How do I loosen car tire lug nuts (so that I can change a tire) when they are really really stuck?

I have tried turning the provided wrench, even standing and jumping on it. This worked for 4 of the lug nuts, but not the bottom-most one.

I have heard of using a rust remover/blaster, but I do not see much rust at all, and the tires are not too old if I recall correctly.

Another recommendation I see is to use a long pipe on the handle of the wrench for more torque. But even with just the wrench I seem to be warping the stock wrench with my efforts!

Some forums recommend using a 4-way lug wrench, but they do not say how to use one, or why they are better than the stock wrench. Can they provide me more torque than jumping on a standard wrench?

Finally, I am hopeful for an answer other than take it to a shop. I know I can do that, but I am trying to avoid the expense of a tow.

  • 3
    Other things to try, definitely worth a shot to use some rust blaster. Also, sometimes it's enough to use some sort of driver and hit the nut with a hammer. The shocks of a hit can help loosen any gunk. Be mindful not to hit anything that would matter with threads or surfaces for your wrench.
    – Rig
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 4:19
  • 1
    You can try with WD-40 (probably you have it at home) and wait for a few minutes (+10). And remember - when changing the tire DON'T over-tighten the nuts. Use torque wrench.
    – sabiland
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 8:07
  • 5
    WD-40 is not very helpful for this. Use liquid wrench or a similar product. Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 20:23

16 Answers 16


Remember that lug nuts are exposed to literally every element that could possibly cause corrosion. It sounds like your last nut is stuck due to some rust or oxidation that you can't see. Here's how I generally approach a badly stuck nut:

  1. Check your safety gear: eye protection, jack stands, everything to keep yourself from getting killed when this wheel finally comes loose.

  2. Get out the penetrating oil (AKA rust blaster). Really soak the bolt and nut. Now walk away and let it soak in, possibly for hours.

  3. Affix the correct socket to your breaker bar. This is a totally different beast from the stock tire iron. Its handle is much more durable and is very unlikely to bend under the torque that you're about to apply. Remember, think carefully about what's going to happen when the nut lets go. If you're pulling, it's not hard to end up punching yourself in the face. If you're pushing, don't let your fingers bash into the garage floor or other components. I've hurt myself using both methods when battling bolts (never worse than giving my wife an excuse to eyeroll me, thankfully).

  4. Try getting the nut off.

  5. Didn't work? Take a longish piece of steel pipe, stick it over the end of the breaker bar to increase the moment arm of the lever and try again.

Once I get to this point, I usually cycle between penetrating oil and a super long breaker bar. Things eventually come loose after a sufficiently long period of HULK SMASH time.

NOTE: when working with exhaust nuts and bolts, the bolt will eventually snap under enough torque. This is less likely with the much more robust wheel studs.

  • 5
    On #3, I'm a puller rather than a pusher. I've never slipped and hit myself in the face when pulling, but I have fallen over and hit my head on the side of the car when pushing and it suddenly let go... Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 14:29
  • 3
    @BrianKnoblauch, I'll adjust that point. It's super easy to injure yourself either way.
    – Bob Cross
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 16:14
  • 1
    @JoshCaswell, you're not wrong about impact being helpful breaking loose those stock nuts. However, I almost never have any luck with my rubber mallet. My ten pound sledge, however, is an entirely different story. A few light taps of that on the end of a wrench handle breaks almost anything loose (even the O2 sensor from a catalytic converter!)
    – Bob Cross
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 20:33
  • 2
    I've seen warnings against using a pipe on the end of wrenches. I expect it's because wrench is engineered to withstand as much force as I can apply under normal circumstances, whereas with the pipe extension I'm exposing it to (potentially much) greater forces, which the tool designers cannot have anticipated, since they don't know how long a pipe I'm using. Thus, I support your super long breaker bar, and I oppose the steel pipe.
    – Mathieu K.
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 3:01
  • 2
    As far as safety goes, for wheels, when I'm changing a flat on the road I always crack the nuts before I put it up on the jack so I don't accidentally knock the car off the jack.
    – Jason C
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 17:00

There are a number of things you can do to unstick the nut before turning it:

  • a lubricant or rust blaster. Keep things wet and give it time to work.

  • heat cycling. Heat it up (gently) and let it cool. Repeat. If you oil it up and point a propane torch at it, you may start a fire, so be careful. It's not so important to heat just the nut or just the stud - the cycles will do a lot of good.

  • vibrations and shocks. Rap the nut with a wrench. You don't have to hit hard; hitting over and over works. This can break the corrosion as well as help the lube work its way in.

There are several tools designed to make good use of shocks.

A handheld impact driver ($30) is a simple tool for around for just this purpose. You attach a socket, put it on the lug nut, twist, and hit with a hammer. Repeat. You could do this once a minute while the lube works its way in, and apply heat in between.

