How do I remove a wheel from a car?
November 1, 2007 11:26 AM   Subscribe

This car is a '97 Toyota and it was was functioning well when parked. It had a flat tire and has been parked in my driveway for three weeks. When I went to change the flat today, I could not get the wheel off. To be clear, the lug nuts all came of relatively easily, but the rim seems to be melded/rusted onto the axle. What do I do? Crowbar? Chisel? Dynamite?
posted by OlderThanTOS to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total)
Do you have an auto club membership (e.g. AAA)? If so, I'd use up a service call for this, if not I'd get the membership.

When I had this problem, the tow truck driver gave the hub of the wheel a whack with the biggest sledge hammer I've ever seen. Then the lug nuts cam off with no problem (we had not been able to get the nuts to move even with two 6-foot guys standing on the wrench). I can't tell you exactly where he hit it.
posted by winston at 11:31 AM on November 1, 2007

Sorry, I misread a bit, but I'd still use a AAA call.
posted by winston at 11:32 AM on November 1, 2007

Have you tried WD-40? It's pretty magic. Just make sure you avoid your brakes as best you can.
posted by ilikecookies at 11:37 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Try kicking the tire to dislodge it.
posted by rhizome at 11:39 AM on November 1, 2007

Release the parking brake, if that doesn't work, hit the rim with a hammer.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:39 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is common for taking off a wheel that's been on for some time. It's probably rusted on tight.

Get a sledgehammer and whack the rim of the wheel (near the lug bolts, without hitting them, is good-- you don't want to bend the outer rim where it meets the tire). You don't have to hit it too hard. If it doesn't budge after a few whacks, get down underneath the car and hit the inside rim of the wheel.

It should come off no problem.
posted by Rykey at 11:51 AM on November 1, 2007

Yeah, sledge or, preferably, a big rubber hammer near the middle and some carb cleaner/ Liquid Wrench/ WD-40.
posted by yerfatma at 11:55 AM on November 1, 2007

Big Fucking Hammer (BFH). If the rim is steel, you can hit it directly, if it's alloy, use a piece of 2X4 to deaden the blow. Hit hard enough to jar it, not hard enough to bend it. Sometimes, parts just need to be persuaded convinced.
posted by mosk at 11:55 AM on November 1, 2007

I had this same problem a few weeks ago - lug nuts came off with ease, but the wheel would not budge. I sprayed the whole thing down with WD-40 and let it sit for about 8 hours (took the bus to work). I think leaving the chemicals to do their magic for several hours is what did the trick.

If that fails, and you don't have AAA, you could try filling the tire with one of those emergency-seal cans from the gas station. It may void the warranty on your tire (if you still have one), but it could very well get you to the nearest tire shop to have them figure out how to get the wheel off. The stuff squirts goo into the tire to seal the leak, and also re-pressurizes the tire. I think you'd want to consider it a temporary fix, though, just enough to get you to a repair shop.
posted by vytae at 11:58 AM on November 1, 2007

Tap gently around the rim with a rubber or plastic-faced mallet to try to dislodge it. Don't use a hammer directly on the rim, because you'll bend it, dent it, chip the paint, etc. If it won't yield to mallet blow, hold a piece of wood (like a 2x4) against the rim, then hit that with the hammer. Alternate sides until the wheel comes off.
Then, when you reinstall it, put a thin layer of anti-seize grease on the hub surface to prevent it from sticking again. Don't get any anti-seize on the wheel studs.
posted by leapfrog at 11:59 AM on November 1, 2007

I once got a flat while camping miles from nowhere and couldn't get the wheel off for the life of me. I kicked it, banged it with whatever I could find, begged, and cried. Imagine my embarrassment when the hunter strolling through my site jacked up the car another 1/2 inch. The wheel fell right off, as did any sense of pride I had from ever changing a flat tire myself.

So, if you haven't ruled that out already...
posted by wg at 12:07 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

You did jack the car up, right?
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:12 PM on November 1, 2007

Whoa this exact thing happened to my roommate and I think it's the exact same car weird. How we finally got it off is like hubcap behind it you have to press down on some little latches. Sorry I'm explaining this very badly. Basically its sort of clipped on from the inside. So you have to feel around behind it and press down on (lift up?) the little clips. Sorry I am so vague, but it isn't rusted on (assuming I read your question right cars are not my thing). Also, those weren't the actual lug nuts, the actual lug nuts are behind the hub cap, if you look they are just slightly too small to be lug nuts.
posted by whoaali at 12:12 PM on November 1, 2007

Generally, kicking the crap out of the wheel until it breaks loose is the simple answer. I generally hit the tire, as I prefer not to ding and dent up my wheels. If you're going to hit it with a sledgehammer, use a piece of wood to distribute the blow across a wider area, so you don't do as much damage.
posted by knave at 12:22 PM on November 1, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you all! I did remove the magic hubcap with the very well hidden secret release to get at the lug nuts. And the tires is clearing the ground, so I think it's jacked high enough.

Sounds like my plan of action is:
1. Release parking brake.
2. Check jacking height.
3. Marinade in WD-40 and let sit for a while.
4. Get the trusty 5 pound sledge and whale on it
5. If all else fails, swallow my pride and call the tow truck.

posted by OlderThanTOS at 12:22 PM on November 1, 2007

Finger tighten the lug nuts on while leaving about a 1/4 inch gap and drive the car forwards and backwards a couple of feet. Try and put some side to side motion on the tire. IE if it's the front tire turn the steering wheel back and forth in place. If it's the back tire back the left and to the right. Unless it's completely frozen/rusted in place this should break the tire loose without risking your fingers or limbs.
posted by unvivid at 1:05 PM on November 1, 2007

Whacking it with the sledge will work faster than the WD-40. Having always driven old cars and being far too lazy to get anti-seize compound, I have to do this on a semi-regular basis.

