Many drivers apply anti-seize prior to fastening lugnuts for easier removal during a flat tire. This process is not a good idea as lug torquing is meant to be done on a dry connection. This article reviews what a lug nut is, explores why drivers apply anti-seize on lugnuts, and how to remove a stuck lug nut.
What is Lug Nut?
A lug nut is a fastener with a rounded or tapered end (the seat). However, the actual form varies. Lug nuts secure a wheel’s hub to threaded wheel studs on the vehicle’s axle, keeping it in place and centering it.
The lug attaches to the wheel stud on top of the wheel, with the seat of the lug in contact with the hub. Lug nuts usually are composed of chrome-plated steel, with chromium providing corrosion resistance. However, titanium or anodized aluminum lug nuts are available for those seeking lighter-weight parts. Their use is typically constrained to high-performance racing vehicles.
Anti-Seize on Lug Nuts
Browsing the web about whether to apply anti-seize prior to fastening lug nuts and you’ll find a variety of opinions. Many have been using ant-seize on lug nuts for long years and never experienced any problems.
However, here at Punchlist Zero, we provide you with the best mechanical practices, not just anecdotical git ‘er done work that your Uncle Bob trumpets. And anti-seize should not be applied to lugnets. Torque specifications are only for dry threads. And while most wheel lug-nuts are not fastened to a precise torque, their general torque values of “hand-tighten” can be significantly impacted when anti-seize is added.
In addition to not placing anti-seize on lugs, oil, filth, grit, rust, and other contaminants should be removed prior to fastening. The addition of anti-seize can cause problems and failure for a standard service. Lubricating lug nuts prior to fastening may result in over-torquing and stripping.
How to Remove a Stuck Lug Nut
Changing a tire provides highly difficult when a lug nut seizes. There are several methods for loosening a stubborn nut so you can finish the work and get back on the road. Let’s look at the fundamental procedures for dealing with a stuck lug nut.
Use Feet for Great Force
If you’re trying to turn a little wrench by hand, you might have more luck with a quick stomp. Most nuts loosen counter-clockwise, so set the wrench to 10 o’clock and step down on it to add more force.
A great deal of initial force will help overcome the high static friction. Just be safe and anticipate the possibility of the socket wrench dislodging. Play that scenario out in your mind prior to the stomp. If the wrench dislodges, you should still be safe (i.e. don’t get off balance/scrape your foot/etc.).
Consider a Breaker, Cheater Bar, or Four-Way Lug Wrench
A breaker bar, often known as a ‘cheater bar,’ is essentially a longer wrench that offers you more leverage and increases torque. A regular wrench and a piece of metal pipe can also form a breaker bar. My friend used to toss a beat-up 3″ piece pipe behind his old F-150’s seats to go along with his regular ratchet and socket.
A four-way lug wrench not only can service four different lug sizes but provides an easy way to provide more torquing via a twisting motion.
Use an Impact Wrench
If the preceding methods fail, use an electric or pneumatic impact wrench to remove the rusty lug nut safely. This method is particularly effective against too-tight lug nuts, but it is not suggested for worn nuts because it may cause extra wear.
Using an impact wrench saves time and prevents harm from trying to remove the lug nut by hand.
Because each impact wrench has a specific torque capacity, some less expensive models may not be able to loosen too tight lug nuts. A corded or air-powered impact wrench will often offer higher torque than a cordless tool.
Invest in Penetrating Oil
Penetrating oil provides a better alternative to the more famous WD-40 as it is specificically designed to provide long last lubrication to a fastened connection.
These are useful for removing rusty nuts because they break the rust bonds embedded within the thread and assist the bolt or nut come loose. After applying a penetrating oil, return to some of the earlier hacks, such as a breaker bar, to work on the nut.
There’s probably not a shed or garage in the USA without WD-40. WD-40 is more of a corrosion inhibitor than a penetrating oil. However, it can penetrate the grain boundaries of a lugnut and reduce friction in the fastener connection.
Use Acetylene Torch
Hopefully, it doesn’t come to a heat-based removal approach. However, heat assists in unseizing a bolt since metal expands and contracts with varying temperatures. The heat will also help remove any rust through the same procedure.
Important: Before applying extreme heat, clean away any penetrating oil or WD-40, since the combination of the two can cause a fire.
Use Candle Wax and Lighter
If you don’t have an acetylene torch and don’t want to buy one, you can use a cigarette lighter and a candle as an alternative.
You might think that heating the nut with a candle is part of this procedure, but that’s only a part. The wax seeps deep into the threads when placing the candle on top and the lighter underneath.
Twist Socket Set
The above techniques remove overly tight or rusty lug nuts. However, the next two are for stripped or worn nuts. If you have a large socket set, determine if it includes any special twist sockets.
A grip-and-twist socket set is ideal for loosening wheel nuts. The spiral form of these sockets allows them to press into the worn head and remove it. It’s actually a lot easier than you might think.
Hammer and Socket Method
The best DIY way for removing a stripped lug nut that doesn’t require any additional tools is to use a hammer and socket. When the corners of a lug nut are removed, the nut becomes smaller than before.
To remove it, use a smaller socket than the lug nut’s original size. Once the socket is centered over the stripped lug nut, keep your fingers out of the way and firmly tap the socket onto the nut with a hammer.
Attach a breaker bar and loosen the nut after you’re satisfied it’s securely positioned over the lug. This strategy may take some time to perfect, but it is effective.
And most importantly, its much safer than the potentially detrimental effects of applying anti-seize to a lug nut.