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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Tl/Dr at end

My wife picked up a flat this summer 10 miles from home pulling a trailer. It was 3am on the 4th of July. Luckily we had another person following with our other boat, and they were willing to run her home and bring back tools after I folded the stock lug wrench in her truck and their Jeep. By 6am I'd broken half a dozen ratchets, 2 breaker bars, and a socket on 1 stubborn lugnut. I decided to drive it to the next town and park it for the morning and come back for it better equipped. Later that day, torches in hand, I tried again. Eventually I welded an 18mm socket (once your chrome covers begin to strip and tear off, the open ended nut underneath is closest to 18mm) to a previously broken socket. With heat and now the threads exposed, surely it would work. But no, I was back later with the bar rewelded and support welds added to the length to strengthen it and stop it bending so much. In the end, that failed too. 6 feet of leverage and 300 lbs wasn't enough. Because of how it broke, the repair was made by drilling out the head of the bar and inserting a ½" extension, which snapped, and then the socket directly to the head with the extension also connected by cutting slots into the socket to give me a place to connect the two parts. Because of that, there was a point at the rear to attach a 2nd breaker bar, and I used 2 people, cheater bars, and heat/penetrating oil. What I accomplished was to snap the hex section off the nut entirely, leaving the dome and threads behind. I decided to post to Reddit and every forum I use for advice, and the ONLY advice I got was cut the studs from behind. Take the axle apart, cut the wheel, whatever, it all came back to destroy part of the truck and start over from varying points of damage. I removed the nut in under a minute once I got it home with no damage to anything and replaced the tire with no more loss than the nut in the end. I'll lay out EXACTLY what I did, because I'm not positive what will help and no where can I find anyone else whose done this. I should also note: my electric impact has a break away torque of 2,500+ ft/lbs, my largest air impact isn't much larger at 3k. Both failed to break it free. The electric one spun the tin cover on the nut and tore it off immediately, meaning I had to swap my 19mm for an 18mm. A hand impact and 20lb sledge also had no effect. A ¾" breaker bar also turned out to be useless obviously. Even had it not broke, once the nut snapped off there was nothing that would have helped. Hopefully you can envision how ****ed I was now.

Firstly, I knew it needed to come home. I'd tried slamming the wheel around with the nuts loose in the parking lot, but it did nothing. In the same school of thought, before driving it 8 more miles on a flat, I loosened the other 4 nuts, leaving the stuck one. When I got home I'd lost 2 of them, but the wheel was still firmly in place and centered, it hadn't so much as shifted the studs in the holes. So while it may have helped break things up, it didn't free it entirely. I'd run out of MAPP gas by then and didn't want to try a cutting torch yet, propane didn't help either. With almost no but left, I came up with the idea of welding a socket to what was left, but it was going to be pretty much impossible. I work as an electrician often, building GM plants and hospitals, secure facilities for the State and local police, psych wards, etc. I had this idea that I could drill the nut out. In the end, taking a ¾" trade size hole saw (I think they measure out at ⅝"), I removed the center bit and used the stud as a guide. Had there been more nut left, I might have drilled the tip of the stud with a guide bit until the hole saw cut deep enough to give me a guide channel, or I might've just drilled slow and held it with brute force until it was deep enough. Using oil to keep it cool and sharp (that's how we keep hole saws sharp), I drilled through the nut in seconds, stopping once to add oil. The weight of the truck snapped the wheel free when I was almost through and I jacked it up to pull the tire at that point. I expected damage in a lot of places from that point. Because it's a hole saw, it left the core of the nut on the stud. I planned to put a spacer over that and use a conventual nut to tighten the wheel back on. Instead, out of curiosity I used a pair of slip jointed pliers and grabbed what was left to try to twist it. To my surprise, it wasn't even finger tight and I was able to remove the core by hand. Going to the wheel, by not jacking the truck up, the nut snapped before I was through, so I didn't ever hit the wheel. No damage there. Last, it left the rim of the nut in the wheel where it's beveled to center the hole. At that point, I expected the two different metals to be firmly corroded together. It came out with one finger. With the new tire in place, I removed a lug nut from another truck and replaced the one I drilled, and it's like nothing ever happened. Since then, I've had to remove other wheels and this is a common issue. The nuts seize at least once per wheel. I'm about to strip and polish the wheels and then use a plastic liner to stop this corrosion. But in the mean time, another trick I've started using- go to the electrical section of a hardware store. Find a small white bottle of No-Al-Ox made by Ideal, or any other brand, a gray cream usually, it's for bonding aluminum wiring to electrical systems. Putting aluminum and copper together without it causes the dissimilar metals to chemically weld together, a huge no no. Every dissimilar metal does this, so on that theory, I've been using a light film where the lugnut and wheel meet. I'm always worried about them backing off on their own though, and because it's not my truck I can't keep a constant eye on it. After all these years I'm still in awe my wife can walk and chew gum without a fatal accident, so I also can't trust her to watch it. But I still use it on her truck now and none have ever backed out. I now use an actual torque wrench on hers too because of the problems and remove the nuts with an impact monthly to reapply and verify they come off in case she gets a flat, otherwise I've been that tow truck driver that had to take a truck to a shop after I failed to break nuts free, so I know she'll be in the same spot and it'll just cost me a tow bill to have it brought back home anyways.

TL/DR- Remove every nut you can first. Do not take the weight of the truck/car off the wheel. Using an appropriately sized hole saw for metal (Bi metal electricians hole saws are best, but not the carbide panel bit variety, they must be the deep ones that use a center arbor), drill out the nut. Be careful to drill as straight as possible or you'll cut the stud. As for size, you only need to remove enough material to allow the hole on the wheel to slide over what's left. Use oil to preserve your bit, stop mid way to spray a bit more in. When you're almost through, slow down and be cautious. The truck is going to suddenly shift as the weight breaks whatever is left free and allows the wheel to come off. You may be able to remove the core with good pliers but be careful not to damage the threads. If you have to, some kind of spacer may be used to allow you to tighten a nut over the damaged threads if they can't be removed. You may destroy your wheel, though you'd have to be pretty unaware to drill through enough to destroy the hole.

DISCLAIMER- Plenty of guys are running a vehicle without all their lugnuts, the more you have the more you can get away with, if your vehicle only has 3 left you might be screwed, idk. Running without them all is a risk, no amount is safe and I don't recommend it. I feel safe enough with 4 in place and I've never had 3 fail. Do this at your own risk. I've had more than one vehicle sheer through every stud at once, so even having every thing in place isn't a guarantee. All of this is at your own risk. This was a Hail Mary play on my part. I had no other options besides destroying something, so I had nothing to lose. That said, now that I know it'll work, I'll use it again long before I get that desperate. I'm posting this process because I found nothing to help me and no mechanic I've talked to even on Reddit has heard of this. I'm not going to answer questions about this post, don't ask. I've shared everything I did, I've only done it once so far, so I can't offer anything more than opinions. I may post a video of the process if there's interest.

Be safe and good luck.
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