I have a rubber mallet that I use for this purpose. I tend to hit the tire around the edge.

On rare occasion I have had to jack up the car, remove the lug nuts, and then slowly lower the car onto the now nutless wheel until the weight of the car dislodges the wheel. I've never used WD-40 on any part of any of my cars. IMO, WD-40 should be used only for creating impromptu flamethrowers.
posted by wierdo at 1:06 PM on November 1, 2007

This is especially a problem for alloy wheels (as opposed to stamped steel rims). When you put the wheel back on, coat the back side of it with molybdenum grease which will prevent this from happening again.
posted by Doohickie at 1:09 PM on November 1, 2007

add heat from a blow torch (like just red hot) ... then belt the shit out of it with a hammer.

If you deform it in the process you jsut have to suck it up and buy another one.

posted by jannw at 1:21 PM on November 1, 2007

Use a large rubber mallet on the rim in a few spots. An actual hammer may damage the rims.
posted by JJ86 at 2:07 PM on November 1, 2007

Unvivid wins - this may further destroy your flat tire, but it will definitely work, and has a lot less risk of damaging you.
posted by sluggo at 2:11 PM on November 1, 2007

I've used unvivid's method, definitely the least hassle involved...
posted by pupdog at 2:44 PM on November 1, 2007

My dad had to use unvivid's method for all four tires of his truck. It worked when a ten pound sledge didn't.
posted by nursegracer at 4:21 PM on November 1, 2007

Don't get any anti-seize on the wheel studs.

Er. Absolutely no reason why not. Anti-seize is perfectly fine on threads.

Seconding the whacking it. Followed by the 'moving the car back and forth with the wheel nuts ever so slightly loose.

If you heat it (also good) you must be very, very careful not to get it too hot - red hot is WAY too much. There are greases, seals, brake pads and rubber in that area that will not love you for being overheated. Especially with a flame.
posted by Brockles at 5:04 PM on November 1, 2007

unvivid has it, I've used that method with hub centric wheels on numerous occasions. Often just lowering the car onto the wheel with loosened nuts will pop it free. Otherwise I'll try giving the car a little shake before I drive it back and forth a few feet. Unless you have a really delicate alloy rim or the tire has popped off the bead you won't damage anything. Heating shouldn't be required.

Brockles writes "Absolutely no reason why not. Anti-seize is perfectly fine on threads."

No it's not. Lug nuts on studs with anti seize compounds can't be torqued properly.
posted by Mitheral at 1:44 AM on November 2, 2007

No it's not. Lug nuts on studs with anti seize compounds can't be torqued properly.

Totally untrue. Lubrication (of which anti-seize is one) produces a considerably more accurate torque figure. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that this lubrication would be detrimental.
posted by Brockles at 4:57 AM on November 2, 2007

Well Loc-tite[pdf] thinks you need to adjust your torque settings and that "(In critical applications, it is necessary to determine the K
values independently.)". Jet-Lube[pdf] says their product "reduces wrench torque" but they only give a compensation factor for stainless. ATS industries says that "Testing is required to determine exact K values & specific Performance on any individual fastener" where K values are the Torque Coefficient nut factors.

Personally I think lug nuts are critical applications but YMMV. Or maybe you are doing the independent testing required to use these products in this application safely.
posted by Mitheral at 9:19 AM on November 2, 2007

An anti-seize lubricant used on a bolt helps to develop greater clamp load for the same torque compared to an unlubricated bolt. An additional benefit is greater uniformity in clamp load among a series of bolts.

"Greater clamp load for the same torque". So you torque a bolt to the same figure and you have a greater clamp load - the bolt is effectively tighter. This is an improvement, not detrimental or 'not being torqued properly', it just means you don't lose clamp force and get a false torque reading from thread face friction or from dirt ingress.

The important aspect is if the torque figure quoted is to establish a clamp loading (what torque figures are for) are for a minimum for dry threads or for lubricated threads. If the figure quoted for is dry, then if your clamp load is close to critical for the materials being clamped, then you need to investigate further if you then lubricate the thread. Most torque figures quoted are for lubricated joints, as this is the nearest to the theoretical figure arrived at during design, as the friction on threads (affected by surface imperfections, dirt, relative heat of components etc) is very hard to quantify when dry assembled.

Net result? There is nothing wrong at all with putting lubrication on wheel nuts/bolts. It is in fact better, as you get a stronger, more reliable, clamp force on the wheel to the hub. It will not be possible for the lubrication to increase the clamp load enough to damage components. Hence why your statement was misguided.
posted by Brockles at 7:19 PM on November 2, 2007

Personally I think lug nuts are critical applications but YMMV.

You are mixing up the concept of how important the components are with the engineering terminology. Yes, it's important that the wheel stays on, but it has such a massive safety factor in the number and sizes of thread involved in the fasteners, that it is by no means an engineering 'critical application'. A 'critical application' is one where the load induced by the fastener is within a relatively small percentage of the physical strength of the materials involved. You won't find such an application on a road car.
posted by Brockles at 7:22 PM on November 2, 2007

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