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How to Remove A Stubborn Stripped Lug Nut (Full Beginner’s Guide)

Car repairs aren’t always fun. They can turn ugly when you least expect it, even if you’re trying to remove a stripped nut that just won’t come off. It’s one of the most frustrating malfunctions you’ll have to deal with in order to be able to safely drive your car again.

Even the most experienced mechanics can sometimes have issues removing this tiny little part. But while getting a stripped lug nut off is a pain in the neck for many, it can actually be a pretty smooth process if done correctly. 

By the end of this article, you should have a good idea about why lug nuts get stripped, what tools do you need to get them out, how to remove them, and what to do once you’ve removed them. And in case you still have some questions about lug nut removal, we’ve prepared a detailed FAQ section for you at the end of the guide that answers the questions most people ask.

So, how do you remove a stubborn stripped lug nut? Read on to find out! 

Why A Lug Nut Won’t Come off

There are three main reasons that can make it hard for your lug nut to come off: 

  1. Your Lug Nut Fastener is Rounded or Stripped off

One of the most common reasons lug nuts won’t come out is that the hex shape of the fastener has been stripped off due to using an impact wrench or the incorrect size socket during the installation of a lug nut. 

Or maybe your lug nut is seized, and trying to take it out using a lug wrench has rounded the lug off.

Whatever the case is, you can’t grip the fastener in a way that allows you to remove it.

  1. Your Lug Nut is Rusty

Metal lug nuts are typically designed in a way that keeps them from rusting. They may, however, rust overtime when their protective coatings wear off. The fastener may also be stripped and refuse to turn in this situation.

  1. Your Lug Nut is Seized 

A seized lug nut can be due to one of your car’s lug nuts that has been overtightened by an overly eager mechanic holding an impact wrench. The lug wrench that came with a spare tire will not be able to remove it. 

Pro tip: Before buying new tires, make sure the tire company you choose only installs the wheels using a torque wrench. Using a torque wrench correctly ensures that you adequately tighten the wheel fastener.

Odds are your not a beginner if you are going to tackle removing a stubborn lug nut but if this is your first time check out this separate article on how long it takes to change a tire.

Step-by-step Guide: How to Remove A Stripped Lug Nut that Won’t Come off

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Stripped lug nut removal isn’t rocket science. When using the right tools and following the right steps, you should be able to get your lug nuts off in no time. 

We’ll concentrate on issues with traditional lug nuts, which are screwed onto wheel studs, as opposed to lug bolts. But several Europe-based car brands employ lug bolts that screw into the wheel hub, including BMW, Volkswagen, and Audi.

Tools You’ll Need

  • Power drill 
  • Penetrating Oil 
  • Drilling lubricant
  • Safety glasses
  • Cold water
  • 5/64 inch and 7/64  inch  drill bits
  • ½  inch drive 6-pt socket 
  • ½  inch drive breaker bar 
  • Lug nut extractor set 
  • Floor jack or 3-ft section of pipe

You can find all of these tools in the automotive section on Amazon.

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Step 1: Ensure Your Car is Parked in A Level and Safe Place

Before starting the process of removing a lug nut, you want to ensure that you have adequate room to move about freely. It’s fine if you’re working in the garage.

If you’re changing a flat tire on the roadside and discover a stripped lug nut, we strongly recommend that you push or tow your car to a  gas station or an empty parking lot before attempting to remove it.

Set the car to Neutral if it’s a manual, or Park if it’s an automatic, and pull the handbrake, especially if it’s parked uphill or downhill. You want to make sure that the car is anchored properly, as you’ll be applying a high level of force when trying to remove your seized lug nut.

Step 2: Apply Penetrating Oil and Drill

In order to start the process of removing lug nuts, you’ll need to first soak the nut and stud in penetrating oil. You can drill the closed head of the nut to allow the oil to penetrate into the threads.

We suggest that you use good-quality drill bits, cobalt alloy steel drills with diameters of 5/64′′ and 7/64′′ will do the job. And since these little drills are so easy to break, we suggest that you get two of each.

Lubricant will make the drilling much easier. Keep some cool water available in case anything overheats. Now, just put a pair of safety glasses on and dimple the middle of the lug nut with a center punch and hammer.

Drill with the smallest drill bit first and use oil to wet its tip. Using both of your hands, keep the drill motor steady. You want to drill really slowly and carefully. Try to stop drilling from time to time since the oil will start smoking if the drilling heats it up. To cool the bit, place it in the water. Reapply penetration oil to the hole and bit after wiping away chips. Repeat until you see the bit break through the stud’s top.

Repeat the drilling process with the 7/64′′ bit in the drill motor. You want to hold your drill motor securely in place since the bit might get lodged into the hole, making the drill rotate. Drill to the top part of the stud once again.

