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So you were sitting in traffic the other day when you noticed the chrome-covered pickup truck idling next to you had massive spikes sticking out of its wheels. The thing looked more prepared for a lethal gladiator chariot race than a commute. And you thought, how can that be legal? There’s a surprising reason pickup truck wheel spikes are not as dangerous as they look–and completely legal.

Why do some pickup trucks have spikes on their wheels?

Spiked pickup truck wheels are a stylistic choice. Most pickup truck drivers who install spiked lug nuts or wheel covers are imitating a style popularized by semi-truck big rigs (also called tractor-trailers). But some semi-truck drivers claim there is a reason behind spikes on their wheels.

Aftermarket rims with spiked lug nuts stacked next to a Ford F-150 pickup truck.
Spiked pickup truck lug nuts | CEN Racing

The first spikes to appear on semi-truck wheels were spiked lug nut covers. These were initially advertised to protect lug nuts by flinging dirt and debris away from the wheels. Other aftermarket companies introduced chrome hubcaps that imitated this look by placing spikes at intervals around the wheel cover.

Some semi-truck drivers managed to fit spiked lug nut covers to their personal pickup trucks, and soon, aftermarket companies began offering both spiked lug nut covers and hubcaps targeted at pickup trucks.

I have seen semi-truck drivers comment that they install spiked lug nut covers to remind motorists to keep their distance. They point out that their big trucks have surprisingly big blindspots, so reminding passenger cars to steer clear could save lives. Pickup truck drivers don’t have the same problem, so how can spikes on their wheels be legal?

Are spikes on pickup truck wheels legal?

The only state with a law regulating truck wheel spikes specifically is Hawaii, which states that they can’t be longer than four inches. There is no federal law governing wheel spikes. The only laws that affect them are the more general guidelines for the vehicle’s overall width.

Ford F-450 pickup truck with spiked aftermarket lug nuts on its wheels.
Ford F-450 with spiked lug nuts | CEN Racing

The maximum width allowed on most roads is 8.5 feet. Obviously, if you must transport something bigger than this (such as a mobile home or windmill blade), you can, but you need a pilot vehicle up ahead warning oncoming traffic that there is a “Wide Load” on the road. Theoretically, if you hired someone to warn everyone you are coming, you could build a pickup truck with spikes that make it nine or 10 feet wide. But I don’t want to give anyone any ideas.

There are a few places that specify aftermarket accessories can’t be wider than the widest part of the vehicle was stock. So, how big a wheel spike could you install on your pickup truck there? Since most pickup trucks already have mirrors extending six or seven inches from the side of the vehicle, wheel spikes are legal as long as they are shorter than the mirrors.

Are truck wheel spikes dangerous?

The truth is that pickup truck wheel spikes are usually made of plastic–sometimes aluminum. If you ran into a set, they would probably disintegrate on contact. That doesn’t mean your vehicle would be undamaged.

If you side-swiped a semi-truck or pickup truck on the interstate, its spinning wheels would damage your car. At that speed, the spinning lug nuts might tear a hole in sheet metal. There are multiple photos online of cars with circular crash damage supposedly caused by wheel spikes. But the damage was likely caused by the solid metal lugnuts beneath the spikes.

Next, find out whether it is legal to hang imitation balls from your trailer hitch, or see more illegal truck modifications for yourself in the video below: