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How to Remove a Rounded Lug Nut

Lug nuts on a wheel.

Lug Nut RemovalOne of the most frustrating things while working on a car is coming across a rounded lug nut. Maybe someone used a standard socket on a metric nut, or maybe someone went overboard with an impact gun. Either way the lug nut is now rounded off and you can’t remove your wheel. Knowing how to remove a rounded lug nut is essential when you’re working on a car. It might not be the most technical part of the job, but it’s something you’re bound to run into at some point, so let’s talk about how to remove a rounded lug nut.

Socket and Hammer Method 

We find this works in most situations where you have to deal with a rounded lug nut. All you need is lubricating oil, a nut and bolt extractor set, a hammer, a breaker bar and a 1-inch diameter piece of iron pipe. That and some muscle should do the trick.

1. Apply Oil

Loosen up the lug nut by applying liberal amounts of penetrating oil to the base. If it’s rusty, then this step is especially important. Even if the lug nut looks okay, applying oil will allow it to spin more freely and make the process easier.

2. Pick a Socket

You want a tight fit here, so pick the smallest possible size that will fit around the lug nut. If the socket slides off and on easily, then it’s too big. You’re aiming for one that’s a bit smaller than the lug nut you’re trying to remove. If you have to use a hammer to get it to slide into place, then you’re on the right track.

3. Be Gentle with the Hammer

The socket should require a few taps with a hammer to get it into place, but take it easy. You don’t want to smack away at the thing like you’re forging Thor’s hammer. All you need to do is get the socket firmly secured over the lug nut.

4. Use the Breaker Bar

Once the socket is firmly in place, attach the breaker bar. You can also slide an iron pipe over the handle to give yourself extra leverage, but you might not need one. If you’re strong enough, then you may be able to break the lug nut free just by pushing down on the breaker bar counterclockwise. Otherwise, a few good whacks with a hammer should break the nut free.

If That Fails …

There are alternative methods you can use if the socket and hammer method doesn’t work. You could also use a chisel and hammer to remove rust and loosen the nut. A grinder and a wrench can also be used, or you could even use a blowtorch to warm it up so it expands and you can get a better fit for the socket. If you have room you can use a nut splitter to break the lug nut apart. Just be careful not to damage the wheel stud or else you will need to replace it.

A rounded lug nut is an annoyance, but a little time and elbow grease will get it free quickly so you can finish the job at hand. You can also head to your local NAPA Auto Care and let our experts handle the job for you. If the lug nut is just too far gone or hard to reach due to wheel design, it may make sense to outsource the job.

Check out all the lug nut products available on NAPAonline, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA Auto Care locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information about how to remove a rounded lug nut, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.

Photo courtesy Flickr.

Nicole Wakelin View All

Nicole Wakelin covers the automotive industry as a freelance journalist for a variety of outlets. Her work includes news pieces, podcasts, radio, written reviews, and video reviews. She can be found in The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, US News and World Report, and AAA along with lifestyle blogs like Be Car Chic, The Other PTA, and She Buys Cars. She is active on social media with a large following on both Twitter and Instagram and currently serves as Vice President of the New England Motor Press Association.

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