If you have ever removed or installed snow studs, you will see this is a very similar process.

There’s now a reservoir in which you can soak the stud and nut in WD-40. To catch any back spray, place the WD-40 tube in the hole and start wrapping it with a paper towel or shop towel at the surface of the nut. Using this lube, squirt a small amount inside the hole.

WD-40 should also be sprayed around the lug nut’s base. And if you have the time, let the lube soak overnight, making it more effective. Squirt more lube to the base and hole of the nut the next morning. If you don’t have enough time, though, you can just let it soak for 5-10 minutes.

Note: The application of WD-40 on corroded lug bolts won’t help.

Step 3:  Use A Lug Nut Extractor or A “Snug” Socket 

Choose a 6-point socket with a ½ inch drive that fits on the nut. It’s possible that you’ll need a deep socket. 

A very rusty fastener might be worn out to the point that you can tap it on with a hammer with a socket that’s one size smaller. A 12-point socket can sometimes be secured around a rusted hex-shaped nut and still have a decent grip.

An extractor socket may be required if the nut head won’t accept a regular socket. You’ll need a socket size that fits the shape snugly and start hammering it into place. 

Step 4:  Use A Breaker Bar to Loosen It

You want to use a ½ inch drive breaker bar with a length of 18-24 inches. Install it such that your handle is in a horizontal position and can be raised upward in order to make the nut loose or pressed downward to make it tight.

Warning: Always stand back while doing this since the bar will bend and try to spring off the lug nut or the floor jack’s lift pad.

If a floor jack isn’t available, slide a pipe over the handle to apply force to the breaker bar. To fit tightly, the pipe must be a little bit bigger than the breaker bar, so  3 ft is an ideal pipe length in this case. 

Place the breaker bar 10° to the left of the nut and at an upward angle of roughly 10°. To make the nut loose, you’ll need to push downward. Step gently onto your pipe to apply force using your weight. You can always grab the side of the car to keep your balance. 

Step 5: Remove the Wheel as You Normally Would

Once you’ve removed the stubborn lug nut, start loosening the other ones. Now, it’ll be easier to jack up the car, keep it supported, and remove the wheel as you normally would. 

Step 6: Install New Fasteners for the Whole Bolt Pattern

You’ll need to buy and install new fasteners for the whole bolt pattern after removing the rusted or seized lug nut, as replacing only the broken fastener may result in some imbalances. You should inspect wheel studs that have rusted or seized lug nuts.

To begin, clean the threads with a little wire brush. Then, visually inspect the threads with a bright light; they should look clean and smooth. Place a new lug nut on the threads all the way. 

Any stud that shows signs of wear or fails the inspection mentioned above should be replaced. If you’re unsure about the condition of a stud, replacing it will be the best option.

Also, make sure to inspect your tire and check the air pressure.

The Bottom Line

Although it seems impossible to remove a stripped lug nut, it really isn’t, no? If it seems too hard, though, remember that the process of removing a stripped lug nut can be very difficult even to experts, so don’t be too hard on yourself and give up on the very first try. 

As long as you have the proper equipment, and as long as you stick to the steps in our guide, you should be able to knock those pesky lug nuts out of your wheel in no time! 

In case you can’t take them off, seeking the help of an expert is a great option that will both be safer and save you the headache of trying to deal with this problem yourself. 

Make sure to check out our other article on how to remove paint from your tire.

FAQs

Is there a tool to remove stripped lug nuts?

The preceding fastener removal process can fail to remove a lug nut. If this happens, a Lug Ripper can be used to get the job done. 

To use this tool effectively, you must carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions, or else the tool may end up being unusable.

Keep in mind, though, that this tool can get pretty expensive. However, it may be cheaper than taking the car to a tire shop for repairs. You can resell the Lug Ripper in a local marketplace after successfully removing the stripped lug nut to recoup some of the high cost.

How do I keep lug nuts from stripping? 

Typically, you want to keep your lugs dry and clean. Before trying to reinstall your wheel, clean the threads and mounting bolts of any dirt, rust, or water. You may want to get a new set if they’re worn out. 

Careless mechanics might also over-tighten the lug nuts. Before they begin working on your car, consult with a mechanic to ensure that the proper torque will be applied. Torque between 60 and 100 ft-lbs is typical for most cars, but the requirement may vary from car to car. Torque requirements for larger vehicles might reach 300 ft-lbs.

Can I drive with a stripped lug nut?

The brake rotor may warp as a result of the uneven torque. If your lug nut is loose, you should replace the stripped nut as quickly as possible and only drive it if it’s absolutely necessary. We recommend having a skilled mechanic check your car to see whether or not the lug nut needs to be replaced and to prevent installing parts that aren’t essential. 

William
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