My Garage

How To Remove A Lug Nut Without A Key

How To Remove A Lug Nut Without A Key

Plenty of people have turned to locking lug nuts as a way to secure their wheels against would-be thieves. The problem is the security measure can become a huge pain if you inadvertently lose the special key, or a socket that fits over the unique shape. It's a pretty common problem, but fortunately there are ways of getting around it.


You're going to need some tools before starting the job, otherwise that key won't be going anywhere. Have on hand a breaker bar, a 12-point socket of an appropriate size, a torque wrench and a hammer. One of the most important items is a replacement lug nut, because you'll be breaking the key off and it won't be usable again.


Choose a 12-point socket that's about the size of the key. With sheer brute force, hammer it on there and hope the socket wins the metal-on-metal showdown. Keep pounding it to get the socket on there straight, otherwise you'll have problems later.

Next, you're going to attach the breaker bar to that 12-point socket. The length of the breaker bar acts as a nice fulcrum, giving you the kind of leverage to muscle the key into submission. You need to be careful, though, and take things slow. Going too fast could strip out the key, leaving you in a real bind.


If you find the key won't budge, patience is invaluable. Spray it with penetrating oil and let the thing sit for an hour or a few. Then go at it again.


Really, you won't have to turn the key too much for it to become loose. Once that happens, you can pretty much take the thing off by hand, then do a victory dance. If you have keys on four other wheels to remove, rinse and repeat until they're all off.


You need to look over the wheel stud, which is where the lug nuts sit, and pay close attention to damage. The bad news is that any damage to the threads means you'll have to replace the wheel stud. If you don't, the replacement lug nut could come flying off while you're driving down the highway, and the result likely wouldn't be too pleasant.


When you install the new lug nut, use the torque wrench to tighten it to the specifications in the owner's manual. After driving a short distance, torque the lug nut down again, just in case it's loosened a little.


Think again If you think the job's over. The key is likely stuck in the 12-point socket, meaning you need to get it out before using the tool again. There are a few methods for doing this, so find the one that works for you. Probably the riskiest and least sophisticated move is to throw the socket against the ground. The embedded key could go flying out, possibly resulting in bodily harm or property damage, so be advise. While it probably won't work, you can try to leverage the key out using a screwdriver. In the end, the preferred method is to barely attach the key to the wheel again, put the breaker bar over it, and move it back and forth quickly until the combination comes apart.

Categories: Service Tips