How to Remove a Locking Lug Nut

by Jody L. Campbell

Locking lug nuts are a popular theft deterrent device that offer a specialized lug nut per tire, that requires an adapter to place on the lug nut for removal and replacement procedures. This device offers a challenge for would-be thieves who are interested in stealing the tires and/or rims from a vehicle. Some people who buy used vehicles may find out the hard way whether they have locking lug nuts or not, and they may discover that the locking lug nut key was never transferred with the purchase of the car.

Inspect all the lug nuts on a vehicle before lifting it. Determine whether there is a locking lug nut. A locking lug nut is conventionally round with a specialized pattern molded into the front center of it. This pattern is matched by a special key that fits over the round lug nut and then offers the same measurement as the remaining lug nuts. In other words, the manufacturer's lug wrench should fit it. The key for the locking lug nut will only fit onto the locking lug nut in one position and seat down into the molded pattern. If a key is available, then the removal of the lug nuts is self-explanatory. However, if the key is not available, you will need to determine whether the locking lug nut came from the manufacturer as original equipment. If this is the case, a new key can be acquired, but this option is not always convenient since most likely it would need to be ordered. If the tire or wheel need to be repaired and time is important, the only other option is to obtain a locking lug nut removal kit. These can be easily purchased from many local auto parts stores or specialty mechanics tool trucks, such as Snap-on, Matco, Cornwell and Mac to name a few.

Determine the style locking lug nut on the vehicle and compare that to the options available in the kit. Most kits offer a variety of sized adapters. Keep in mind that using some of the available adapters may incur significant damage to the locking lug nut and reusing that locking lug nut will most likely not be an option. People who have lost their locking lug nut keys or never knew they had them sometimes opt to remove the locking lug nut and replace them with the same sized lug nuts that are standard on the other lug studs.

Apply the closest sized locking lug nut removal socket from the kit. A 1/2-inch drive extension will have to be inserted into this and a hammer will be needed in order to pound this onto the locking lug nut as deeply as possible. This step is going to require a certain amount of tact and caution, as to not incur damage to the rim or tire. It will also require a degree of strength and tenacity. You may not be successful the first time or two, which will require pounding the removal socket on again and again. This action may also incur some damage to the 1/2-inch drive extension being used on the removal socket you chose from the locking lug nut removal kit. In some cases, pounding on the socket directly may be helpful. Understand there may be different options for selection from the locking lug nut removal kit. You may need to try different ones to optimize successful results.

Once the removal socket has been pounded onto the locking lug nut, use either a 1/2-inch drive pneumatic gun in reverse or a large breaking bar with an appropriately sized 1/2-inch drive socket and try to loosen the lug nut. Again, this may take several tries with the understanding that---the deeper the removal socket is pounded onto the locking lug nut---the better the results. You will most likely need to use a punch and hammer on a bench vise in order to pound the locking lug nut out of the removal socket.

Determining the correct removal socket from the locking lug nut removal kit is the key ingredient to your success. Even when the correct socket is chosen, there will still be a level of determination and skill. If the tool you're using to loosen the locking lug nut slips, you'll have to start over.


  • close This procedure offers a level of difficulty. You may need to try several times in order to achieve success. Damage may be incurred to the tools you're using, such as the 1/2-inch drive extension if you're constantly hammering on it. You may not be able to apply the connection to the pneumatic gun or breaking bar. Trying to find the perfect balance between finesse and brute strength will be essential to your success.

Items you will need

About the Author

Jody L. Campbell spent over 15 years as both a manager and an under-car specialist in the automotive repair industry. Prior to that, he managed two different restaurants for over 15 years. Campbell began his professional writing career in 2004 with the publication of his first book.

More Articles

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera nut image by Jesse-lee Lang from