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How to Remove a Seized Lug Nut in 3 Easy Steps

Rusty lug nuts. Rust is the primary reason a lug nut won't spin.

A seized lug nut can turn the simple task of changing a tire into a frustrating experience. It doesn’t have to be that way — there are a number of tricks on how to loosen a nut that just won’t budge, so you can get the job done and get back on the road. Let’s look at the basic steps you should go through when dealing with a stuck lug nut.

1. Soak ItRusty wheel

Most of the time, a seized lug nut won’t lighten its grip due to corrosion, which happens when water, road salt and oxygen mix where the threads meet. It can also occur at the base of the nut, cementing it in place.

The least labor-intensive way to break a rusty lug nut free is by soaking it in a product like WD-40, PB Blaster or some other oil-based lubricant. Spray it at the base of the nut and wait, as long as you can, for the oil to work its way through the threads and between the nut and the metal of your hub. If you can, try leaving it overnight.

2. Choose the Right Socket

If your socket isn’t tight enough, it won’t be able to properly grip and turn the seized lug nut. In fact, a loose socket is more likely to spin around the nut and round off its edges, creating a second problem for you to deal with. Ensure that the socket you are using is the right size, and that it’s on as tight as possible before applying torque.

3. Mechanical Advantage

You can increase the amount of torque by lengthening the arm of the driver used to spin the socket. Use as long of a driver handle as you can, and then fit a piece of hollow piping over the handle to further extend the arc. This can add two to three times as much torque to that initial turning action, which is often what is needed to break the lug nut loose. You can also hammer it, or jump down on the bar (as long as it’s tightly secured), to add extra turning force.

Avoid Power Tools

While it might be tempting to use an impact wrench to remove a seized lug nut, it’s not the best idea. More often than not, an impact driver will simply round off the nut rather than break it free if it’s really stuck. The above steps — combined with patience and time — are the best options for easy lug nut removal.

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

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.


Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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