How to Remove a Stripped Lug Nut

by Michael Hinckley

One of the worst obstacles you can encounter while changing a tire is a stripped lug nut. No matter how hard you try, you just can't seem to get a good enough grip on it. Though uncooperative lug nuts can be a real pain in the neck, a little knowledge and some handy tools can get that lug nut off with in almost no time.

Determine the cause. It may seem simple, but most "stripped" lug nuts aren't really stripped. The motorist is actually using the wrong tire iron. Some "locking lugs," for instance, require a special adaptor to make them turn. Be sure your tire iron is the correct size and type for the lug nut first.

Lubricate it. Sometimes debris or rust gets in the threads of the lug nut and prevent it from moving. In these cases, a liberal dose of WD-40 or 3-in-1 oil may help loosen it up a bit and make the turning easier.

Grip it. If the oil fails, use a set of "vice grip" pliers to get a firm grip on the lug nut. Adjust the pliers before clamping them down and locking them into place. Place them so they are in the "9 o'clock" position (that is, sticking out to the left of the lug nut) and clamp them down. Apply downward (counter-clockwise) pressure to remove the lug.

Call a professional. Sometimes, lug nuts can become "fused" to the wheel or bolt. Some less reputable used automobile dealerships may even put the wrong lug nuts on the wheel, causing it to become sealed in place. In these cases, only a dealership or well-stocked mechanic can remove these lug nuts.

Items you will need

About the Author

Michael Hinckley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in US history from the University of Cincinnati, a Master of Arts degree in Middle East history from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Hinckley is conversant in Arabic, and is a part-time lecturer at two Midwestern universities.