How to Remove a Stuck Wheel on a Car

Whatever your reason for removing a tire from your car, it needs to come off. Trying to pry a flat tire off the hub can be frustrating. Yet, your tires are the only connection your car has to the road. Every once in a while, they need attention too. If you have a stuck wheel, read on to see if it is your fault, and what you can do to get that demon tire off your car.

Why is the Tire Stuck on My Car?

Why won’t that tire come off? Well, the bolts are seized, stuck, rusted, or just resistant. Is this a normal problem? Actually, yes. This happens all the time for a few different reasons. Sometimes, the bolts are stuck when other times, the center whole of the wheel is stuck to the center of the hub. For one, the tire and hub areas have to be kept clean. For two, the tires should be rotated once in a while. If you have not been doing these things and your tire is stuck, here are the top reasons why the tire is stuck to your car:

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Rust/corrosion – Rust forms when oxygen and iron come in contact with each other for a prolonged period of time. This process of oxidation occurs when water or vapor, oxygen, and metal collide. Iron and magnesium form to cause problems. The main reason the tire gets stuck on the car is a buildup of rust and other types of corrosion. The buildup happens over time as you drive in different environments and let the tires sit up. If given enough time, that accumulation of rust between the wheel, the lug nuts, and the hub will create bond that is hard to break. This condition is also referred to as fusion to the drum.

Seized lug nut – In many cases, it is the lug nut that is topping the tire removal. The lug nut may be frozen on or stripped to where trying to turn it is useless.

Rough weather conditions – Leaving your car in places with snow and road salt is also asking for trouble. Maybe you live in a region with lot of snow and ice. The snow and road salt make their way into the aluminum alloy and steel rims to start the corrosion. The corrosion process will glue the wheel onto the hub.

Time – Sometimes the problem is just a matter of time. Leaving a tire on a car for a long period of time and not driving the car for a long time will do it in any environment. If you have not been having your tires rotated periodically, you are allowing corrosion to set in.

What to Do About a Stuck Wheel

Removing a tire actually isn’t rocket science. Using a hammer to loosen the bond is a big mistake. Once you have destroyed the bolt threads, you have a new problem. There are better ways to get that tire off without causing new damage to your car. Try these simple tricks to get that troublesome tire off:

Check your socket – if the socket wrench you are using does not get a firm enough grip, it won’t remove the lug nut. If the socket is loose, it will merely spin around the lug nut, rounding its edges to create a bigger problem. Make sure the socket you chose is the right size for the job.

Lengthen the driver arm – Increase your mechanical advantage by adding length to the driver arm. Try fitting a hollow pipe over the handle to increase the length and extend the arc. Adding two or three times the torque may give the added pressure needed to loosen the bond.

Soak the lug nuts – This should be the first step after inspecting your initial method. You can try soaking the lug nuts with an oil-based lubricant to remove them. Try using WD-40 or PB Blaster. Just spray it around the base of the lug nuts and wait awhile. You may even leave it overnight if you can. Then try loosening the nuts again.

Anti-seize lubricant and rust penetrant – This is a solution if you have steel or aluminum alloy wheels. The rate of corrosion on these materials is much faster. You can try dry lubricants, oils, synthetic grease, or a rust penetrant to soften the bond. To use a penetrant, follow these steps:

1. Gather your materials: a clean cloth, a wrench, a rust penetrant, Liquid Wrench, or PB Blaster.

2. Remove the wheel covers and spray the wheel studs.

3. Spray the area where the center hub and the wheel intersect.

4. Wait at least 15 minutes for the lubricant to work.

5. Rotate the wheel until you can feel it loosen.

6. If the nuts don’t budge, spray the lubricant on the back of the lug nuts and let it penetrate. Try removing the nuts again with the wrench. If it doesn’t work, add more lubricate and give it more time.

7. Once the tire loosens, wipe the excess lubricant before reassembling.

Drive on loose nuts – If you are feeling daring, loosen the nuts on your tire and drive forward a little bit in your yard to loosen the connection. If it doesn’t work, try driving a little further and even turning a few corners in the neighborhood to loosen things up. If that does not work, go to the next solution.

