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The Real Reason Trucks Have Spikes on Their Wheels

The Real Reason Trucks Have Spikes on Their Wheels

If you live in the United States, you’ve probably noticed the spikes on the wheels of trucks driving down the highway. You may be wondering, “Why do trucks have spikes on their wheels?” Do these ominous metal spikes serve a purpose, or are they merely an aesthetic add-on? Read on to see what the deal is with these sharp adornments.

Road Rants: Spikes on Trucks

What Are Wheel Spikes?

Wheel spikes are pointy decorative coverings or extended wheel lug nuts. Wheel lugs are the bolts that hold your wheels in place on the vehicle hub. These wheel spikes are not to be confused with tire studs, which are small metal studs added to tire thread for aiding in traction, particularly on ice and snow.

Spikes can be made out of plastic or metal, and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs.

Unlike in Mad Max movies where wheel spikes are used for attack and destruction, wheel spikes in the real world have entirely different purposes and are most commonly seen on semi-trucks.

Why Do Trucks Have Spikes on Their Wheels?

According to the website for Maggio Thompson Trial Lawyers in Jackson, Miss., the spikes on truck wheels serve several purposes. Functionally, these spikes are lug nut covers. They help to protect the lug nuts from water, debris, ice, and other particles that could damage or rust them. 

The smooth, pointed design is said to be particularly effective at throwing moisture, dirt, ice, and other road debris out of the lug nut area.

In addition to the protection they provide, these spikes also act as a deterrent to keep other cars from getting too close. Their eye-catching appearance helps to alert drivers of the dangers of getting close to a large truck on the highway, specifically getting too close to the truck’s blind spots.

Truck speeding down highway
Spikes on wheels can help keep lug nuts on the tires safe.

What Is a Blind Spot?

Blindspots can occur in a variety of places in life. When speaking about a blindspot in driving, this alludes to the spots around the vehicle the mirrors in the car can’t see. Staying in the blindspots of any vehicle can be dangerous, but remaining in the blindspots of a semi-truck poses additional risks.

These risks come from the size and weight of semi-trucks and the damage a vehicle of that size can do to a standard passenger vehicle. That’s where spikes on wheel trucks come in.

Do Semi-Trucks Have Blind Spot Mirrors? 

Though semi-trucks are larger and more cumbersome than the standard vehicle, they lack rear-view mirrors. This is due to their size and the fact they carry a large, covered cabin/container on the back of their rig. 

Pro Tip: We uncovered Why Are Trucks Flashing Their Lights at You while on the road.

Truck driver covering lug nuts
Many truck drivers will cover their lug nuts to help stop other drivers from getting too close and into their blind spots.

What Are the 4 Blind Spots of a Semi-Truck? 

Because of the lack of mirrors, semi-trucks have four primary blind spots. These blind spots are directly in front of the truck for 20 feet. They’re behind the semi for 30 feet, on each side of the truck backward and diagonally, and immediately below and before the driver’s window. These blind spots are larger than standard vehicle blind spots, requiring semi-truck drivers to be extra vigilant. 

These blind spots are bigger because semis don’t have rearview mirrors, are taller than normal cars, and are on average 70 feet to 80 feet long. These factors work together to create tough conditions for semi-truck drivers. That’s why truckers use wheel spikes on their trucks.

What Can You Do to Avoid Driving in a Semi Truck’s Blind Spot? 

There are a few tips you can carry with you on the road to avoid driving in a semi truck’s blind spots. These tips include avoiding tailgating by allowing for a 20-foot gap between the truck and your car and always checking that you can see the driver’s face in their side mirror. You should also pass quickly and be sure to give the driver ample space when they’re making wide turns.

Large truck speeding down highway
Be careful when driving to avoid any blind spots a truck may have.

Other Benefits of Wheel Spikes

As we mentioned above, wheel spikes can help other drivers see the truck and to deter other vehicles on the road from getting too close to the truck. This potential benefit cannot be overstated.

