Thursday, February 6, 2014

Help! My Tire Lug Nuts are Stuck and Won’t Come Off

Trying to change a tire but can’t seem to remove a stubborn lug nut?

I think nearly every driver has found themselves in this situation at some point in time. Perhaps you run over a nail or screw that results in a flat tire. You pull over to the side of the road to change it, but for some reason a lug nut won’t come off. The bottom line is that you can’t change a tire when the original lug nut is stick, so how are you supposed to remove it?

Changing a tire: photo by Alicia Nijdam-Jones.

Why Some Lug Nuts Become Stuck

No, it’s not because the auto mechanic or body shop used a high-powered air impact wrench to secure them. Nine out of ten times, stubborn lug nuts are the direct result of built-up corrosion. All of the dust, dirt, brake dust, metal fragments and moisture create the perfect environment for corrosion. Over time, rust will gradually build up around the lug nuts, essentially locking them in place.

Put Some Elbow Grease Into It

You should first attempt to remove the stubborn lug nut with your strength and body weight. Assuming you have a standard tire iron, place it on the lug nut and gently jump on top of it (going in the direction to loosen it, of course).

Note: this method will really only work for minor cases of rust and corrosion. If there’s too much built up around the lug nuts, using this method isn’t going to help. You can jump on a tire iron all day long, but unfortunately it’s not going to break severe patches of rust.

Car tires: photo by Pistols Drawn.


In cases where your own strength and body weight isn’t enough, you may have to think outside the box to remove stubborn lug nuts.

One technique that’s helped a countless number of drivers remove stubborn lug nuts involves vibration. When done correctly, the vibrations will break up corrosion so the lug nut(s) are free to move around; thus, allowing you to remove it with a tire iron.

So, how should you create vibrations on your tire? The easiest and safest way is to hit the side tire wall with a rubber mallet. This is a versatile tool that every driver should keep in his or her car, and loosening a stubborn lug nut is just one of its many uses. Continue hitting the tire sidewall for 3-5 minutes before attempting to remove the lug nut with a tire iron.


Applying heat to a stubborn lug nut can also loosen the corrosion. It’s recommended that you only use this technique as a last resort, as heat and automobiles are a dangerous combination. However, mechanics are auto enthusiasts who are comfortable working on vehicles may loosen stubborn lug nuts just enough to remove them by applying heat with a propane torch.