Use your foot – If you can remove the bolts, you can try this method. Prop the tire up and remove the bolts. Kick the bottom of the tire with your foot. Kick on the bottom side edges. Make sure the jack is sturdy so that you can apply this pressure with your foot without the prop giving way. When the tire gives way, remove it. File the rust and any paint or debris. Or, you can add a rust primer and paint it. Add WD$) to the hub only.

Use a car lift – Sometimes, elevation will make the difference when trying to remove the stuck wheel. If you have access to a car lift, and you can remove the lug nuts, then try this solution. Also, make sure you also have experience with a car lift (not a hand jack). Follow these steps:

1. Lift the car up on the lift.

2. Remove as many bolts as you can. Then put the bolts back without tightening them. Leave about 5 or 6 turns before the bolts are tight.

3. Lower the car back down to the floor of the garage.

4. Drive the car back and forth about 5 feet. Do this a few times on a level surface.

5. Raise the car back up and check to see if the wheel has loosened.

Use a blow torch – When nothing else will do, try using the blow torch to remove the bolts. The heat expands the wheel and dismounts itself from the hub. Do not heat the hub. This solution can be very dangerous because you are using fire and flammable materials. You can use a butane or propane torch. Avoid burning the seals, paint, trim or wire sheathing. If this is not done right, it can cause irreparable damage to your car. To use the blow torch, follow these steps:

1. Gather your materials: a torch, a clean cloth, and a wrench.

2. Assemble the torch if it did not come preassembled. Make sure the torch has a built-in igniter.

3. Before screwing it on to the tank, make sure the valve is closed so as not to lose gas.

4. Spray the stuck joints with PB Blaster penetrating oil.

5. Wait a few minutes for the oil to soak in.

6. Use a cloth to soak up any excess oil.

7. Light the torch. Hold it firmly with the nozzle pointed away from you.

8. Turn the adjustment nozzle in the counterclockwise direction until you hear gas hissing as it comes out of the torch. If the torch has a self-igniting assembly, click on the starter button to light it.

9. Once the torch is on, adjust the flame to a reasonable capacity for the job. You only need a small, clean, blue flame that is burning steadily.

10. Torch the bolts that are stuck. Place the flame directly over the bolts and hold it for 30 seconds. Check to see if the bolt has loosened. If it hasn’t, let the bolt cool and then torch it again.

Get a tire rotation – Using jacks and torches can be a bit dangerous. After all, you just want your tire off. If these solutions are a bit beyond your expertise, just take your car to the professionals and ask for a tire rotation. The stuck wheels instantly become their problem. They will have a car lift and lubricants. The problem will get solved a lot faster and you’ll be back on the road.

How to Prevent Wheels from Getting Stuck

The best treatment for rust buildup is prevention. If you haven’t had the stuck wheel problem yet, there are steps you can take to prevent this problem from happening to you. If you have had the problem already, surely you don’t want to go through that again. Here are a few steps of preventive maintenance that will save you the frustration of a wheel that won’t budge:

Keep tools dry – Keep the tools you use clean and dry.

Maintenance – Most vehicle owners understand that a vehicle must be inspected and serviced from time to time, as referred to as routine maintenance. For those who don’t, the likelihood of problems that cause a stuck wheel is extremely high. If the vehicle is not inspected routinely, small problems can escalate to major problems that are much more expensive to fix. This is also true for vehicles which sit for long periods of time.

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Lubricate the wheel mountings – Lubrication is the best fight against rust and sticking parts. Use a lubricant that is designed for automotive purposes. To try this method, you must use a lubricant as a pre-treatment:

1. Purchase a lubricant such as Anti-Seize Lubricant.

2. Clean the inside of your wheel.

3. Clean as much rust or debris from the hub as you can.

4. Wire brush around the outside of the hub center. Wire brush around the inside of the center hole. You may even need to sand the center hole very gently.

5. Apply a small amount of the lubricant to the center of the hub using the small brush.

6. Brush a small coat of the lubricant on the hub, where the wheel makes contact. Brush some of the lubricant on the threads where the bolts are fastened.

7. Replace the wheels.

Regular inspections – When you take your car in for an oil change or tune-up, you can also ask to have your tires removed. The occasional tire rotation is worth it if you drive frequently and can’t afford to have a stuck wheel. If you don’t have the routine maintenance, try loosening the bolts and refastening them sometime.

Don’t worry, you’ll get that tire off. Now you know how to go forward once you do. Get that tire replaced and drive safely.