This is an unbiased product review and evaluation, not an advertisement. This information is offered gratuitously as a service to my fellow Airstream trailer owners to help them select an anti-theft device to help protect their trailers from thieves. I am not an employee nor do I have any financial interest in any companies manufacturing or marketing these devices. I own a vintage 1968 AIRSTREAM CARAVEL
that is very valuable and dear to me and I needed to find the best way to secure it against theft. Before buying something quickly I decided to research the subject thoroughly because a quick decision could be disastrous.
There are two ways to try to secure a trailer. You can put a locking device on the hitch itself or you can put one on one of the wheels to keep it from turning. The problem with any locking device is that nothing is absolutely foolproof and a determined thief if given the time and opportunity will defeat it. The trick is to make it difficult and time-consuming to defeat the locking device.
A lock on the hitch does not offer much protection because the cheaper ones can be quickly removed with a sledge hammer and cold chisel. A good one will deter the amateurs and slow down the others. Often thieves simply use your safety chains to attach it to, their hitch bypassing any locks that may be on the hitch. It was clear to me after a bit of research that you need to also immobilize the trailer and the best way is to lock the wheel.
One point regarding hitch locks, and I think it is a big one, is that thieves back up to the trailer and use your own safety chains to secure it to their hitch without attempting to put the hitch on the ball. They often do not even raise the Jack, as it soon gets knocked over going down the road until they can get to a safe location.
The are a number of wheel locks on the market but the weak point is that wheels can be removed and replaced. The trailer is gone. Some locks also secure the lug nuts that attach the wheel to the axle. The only way to defeat this would be to jack both wheels off the ground and lower them on a dolly; a method that would eliminate most theft attempts. This arrangement made a lot of sense to me so this is the way I decided to go. It also made the decision somewhat easier because I could only find five different devices on the market that met the criteria I set.
It is important to note that when installing any wheel locking device on a dual or three wheel trailer the lock MUST be on the rear-most wheel.
The three devices I physically examined are:
BRAHMA WHEEL LOCK
I also did some research on these devices but did not actually inspect them:
I am sure all five devices would slow a thief down and offer some level of protection but, of course, security comes in various degrees. However here are my conclusions and what I learned about each one.
The WHEEL CLUB ($58 from eTrailer) did not effectively cover the lug nuts on my wheel. I was able to get a wrench on the nuts and could have presumably removed the wheel. I also felt that a sledge hammer, cold chisel or Sawzall would remove the device completely in a short period of time.
The TRIMAX ($133 on eBay, up to $200 elsewhere) and the number of cheap clones costing as low as $44 shipped that looks somewhat like the "Denver Boot". It did cover my wheel sufficiently to make removal difficult. The TRIMAX has two locking adjustments; one closes and opens the jaws on the wheel and the other adjusts the wheel cover. The clones do not have this second locking adjustment. TRIMAX uses a tubular lock similar to the ACE locks used on vending machines. They are challenging to pick but not impossible especially for a professional. I thought that it could be removed pretty easily using a cold chisel or an impact dent puller especially the wheel cover.
The UNIVERSAL BOOT is produced by a Canadian company located in Montreal. Their product looks very similar to the TRIMAX. Their ULTIMATE ANTI-THEFT WHEEL BOOT costs $580 without a lock and ranges up to $700 with several locking options. They also offer a "Fat Boy" version for wider wheels. I did not actually examine these products but it certainly looks robust and heavy. UNIVERSAL BOOT sells a lower priced model starting at $289 but it did not look as intimidating and solid as the higher-priced models.
Another Canadian product that appears very intimidating to the potential thief is the CALIFORNIA IMMOBILIZER. It looks like a cage that surrounds the wheel and effectively covers the lug nots. It looks solid and robust but in speaking with their representative on the phone I quickly determined it would not fit on my AIRSTREAM CARAVEL
because my wheel does not have sufficient body clearance. The only downside I noticed is that it is heavy, bulky and does not appear to be stored easily when not on the wheel. I cannot comment on the locking device because I did not actually examine one.
In conducting my research of the five devices I found a third Canadian product, the BRAHMA WHEEL LOCK, that offers me the protection I need. Designer John Clarke and his company, Classic Industrial Design, of Burnaby BC, offer a solid, well-made wheel lock that impressed me as very difficult to remove device at a reasonable cost ($220 plus shipping).
Well designed, heavy (35 pounds) but lies flat for storage. Tubular, (ACE-style) lock but redesigned for higher security. Keys are copy-protected and numbered. Company keeps two spare keys on hand in case you lose the four that are supplied with the lock. Even though some wheel-to-body clearances are tight (2-1/4") on my 17' AIRSTREAM CARAVEL
I was able to confer with John Clarke, the designer, as to whether or not it would fit. After sending dimensions and drawings he was able to determine it would.
Here is why I chose to entrust my Airstream to the BRAHMA Wheel Lock:
It was intelligently and sensibly designed. The mechanism that controls folding arms prevents them from being removed from the body of the lock although they can be turned so it can lie flat when not in use. The internal lock is faces downward to make tampering or picking attempts much more difficult. This also keeps rain water, Canadian-style winter slush and corrosive ice melting chemicals out of the lock mechanism. I find this feature really ingenious. Designer John Clarke even provides three very good reasons for storing the BRAHMA with the lock in the LOCKED position.
The BRAHMA wheel lock is robust and heavy-duty. It cannot be removed by deflating the tire. Any attempt to cut through it using a hack saw or Sawzall would take a long time and make a fair amount of noise; two things thieves don't want. The deep dish steel rim wheel cover fits snugly and is fully adjustable with eight different settings. For those with alloy or other wheels where the rim is flush with the tire there is an optional cover available for $20 additional.
There is a learning curve to the installation and removal routine. However once you have done it a few times you will get used to it and it will become second nature.
Regular maintenance consists of lubricating the moving parts with SAE 30 oil so everything will operate smoothly. The BRAHMA is bright red so potential thieves will see it and be deterred. They will most likely look for another target and leave your trailer alone.
The selling price is reasonable for a device of this quality. It is sold direct by Classic Industrial Design for $230.00 plus shipping the cost of which is depending on how far you are located from Kent WA which is the US shipping point. I live on the East Coast and paid $45.00 for FedEx Ground shipping which took a week.
John Clarke told me the only trailer using a BRAHMA Wheel Lock that was ever known to be stolen had the device on the front wheel on a tandem axle despite their warnings against doing this. The thieves jacked it up and away it went.
The one negative point is very small and almost not worth mentioning. The assembly manual is well written but the photos are not very clear. Fortunately the document is available in their web site with clear colour photos so it isn't really an issue.
My final comment is that for well under $300 delivered I have peace of mind knowing my AIRSTREAM CARAVEL is as secure from theft as I can make it without building a special garage in which to store it. When I travel it is as secure as it is parked at my house.
See you down the road.......
BRAHMA TRAILER WHEEL LOCK
Designed by John Clarke
Made by Classic Industrial Design Ltd.
7491 Aubrey St., Burnaby, B.C.
Canada V5A 1K6
Toll Free: 1-866-981-7655
Web site: http://brahmalock.com/
Copyright 2017 Michael Crestohl