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How to Remove Locking Lug Nuts if You Don’t Have the Key

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Uh oh! Did you lose the key to your locking lug nuts for your vehicle’s tires? Don’t fret—it’s not the end of the world. You can actually remove locking lug nuts without the key, and we are going to give you step-by-step directions to accomplish that.

Did You Lose the Key to Your Locking Lug Nuts?

Losing anything can be pretty frustrating, but when it’s a key to something as important as the lug nuts on your tires, the stakes get higher. Not all lug nuts are the locking type, but if your car has locking lug nuts, you’re probably stressing about how to get the nuts off the tire. These little guys attach your tire to your car, so you will need to remove the lug nuts for routine maintenance such as tire changes or suspension work.

If you lost the key to locking lug nuts, don’t freak out. First, make sure you really lost the key. Take an extra look around—in that old toolbox, your car’s small storage areas—or call the person who sold you the car if you have to. You’ll want to be very sure that you don’t have the key before you move on to Plan B.

Still can’t find the locking lug nut key? Alright, then it is time for Plan B.


How to Remove Locking Lug Nuts

So, you are ready to take matters into your own hands. You might be wondering if there is a certain locking lug nut removal tool you will be able to use. In our experience, the tools you’ll need are probably already sitting in your garage.

What you’ll need:

  • Breaker bar
  • 12-point socket (size might vary depending on what you have)
  • Hammer
  • Torque wrench
  • A new lug nut

Removing your lug nuts using the method we are about to show you will only take about three to five minutes per wheel. OK, ready to get to work?


Step 1: Determine which size socket is close to the lug nut size

Your main goal here is to hammer a socket onto the lug nut and manually yank it off. For that to be able to happen, you need to find the best-sized socket that barely fits the lug nut. We’re assuming your lug nuts are made out of softer metal than the socket, so basically, you’ll want to hammer the socket onto the lug nut until it’s snug. Make sure the socket you are using is 12-point, though, no matter the size you choose. A 12-point socket will be much better at gripping than a 6-point socket, and you’ll need all the bite you can get to remove the lug nuts.


Step 2: Use a hammer to smash the socket onto the locking lug nut

Your average hammer should do a fine job at this. Just whack that socket onto the lug nut as hard as you can until it’s really on there. Make sure you are hammering at a straight angle to be the most efficient (and to keep from destroying your socket).


Step 3: Apply leverage with a breaker bar

how to remove locking lug nuts

A breaker bar is just a metal rod that can attach to sockets, so don’t worry about splurging on this item. Do not use a torque wrench as a breaker bar for this procedure. If you haven’t had the chance to use a breaker bar before, it’s best to understand how it works. Totally reliant on physics, this handy metal rod clocks in at about six to eight inches long. Because of its length, it allows you to enforce much more pressure on an object than if you were directly applying the pressure with your own two hands. So, with that being said, your breaker bar pretty much turns your immortal hands into those of a superhuman.

Before you yank the breaker bar too fast, though, be warned—too much quick force will grind your lug nuts into oblivion, rendering it almost impossible to get them off. Be slow and steady with your cranking, and you’ll notice how easy it becomes to get the locking lug nut off the tire without the key.


Step 4: Inspect the stud for possible damage

You did it! (Hopefully.) Pat yourself on the back for a job well-done, then take a look at the wheel stud (the thing you now see after taking the lug nut off). Unfortunately, if it is damaged, you will have to replace it, which is a tiny bit more difficult than removing lug nuts without a key. However, if our studs seem to be OK, then you can go ahead and attach a new, non-locking lug nut. Refer to your vehicle’s instruction manual for the proper procedure to torque it down. After torquing it down, remember that you will want to drive about 10 miles, then torque it down again to ensure it is safely attached.


Step 5: Remove the dead lug nut from the socket

You really jammed that socket onto the lug nut, and now you need your socket back. To remove the lug nut from the socket, try one of these methods:

  • Hit the socket on the ground to try to force the lug nut out. (Be warned: Not the safest.)
  • Try to stick a screwdriver or chisel into the top of the socket and hammer the lug nut out. (Not very effective.)
  • Reattach the socket and lug nut to the wheel stud very lightly. From there, tap it from the side with a hammer or use a breaker bar—just don’t go at it too hard or you could damage the threads.

After all that, you should be lug nut-free and ready to roll! Remember to always do this procedure before long trips—it’s not terribly time-consuming, but wouldn’t you rather do it in your driveway than on the side of the road somewhere in whatever weather conditions you encounter? For more useful car info, check out our Driving Tips page.

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