How to remove a stripped lug nut. If you drive a conventional car, it will probably have five lug nuts (or bolts) at each wheel (some models only have four). We will discuss in this piece how to remove a stripped lug nut. Some of the techniques discussed here can work for lug bolts as well.
Conventional Lug Nuts vs. Lug Bolts
We’re going to focus on problems with conventional lug nuts screwed onto wheel studs. However, several brands of European cars use lug bolts that screw into the wheel hub. BMW, Audi, and Volkswagen are examples.
These twenty fasteners could be the most important ones in your entire car. That’s because if five of them are on any wheel break or come off while you’re driving, you will most assuredly have an extremely troubling experience.
Reasons Lug Nuts Won’t Come Off
The following are three common causes for a wheel lug nut refusing to come off. The lug nut or bolt may be:
1. Stripped or Rounded Off
In this case, the use of an impact wrench or wrong size socket while installing a lug nut or bolt has rounded off (stripped) the hex-shape of the fastener. Or maybe it’s seized and your attempts to remove it with a lug wrench or socket have rounded it off.
In either case, the fastener cannot be gripped such that it can be removed.
The lug nuts and studs or bolts are severely rusted. This is common in older cars and cars that have been left unattended and uncovered in outdoor weather for many months. In this condition, the fastener also may be seized and just won’t turn.
How to Remove a Lug Nut That Won’t Come Off
Whether the lug nut is stripped, rounded-off, or seized due to either over-tightening or corrosion, the loosening process will typically be the same except as noted below.
Begin with your car on the ground; not on jack stands or lifted up in any way. Make sure the transmission is set to Park or it’s in gear and firmly set the emergency brake. These steps will keep the wheels from rotating as you attempt to loosen the fasteners.
What You’ll Need
Here is a list of the tool you’ll need to remove a stripped lug nut:
‣ Penetrating Oil (like WD-40 or Kano Aerokroil)
‣ Power drill (cordless or corded, both work)
‣ 5/64″ and 7/64″ drill bits (cobalt bits work best)
‣ Drilling lubricant (i.e. Three-in-One oil)
‣ Safety glasses
‣ 1/2″ drive 6-pt socket (of the correct lug nut size or slightly smaller)
‣ Lug nut extractor set (if needed)
‣ 1/2″ drive breaker bar
‣ Floor jack or 3-ft section of pipe (to slide over breaker bar)
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Step 1: Drill and Add Penetrating Oil
Begin drilling with the smaller drill bit. Wet the tip of the bit with oil. Steady the drill motor with two hands. Drill at a very slow speed. Be careful to not bend the drill bit; this will break it pretty quickly.
Step 2: Use a “Snug” Socket or Lug Nut Extractor
Select a 1/2″ drive 6-point socket that fits snugly on the nut or bolt. A deep socket may be required. A severely rusted fastener may be worn down such that a one-size smaller socket (or smaller SAE equivalent for a metric lug nut; or smaller metric equivalent for an SAE lug nut) can be tapped on with a hammer.
Step 3: Loosen with Breaker Bar
Use a 1/2″ drive breaker bar that’s ideally 18″ to 24″ in length. Install it into the socket so that the handle extends horizontally and is in the position to be lifted upward to loosen the nut (if using a floor jack) or pushed downward (if not using a floor jack).
Step 4: Finish Wheel Removal
To successfully use this tool, you need to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions on their website. Failure to do so can damage the tool, rendering it unusable.
Be aware that this toolkit is not cheap. However, purchasing it may prove less expensive than taking your car to a qualified repair or tire shop for corrective action.
After the successful removal of the stuck lug nut or bolt, you may choose to resell the Lug Ripper on eBay, Craigslist, or the local marketplace to recover much of the cost.
New Lug Nuts, Bolts, and Studs
Following the removal of a seized or rusted lug nut or bolt, you should purchase and install new fasteners for the entire bolt pattern. Replacing just the damaged fastener could result in an out-of-balance condition.
Wheel studs that had seized or rusted lug nuts should be inspected.
‣ First, use a small wire brush first to clean the threads.
‣ Using a bright light, visually examine the threads. They should be clean, smooth, and uniform in appearance.
‣ Run a new lug nut all the way onto the threads. It should spin on and off smoothly and easily by hand.
Any stud that displays damage and/or fails the inspection above should be replaced. If you are in any doubt about a stud’s condition, always replace it.