Stolen Hubcaps: Hey, That's Life in the Big City

Once you've got a full set of hubcaps again, how likely is it that one will be stolen?

There are no hard numbers, according to Officer Don Cox, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department. Police agencies don't spend time and talent tracking such mundane incidents.

While empathizing with car owners who discover missing hubcaps and wheel covers after parking their vehicles on the street or in vast, anonymous parking lots--"It does look awful" to drive around with one wheel naked, he agrees--Cox says a stolen hubcap report "isn't going to generate a lot of concern" in a busy department like the LAPD.

Owners of used hubcap stores--who buy from sellers who rarely have bills of sale for the wheel covers they are peddling (unless the hubcaps were purchased separately from the vehicle)--acknowledge that hubcap theft can be a problem. But they say they take precautions to discourage thieves from selling stolen goods.

"When we buy stuff off the street, we ask for a driver's license and make a Xerox, then write on it what we bought," says Robert Lopez, manager of Van Nuys Hub Caps & Wheels. In case the police call looking for a set of stolen hubcaps, the information can help apprehend the thief, he says.

But Lopez says he's had only two calls from police in the 12 years he's been in business--and the hubcaps they were looking for didn't match anything he had purchased.

Vigilance is the only recourse for most car owners. A number of companies sell locking lug nuts that secure expensive custom wheels, wheel covers and hubcaps, which generally don't have locks. There once were companies that sold cables that threaded through the covers and secured them to the wheel by a lug nut, but the system created problems.

"If a wheel cover came off while you were driving down the freeway, it was still fastened to the wheel and it could do quite a lot of damage banging into the side of the car until you could stop," says Lopez. "I haven't seen any of those cable locks in years."

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