Increased noticeability and visibility are huge benefits. Studies have shown that crashes involving semi-trucks and passenger vehicles are more often caused by the passenger vehicle driver. Additionally, these passenger vehicle drivers are much less likely to survive a crash than truck drivers. (Source: National Transportation Library, Driver-Related Factors in Crashes Between Large Trucks and Passenger Vehicles)

They can also serve other purposes. From protecting tires to breaking up bits of debris and dirt, tire spikes can be a great asset for truck drivers.

They also are a popular choice simply for their aesthetic. These noticeable lug nut covers are an easy way for drivers to express themselves and have fun with their vehicles.

Are Spikes on Truck Wheels Dangerous?

Contrary to their intimidating appearance, spikes on truck tires are not usually inherently dangerous. Since these spikes are only inches from the semi-truck wheels, vehicles that come in contact with them would probably have connected with the truck anyway in a crash.

Some people have expressed concern over the potential threat to pedestrians, bicyclists, and other properties that may come in contact with these spikes. The extra protrusion of these spikes may make contact slightly more likely, especially on tight, shared roads. However, we can’t help but wonder how much of a difference that really makes?

Many wheel spikes are around 4-inches long. However, due to many hubcaps and the inset nature of some lug nuts, those 4 inches may only really stick out an inch or two beyond the rim.

Drivers with spikes on their wheels should absolutely be cognizant of any extra inches of width added to their wheels. Especially if they are driving on tight, narrow roads.

Truck driving down shady forest road.
Spikes on truck wheels may look scary, but they aren’t dangerous.

Spikes on truck wheels are extremely popular and are usually entirely legal. However, spikes on wheels need to abide by legal vehicle width limits. They also should ideally be made out of safe plastic or alloy materials that will break upon impact with anything.

Hawaii passed a legislature banning “dangerous wheels,” which can include wheel spikes that extend out passed the wheel’s rim. Washington state also has laws against wheel nuts extending beyond “the body of the vehicle as viewed from directly above” which constitutes a hazard to pedestrians and cyclists. Other states specifically have limits on vehicle widths that adding wheel spikes to your vehicle will violate. This may result in a traffic ticket.

Also, if you’re a trucker looking to add them to your wheels you’ll probably want to check with your company policies first. Some truck companies chose to ban wheel spikes claiming they are distracting and intimidating to other drivers.

Can You Put Spikes on Any Vehicle Wheels?

If you find yourself admiring the look of wheel spikes, you may be wondering if you can put wheel spikes on your own car. The answer is probably yes. Just as wheel spikes are mostly not illegal for semi-trucks, they are also not considered illegal for most personal passenger vehicles so long as they are not dangerous and abide by width limits.

We recommend, however, that you research your state’s particular rules around dangerous wheels and vehicle widths before purchasing.

Pro Tip: Before you start cruising along on a road trip, find out Do RVs Need to Obey Truck Speed Limits?

Spiked Lug Nuts?! You NEED them!

Are Spikes on Truck Wheels Worth It?

Now that we know a bit more about wheel spikes on semi-trucks, it’s time to ask, “Are spikes on truck wheels worth it?” Though each truck driver has their personal preference, the safety benefits of the spikes seem to us to be a good idea.

If these intimidating spikes can help others stay alert on the road, there’s no reason not to choose them. And who knows, by choosing to use these spikes on your own car, you may also encourage others to give you more space on the road. 

Have you ever noticed the spikes on truck wheels before? Tell us in the comments!

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
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Nomad

Wednesday 16th of November 2022

I don't believe that I have a response I don't believe that I will be camping anytime soon not this lifetime anyway I think it's scary I don't want to drink or bath in water with chances I might come out a mutation I'm not going to take the chance of turning into sea urchin with tentacles... Thank you for the offer but it doesn't sound fun

Dave

Friday 28th of October 2022

Personally I think that the spikes are just for aesthetic and intimidation reasons. I have very similar lug nut covers on my motorhome (it's built on an International Truck chassis) and they are not spiked they are rounded or domed if you prefer. They perform all of the functions of the spiked covers except that they aren't so intimidating. In many cases I'm pretty sure that the spikes actually are illegal as they would exceed the maximum width for the truck but I'm also pretty sure this isn't widely enforces as they don't stick out past the mirrors.

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