There are battery-powered impact drivers under $100 that I use for carpentry that can also do this job. If you already have a cordless drill, you can get an impact driver that uses the same battery. Loud!

Finally, you can do what the pros do - use a pneumatic impact wrench. You may be able to rent one for a single use.

Impact tools should be used with special impact-rated sockets. These use tougher steel and no chrome, so they are less likely to shatter. Eye protection is still a good idea.

Whenever I change a tire, I first break each lug nut while the car is still on the ground, with parking brake set, so everything is stable.

When a stud is in really bad shape, even after you break things lose, you may have to fight the rest of the way off the stud. It's a lot like cutting new threads. In that case, back off after every 1/4 turn or so, and keep adding lots of lube.


If you're trying to use the stock wrench, go out and buy a proper one! I've never seen a stock one that is any use, and some of them are so bad they may as well be made of chocolate...

A 4-way wrench is simply a cross-shaped bar with 4 different sizes of socket on the ends. You use the appropriate size one for your nuts, and then have effectively a t-bar, which means you can use both hands to get more leverage.

My preference, however, is for a telescopic bar wrench. These typically extend from around a foot to 2', and come with a selection of sockets for different sized nuts. Again, they simply allow you to get more leverage than the stock wrench, but are easier to store than a 4-way one, and by using the shorter length to re-tighten the nuts, avoids over-tightening (although as the comment above suggests, you should really use a torque wrench to tighten them correctly).

Another tip is to make sure your tyre supplier uses a torque wrench when they fit your tyres - many will use an air-gun which results in the nuts being done up excessivley tight (most likely the cause of your current problem).

  • 2
    If you get a 4 way, make sure it's a big one. A small one won't give you any better leverage than the factory tool. Even properly torqued, wheel nuts can get horribly stuck into place. For that occasion I have a selection of breaker bars available that I put impact sockets onto. An impact gun works fine too (and small ones are not super expensive anymore), but they're noisy, I prefer to avoid the noise of power tools whenever I can. Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 12:02
  • @BrianKnoblauch, good call on the impact sockets. My regular sockets are pretty strong but I'm accumulating an impact set to go with my new wrench.
    – Bob Cross
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 16:20

Learn from my mistake!! I attempted to use four different chisels to 'counter rotate' the stuck nut. NEVER do this. What happens is that the chisel force drives the annular ring of the lower portion of the nut into the well where the curved face normally sits. You get the rest of the nut finaly chisseled off and you are STUCK with the measley shxxty annular ring driven and wedged into the small well. Then you have to drill and drill with, like a 5/32 drill, a whole bunch of holes and finally drive out pieces. You can drive it around the block with all nuts very loose and this shxxty annular ring is wedged way in there. Try all the other methods, heat it up, smaller socket driven on and turned, welded 2nd nut to bad nut and removing them together, whatever, BUT don't get out your chissels!!!!! You will blow nearly a day using the chisel method and have to buy a new stud and perhaps a rim as well !!!


As Bob Cross mentioned, use the breaker bar. I've had to use them to remove brake calipers in the past. In the past, I have not seen such a thing as a breaker bar readily for sale at the hardware stores where I live.

I have improvised a breaker bar using one of those metal pipes that are used for running electrical wires. Simply take your ratchet to the hardware store with you and find a suitably sized pipe that fits nicely around the ratchet handle.

  • 2
    For really stubborn nuts, it's definitely best to hunt down a true breaker bar, with a 1/2" connector if possible -- the sturdier, the better. Too much force can damage the ratchet gear itself.
    – jscs
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 19:16
  • 1
    Part of the point of a breaker bar is to protect the ratchet mechanism from being destroyed by more torque than it can take. So, a ratchet with a long handle is not the same as a breaker bar.
    – EL_DON
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 23:10

All of the answers work.

But what works best for me (esp. on the side of the road!) is a 4 way tire wrench in conjunction with the screw type jack found on all cars.

Place the correct size socket on the wheel lug (nut). Position it as close to horizontal as possible. At the other end of the 4 way tire wrench, place your screw type jack and raise the height so that it supports the 4 way tire wrench in a horizontal position.

You now have a stable platform. The two free arms of the 4 way tire wrench are available for work.

Place your foot on the free arm that will turn the lug/wrench counter clockwise. With one hand on the car for balance, stand on the free arm, as close to the end as possible, with all your weight, and "kick" down if needed.

I like this method b/c you don't have to worry about stripping the edges of the lug/nut, and ruining it.

