September 18, 2016
Many of the chores we use our trucks for involves working with toys, trailers, gear, and paraphernalia that we want to stay until we decide it’s time for removal. This means securing things, as unattended and unlocked stuff sometimes disappears, while secured items are removed with much less frequency. Locking is an obvious solution, but it’s doubtful many enjoy adding extra keys to their ring and pocket clutter.
Occasionally products are introduced that help organize, improve, and simplify the gearhead experience. This was the case when I discovered and started using BOLT’s locks earlier this year (five years after their introduction). With the advent and popularity of automotive FOBs and keyless entry, traditional keys are increasingly less common for starting trucks. However, we still need them for many things, and the old-fashioned key is not leaving our world anytime soon. The primary test vehicle for BOLT’s products was a 2014 Ram Cummins 2500, but they make locks for several brands.
BOLT is a subsidiary of STRATTEC® Security Corporation, who has been making automotive locks, keys, and access-control products for OEMs for over 100 years. BOLT is an acronym for Breakthrough One-key Lock Technology. They have received numerous awards for their technology that mechanically reads, then sets the code to your OE ignition/door key the first time it’s inserted and turned. Brilliant. There is a detailed, short video on BOLT’s website that shows exactly how they do it: boltlock.com/how-it-works
Before discovering this alternative, a mishmash of systems were on my Ram. I was using four padlocks on my Hallmark camper, two on the front turnbuckles, and two for the AT Overland fuel can carriers on the back wall. The front and rear hitch receivers were both secured, and another padlock and cable held the heavy, portable, and expensive ARB suitcase compressor I carry behind the driver’s seat (to eliminate a potential projectile during a collision and to prevent theft). Discovering I could use one key for all these items sold me!
BOLT products in-use on my Ram include: two 5/8-inch receiver pins, one travel trailer coupler pin, a cable for my spare tire, and several 2-inch padlocks. What a time saver, convenience, and pleasure when working on my truck and needing to open something; I just reach into my pocket for the factory key I always have. I liked this system so much I ordered a few for my Toyota 4Runner, which also pulls trailers, has a gas can carrier, and other things that need securing.
The padlocks are weatherproof, have a plate tumbler sidebar to prevent picking and bumping, and a stainless steel key shutter to keep out dirt and moisture. The hitch and cable locks also have a tethered cap to protect the mechanisms further.
During a 2000-mile, two-week road trip in June, including 100 miles of off-pavement travel, we camped on dirt every night, and had windy and gritty southwest canyon conditions for several days. Then mountain puddles deposited a layer of mud, all of which took hours to remove once home. The locks continue to work perfectly.
It is important to note that these don’t just use an automotive key. They exude quality, are smooth and precise, and have a limited lifetime warranty. The BOLT products are not inexpensive, the 2-inch padlock retails for $22. However, most truckers probably don’t want as many locks as me, and can spend less money. For about $100 you can lock your hitch receiver, trailer ball, and spare tire.
© 2016 James Langan/RoadTraveler.net
A version of this article was also published in the Turbo Diesel Register magazine.
Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler.net