How to Remove Tight Wheel Nuts

Updated February 21, 2017

Wheel nuts, also called lug nuts, fasten tires on wheel cylinders. They are designed to hold tires securely in place, yet must be able to be removed quickly when changing tires. Because they are exposed to the elements, they can rust in place or simply become stuck due to temperature changes. You can use a few different methods to remove tight wheel nuts, or combine methods to change your tire and get your car back on the road again.

Spray the nut with penetrating lubricant. Allow it to soak in for the amount of time specified by the manufacturer. Remove the nut with the lug nut wrench.

Heat the nut. The best and most inexpensive heating source is a cigar torch-type lighter. Hold the lighter over the nut for about a minute, moving the torch around the surface of the nut to distribute the heat. Spray with the penetrating lubricant and remove with the lug wrench.

Use a cheater bar. These are bars that fit over the end of a lug wrench, extending the handle and giving you more leverage. You can purchase cheater bars at hardware stores, or you can use a piece of pipe that fits over the end of the lug wrench.

Use a nut splitter. This will destroy the nut, but also remove it. Splitters fit over the body of a nut. Set the nut splitter in place and turn the handle with a wrench. This drives a spike into the nut, splitting it in two.

Place a heavy duty socket over the nut. The socket should be a size smaller than the nut. Hammer the socket onto the nut. Use a socket wrench to remove the nut. When removed, the socket and nut will be fused into one piece and can be thrown away.


Use the heat method in an open area that allows for ventilation of engine fumes.

Things You'll Need

  • Lug wrench
  • Penetrating lubricant
  • Cigar torch
  • Cheater bar or pipe
  • Nut splitter
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About the Author

Nathan McGinty started writing in 1995. He has a Bachelor of Science in communications from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in international journalism from City University, London. He has worked in the technology industry for more than 20 years, in positions ranging from tech support to marketing.