It’s not uncommon to find a stripped or stuck lug nut when attempting to remove a wheel from the car. However, you must know how to remove a stuck or stripped lug nut or you are in trouble. There are multiple methods you can choose from, depending on the situation you face.
In this guide, we discuss your options to remove the stuck lug nut. We also cover the reasons why the lug nut is stripped and lay out some simple tips to help prevent this problem from occurring in the first place.
How Do Lug Nuts Get Stripped?
1. Corrosion and rust
The wheel’s lug nuts are made from metal. When these are exposed to the elements and moisture, corrosion and rust can occur.
After corrosion sets in, the lug nut threads deform. As the shape changes, it becomes more difficult to take them off.
2. Using Wrong Socket
To remove the lug nut properly, you must have the right size socket. If you don’t, there will be slippage as you try to take it off.
When the socket slips, it leads to further damage. Even if you get it off this time, you are making it more difficult next time. If you use a very old and worn or low-quality socket, it may be worth trying a new high-quality socket instead. This will also prevent further issues in the future.
3. Incorrect Torque
Every lug nut is meant to be tightened to the factory-set specification. You can find this torque measurement in the service manual.
If you tighten the lug nut with the incorrect amount of torque, you can get it stuck. For this reason alone, you don’t want to visit a shady tire shop.
How to Remove a Stuck or Stripped Lug Nut
The most common method is to use an extractor socket and hammer with the help of a breaker bar. A blowtorch can also be helpful. If those methods fail, consider using a handheld grinder with a wrench. There’s also the option to use a screwdriver, hammer and chisel.
Here’re some more details about these options of how to remove a stuck or stripped lug nut:
1. Extractor Socket/Hammer/Breaker Bar
This is the best method that will work probably 99% of the time. Most of the tools you need for this job can be found in your home garage. You will require a breaker bar, penetrating oil, hammer, and a nut extractor socket. Make sure your vehicle is parked on a flat surface. You can use wheel chocks and the emergency brake as further safety precautions.
Soak the rounded lug nut in some penetrating oil. If there’s rust, you want to cover it liberally. You can also use the hammer to break the rust away.
You also want to use a long socket on the stuck lug nut first, then hit it a couple of times with a large hammer, this will loosen the tightness of the cone and it will be much easier to loosen it. However, it may be too stripped to remove completely with a regular socket, but it’s worth a try.
Watch your fingers and rims though! (Learned from experience)
Then after a couple of hits, remove the socket and put on a nut extractor socket that’s sized properly, you can use a hammer to bang on the socket until you get it tight, with a good grip.
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With your breaker bar attached to the socket, apply force to the handle. You want to move it counter-clockwise to take off the stripped nut. If it’s too tight, you want to extend the breaker bar handle with an iron pipe or use a strong impact wrench instead.
These steps are often faster, but not everyone has a blowtorch on hand. If you do, you will also need a wheel spanner or pliers to grab the lug nut while it is hot. Additionally, you don’t want to use any oil with this method. Otherwise, you could create a fire with the heat included.
Take your blowtorch and heat the nut. Do this slowly out of caution. Once it is heated up, let it cool down. Do these steps a couple of times until the nut breaks loose. As it heats, the wheel nut size expands, making it easier to get the nut off. However, this method can damage the paint on your rims, so the other methods are preferred.
Again, you will need to use some penetrating oil with these steps. Remember to let it soak and try to remove some of the rust, if possible.
With your handheld grinder, make edges around the nut. You want to be able to grab onto it with your wrench. Once you can grab it securely, turn it until you get it loose. It can be difficult to reach the lug nuts with a grinder if you have aluminum rims, so in this case, you may want to try the other methods first.
If all else fails, you always have this option. It wouldn’t be the first that we would try, but if you’ve run out of other ideas, it doesn’t hurt to throw everything you have at it.
Along with your screwdriver, hammer and chisel, grab some penetrating oil to make it easier. Apply the oil to the nut and let it sit. You want it to remove the rust and corrosion.
With your chisel, you can push the screwdriver down into the nut. A notch will be made in the surface. Take your screwdriver and wedge it into the notch that was created. Take your hammer and tap the screwdriver, causing it to move counter-clockwise. You will continue these steps until you break the nut loose.
If you don’t have the right tools for this or tried everything above, it may be time to visit a professional mechanic that does this stuff often!
How to Remove Lug Nut When Stud is Stripped
If the lug nut is spinning freely, but you can’t get it off of the stud, you are dealing with a stripped stud instead. This issue can be just as much of a pain to deal with. However, you only need a drill bit that pairs with the same size as the stud.
Drill at a low speed, but apply heavy pressure on the center of the lug nut. Do this until it isn’t attached to the wheel stud any longer.
Just keep in mind that you must replace the wheel stud once you drill through it. Be prepared for the time this takes and the cost before you get started.
How To Avoid Stripped Lug Nuts
It’s far better to avoid getting the lug nuts stuck than to try and get them off. With the proper prevention methods, you won’t have to walk through the above steps again.
For starters, you don’t want to visit a shady tire shop. If the technicians don’t know what they are doing, they will strip the lug nut, leaving you with a problem on your hands. Instead, you should visit a well-known shop that has good reviews. After your lug nuts are reinstalled, you should check them to ensure they can come off. If not, it’s best to take the issue up with the tire shop immediately.
If you decide to work on the wheels yourself, avoid over-torquing the nut. You can find the right specs listed in your service manual. If you don’t have the right tools for the job, you need to either get them or take your car in for professional service instead.
It’s also important to keep the lug nuts clean and free of corrosion. If water and dirt are allowed to sit on the wheels, the nut will corrode. Wash and dry the wheels frequently to avoid this condition.
Can WD-40 Be Used to Remove Stuck Lug Nuts?
There’s a common saying that WD-40 can be applied to anything that’s not moving that should be. With this in mind, WD-40 is a great option when dealing with stuck or stripped lug nuts.
As with any penetrating oil, you can spray the WD-40 directly on the threads and allow it to soak. The longer it sits on, the easier your job will be. This spray is going to help loosen up the nut for easier removal. After you apply the solution, tap on the lug with a hammer. This simple action allows the spray to be pushed around, causing it to further penetrate the area for easier removal.