How to get a locking lug nut off

Updated March 23, 2017

Lug nuts hold your car's tires on its wheels. As an antitheft device, some cars come equipped with locking lug nuts, which are designed to prevent a standard torque wrench's use on them. This is a common problem for buyers of used cars, as many do not come with the original lug nut key. While a special manufacturer's key designed to fit the specific nuts on your wheels can be purchased, there are other options to remove locking lug nuts.

Contact the vehicle's manufacturer and order the appropriate lug nut key if you immediately do not need to remove the nuts. Most locking lug nuts have the manufacturer's name and a part number printed on them. Write the name and numbers down, contact the manufacturer and order a new key. When it arrives, you can remove your locking lug nuts.

Use a locking lug nut removal kit if you cannot wait for a new key from the manufacturer. The kits contain a number of sockets designed to remove most locking lug nuts. Determine and attach the appropriately sized socket for your lug nuts to a regular ratchet wrench and place it over the locking nut. Turn the lug nut counterclockwise until it comes loose. This may strip the nut, so have an extra set of lug nuts on hand. Locking lug nuts are not designed for use with a pneumatic-impact wrench, so remove the lug nuts with the socket and ratchet.

Remove the nut with vice grips if you do not have access to a locking nut removal kit. Tighten a pair of vice grips around the locking nut. Turn the vice grips counterclockwise to loosen the lug nut. Use a hammer to knock the vice grips in a counterclockwise direction if the nut is difficult to turn by hand. Turn the lug nut until it can be pulled off by hand. The vice grips may need to be re-tightened several times as the nut may strip.

Bring your car to a mechanic's shop if you cannot perform the previous steps. Most mechanics have tools to remove locking nuts and replace them with standard lug nuts.


Be careful when hitting the wrench or vice grip with a hammer as they can slip and scratch the wheel's hubcaps.

Things You'll Need

  • Locking lug nut removal kit
  • Vice grips
  • Hammer
  • Lug nut key
  • Torque wrench
  • Set of lug nuts
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Joshua Smyth started writing in 2003 and is based in St. John's, Newfoundland. He has written for the award-winning "Cord Weekly" and for "Blueprint Magazine" in Waterloo, Ontario, where he spent a year as editor-in-chief. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and economics from Wilfrid Laurier University.