  • 1
    Just for clarity, you're only using the jack to balance the wrench, right? It's not carrying any weight?
    – Bob Cross
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 22:25
  • 1
    Bob, it sounds like you're saying that trying to use the jack to apply force to the wrench would be a bad idea? Why is that? Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 3:47

One. Dont jump on it. You risk stripping the lug and stud then you can't remove the tire and Have to replace the stud.

Two. Never supposed to use grease, silicon, or wd40 on tire lugs or studs. The stud remains lubricated and the lug can work itself loose when driving after having the tire changed.

You just need to not overtighten them in the first place. Some shops do this. And have a good tire iron with leverage. Apply firm gradual torque, not sudden aggressive torque like jumping on it or hitting with a hammer. These things can cause more harm than good and people that read this and follow this advice will be stranded on the side of some highway after stripping the lug or stud. my $.02


Turning the tire so that the stuck/frozen nut was at the top (12 o'clock) did it for me. Another try with a pipe extender on the tire wrench and the nut "cracked" and loosened. This is actually the easiest and should be the FIRST alternative in any of the answers above. I had already put nut loosener fluid on the stud and almost "rounded" out the corners of the lug nut with forcing the wrench, which could have made it impossible to remove except by an expensive garage repair.

  • This is a good idea and, combined with putting the other bolts back on, would be good to try before using heat or chemicals.
    – EL_DON
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 23:06

Last resort... Heat the nut, and it will expand. This might help loosen it, but try this only after you have sprayed it to deaf with corrosion removing stuff. If you can see the other side, cool the lug and it will help the process. Again, last resort.

  • 2
    Heat the lug nut? Isn't the part you use a wrench on the bolt that goes inside the wheel hub? It seems like heating that to expand it would be counter-productive. Should one heat a different part?
    – Steven
    Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 22:52
  • If you've got a VW, it's most likely a bolt, but on pretty much everything else, it's just a nut that is tightened onto a stud... Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 13:36
  • Apologize, my brains was scrambled and didn't fully read lug nuts. Didn't think Europeans. Most Europeans use lug nuts... Disregard heating any lug nuts, as it would likely keep it in place. Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 22:32

I just had this problem. I got all of them loose but one at the bottom. I tried everything it wouldnt come loose. Jacked it up took it out of gear spun the tire around so that the nut was on top. It came right off without a problem.


Heating the stud up with an acetylene torch worked great for me. Worked for days and days with breaker bars up to 8 feet long and nothing worked. Even broke 3 heavy duty 1/2" drive impact sockets. Took me a few try's to remove the nuts with the torch and then the tire iron but the heat definitely works. I wouldn't try unless it's a last resort.


A large T-bar may be the answer. I've found that if you tilt the thing at about a 45-degree angle, get a foot on the lower end and a hand on the upper, you can use your body weight to put tremendous torque on the nut without seriously misaligning the socket/nut.


I put a pipe on the handle of the standard wrench and jumped on it. I thought I was turning the nut, but I snapped the wrench (1/2 inch diam handle). Then I tried better wrenches, without success. I put the other nuts back on gently and drove about 4 miles. That did it. But if you have a flat tire its not a solution! Maybe if you drove 30 feet on the flat that would loosen the nut without harming the tire.


I had some stubborn nuts on my Range Rover. I always have trouble. Some nuts won't accept the the socket on the wrench as they have become deformed over time. I now use a ring spanner.

In frustration I tried using my jack. I place the ring spanner over the nut and used the jack to loosen the nuts enough to turn by hand. But this has failed to work on one nut. The pressures involved made me very nervous, so I backed off and have come on here for other ideas.

  • This sounds like a new question, you can use the Ask Question link in the upper right corner to create a new question. More likely to get a response that way.
    – dlu
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 6:23

If you didn't take the other four off in the right order, it might help to put them back on and tighten them, then try busting the stuck one loose. Then crack them all loose in the right order. For five nuts, the right order is like you're drawing a star: go around and hit every other nut. After each one just starts to turn, then go back and loosen them more.

What can happen is if the wheel isn't heels on evenly, it can start tilting a little and this could put uneven forces on the last nut that could make it harder to remove.

In addition to going in the right order, use a 4 way tire iron and plenty of torque. See other answers.


Had a slow puncture so pumped up the tyre with my electric pump then drove to the garage to get it repaired but forgot to take my torque wrench with me. Got the fitter to use a T bar and 21mm socket to tighten the nuts then drove home to set the nuts to the recommended 80 lbs ft only to find out the first one I tried wouldn't move even with standing on a long T bar. Finally resulted in winding up my 21" long torque wrench in increments until it was at 185lbs ft and standing on it, before the nut slowly moved without the torque wrench breaking. Luckily the max setting is 220lbs ft as I was getting concerned that it was going to be back to the garage.

  • I am not sure this answers the question.
    – JoErNanO
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 12:02

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