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Frank Gray

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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Franklin Berghoff’s aluminum spare tire was stolen from the rear of his Honda SUV, and two neighbors also saw thefts.

Spare a buck on locking lug nuts to stop tire theft

– Franklin Berghoff walked out of his house the other morning and noticed something missing from the back of his Honda SUV: The spare tire.

He didn’t need that. The spare had an aluminum rim, and it would cost him $500 to replace it, he said, not to mention the tire, but he’s on disability and really can’t afford an expense like that.

Then he looked around his neighborhood. A neighbor with a similar car told Berghoff that his spare had been stolen, too. There was another similar car in the neighborhood that was also missing its spare. That’s three, just on his block.

It upset Berghoff. Whoever took the wheel and tire probably swapped it for a case of beer or a chunk of one drug or another, he said.

“They’re doing the easiest thing they can to get what they want,” Berghoff said. “That’s why they’re thieves. They don’t want to work.”

As he drove around town, Berghoff started to notice that many SUV’s that normally had their spares bolted to their back doors – not just Hondas but other brands – were also missing their spares.

“You don’t start looking around until it happens to you,” Berghoff said.

Berghoff said he did call the police, but they didn’t come to his home. He filed a report over the phone and got the report number. He could use that number when he reported the theft to his insurance company.

But Berghoff didn’t have comprehensive insurance, so the theft wasn’t covered. Even if he did have coverage, there would have been a hefty deductible, and he would have been out of luck.

Finding a replacement spare would be tough, Berghoff said. “Hondas run forever; that’s why you can’t find them in junkyards.”

It all irks Berhoff. “Someone’s making a living off this,” he said.

Berghoff did call some scrap yards. One scrap yard said they needed a police report in order to keep their eye open for a possible stolen wheel. Another, Berghoff said, told him that they have all kinds of stuff coming in all the time, so it would be tough to track down his wheel.

Berghoff accepts that his spare is gone, just like the spares on the other SUVs in the neighborhood and the ones he sees on the road.

In hindsight, Berghoff says he could have gotten some locking lug nuts to secure the spare on his SUV. A set for his spare would have cost only a few dollars.

There are plenty of locking nuts on the market. They’re usually used by people with hyper-expensive rims who don’t want them stolen, an employee of one auto parts store said.

At another store, though, the manager acknowledged that thefts of spares off the back of SUVs aren’t uncommon. The rims are worth money.

The shops each said they sell a few sets of locking lug nuts every week.

It’s probably a good investment, especially if your spare has an aluminum rim.

For now, Berghoff, who says he does a lot of running around taking his daughters to sporting events, doesn’t have a spare.

Get a little electric pump, I suggested, and if he gets a flat, pump the tire up and get to a tire shop fast.

The pumps don’t cost much, about the same as a set of locking lug nuts.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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