the idea complete to the best of my ability. If you have questions or see mistakes or problems, let me know by e-mail and I’ll make the corrections if possible..Use these ideas at your own risk. Modify them at your discretion and to suit your purpose. Your mileage may vary, batteries not included, much assembly required... wait one hour after building to enter the water, additional charges may apply. not all applicants will qualify for advertised A.P.R., for ages 10 to adult…side effects are comparable to placebos. Do not take drugs when building or operating machinery.  JUST SAY NO.Copyright . 2012 John Niolon, All International Rights Reserved. This document may not be copied or published without prior written consent of the author-