Question about removing one lug nut

Hi, hopefully this is a simple question. I recently bought a new car, refused to pay for the locking lug nuts dealer scam (hate 'em), no problem. So I pick up the car two days later, get jerked around for 2 hours, can’t wait to leave. Get home and notice that the one locking lug nut is on each wheel. The key for the locking nuts and original nuts are in the trunk.

The car has 5 lug wheels, and like most old guys I was taught to take most of the pressure off the wheel before loosening lug nuts, and to tighten in a cross-pattern.

In my case, is it okay to just change out the locking lug nut on each wheel without partially jacking up the car? I’d have the dealership do it, but they’re over an hour away.

Thanks for any assistance.


Install the new lug nut on each wheel and torque it to spec. Might as well check the other lug nuts while the torque wrench is out.


Theoretically all the remaining lug nuts should hold the wheel in place while changing out one. BEFORE I changed out the one, I would torque the others just make sure (especially alloys) there is no position change when you do one. I know there is little chance but that’s just me. Retorque all before and after. Of course if you have a floor jack and an air wrench and can take the weight off…Just me being a worry wart and getting a little arm exercise. Check your manual for torque.

You can change out the single lug nut without jacking up the car. The other four lug nuts will keep the wheel in place. I like the idea of checking all the nuts for proper torque with the torque wrench out. Last thing you want to happen is for lug nuts to come loose because you didn’t check them.

Yes, I’d be comfortable changing one lug nut on each wheel without jacking up the car. Think of it this way: If one lug nut gets cross-threaded, and the bolt breaks, you could safely drive the car to the shop with only four lug nuts in place. Therefore, removing one lug nut per wheel should not allow the wheel rim to shift position. I’ve even gone as far as driving my car to the shop with only three out of four lug nuts in place, but I had to convince myself it was safe, and I would have been much more comfortable with four out of five lug nuts in place than three out of four.

You can be perfectly comfortable changing out one lug at each wheel without loosening the others. Look at it this way, the five lug nuts are capable of holding the wheel on even while hitting a pothole while going around a curve at 40mph. And, while cross-tightening is important when installing all five, there’s no where nearly close to enough flex in a wheel to allow any movement whatsoever in any axis with four lugs installed and torqued and the fifth removed. The wheel will remain exactly as it is, “loaded” against the disc/drum, with only the four lugs on while you install the fifth.

I commend your attention to detail and your willingness to ask, however. That good sense will serve you well.

Scam? Locking lugnuts are a premium item. Cars that don’t have them are cheaper. If they cost $50 and dealer charges u $50 than how it it a scam? Is a dealer installed option a scam? Not in my world. U get a fancy item, u pay for it. U can say u got an option for free but that does not impact the discussion.

The wheels are not cantilevered so you can just remove and replace one lug nut, but why, you have them now, you paid for them.

I’d get rid of the locking lug nuts if they were on my car. The key to remove them can break, bend, or disappear, and that usually happens at the worst possible times.

Dealerships have a barrel full of standard lugnuts that were removed from new cars to install the tamper proof nuts that they charge a premium for. Most people never pay any attention to the additional charge or to the lugnuts so the dealer’s shop makes a quick extra $20+ on each car.

There’s a few unanswered questions to which answers may not surface. All rhetorical of course…

Factory locking lugs? How is that a dealer scam?

If they were add-ons and noted up front then how is that a scam?

The lugs are still on the car so does this mean they were gotten for free? So why weren’t the lugs swapped out in the ensuing 2 days before the car was picked up?

“I’d have the dealership do it but they’re an hour away…” is baffling because of the willingness to return in spite of the alleged lug scam and being jerked around for 2 hours as it was referred to.

I agree with @OK4450…I don’t see how this is a scam. Maybe if they charged you $100 to install them it might be a scam.

Factory Locking Lugs I bought for my 4runner from the Toyota dealer were very reasonably priced. I could have bought locking lug nuts from ADAP also at the same price.

“Hopefully this is a simple question” OP
It is. But we here can extrapolate to the nth degree on any topic no matter how simple it appears to be. That’s called “good conversation among friends”.

How is it a scam? Almost never needed, dealers make about $40.00 pure profit for something that has the potential for trouble down the road. Why do you think they try to put them on all new cars?

Why weren’t the lugs swapped out - good question, wish I knew. Not sure what you’re baffled about - bought the car one day, but “they had to get it ready”, so I picked it up a different day. Also had to arrange transportation, as I didn’t want them to assume I was ready to buy a car on December 31st (where is that smiley face?). About the jerked around part; after having done the paperwork, given them 2 days to get the car prepped, I would assume it would be ready to go when I came back to pick it up, but noooooooooo. Hope that clears it up for you.

I forgot to thank the knowledgeable folks who responded. I did feel like it was an excess of caution on my part to even ask the question, but I have never dealt with a locking lug nut before, and the wonderful internet makes it so easy to ask questions of people with experience.

You were smart to ask if you were unsure in the least. You’re very welcome. .

We lost a lugnut during a road trip, what is that clunking, I reinstalled the lugnut that had been rolling around behind the hubcap, and checked that all others were tight. Did not cause any problems.

I agree with @‌Whitey

My old parts manager once told me a horror story concerning a flat tire

He got a flat tire in a really bad, unsafe part of town. He wanted to put on his full size spare. He put the proper tool into the locking lug, and gave it a tap, to make sure it was seated. In spite of all that, the locking lug rounded internally, so that it couldn’t be removed at that time.

Because he was extremely nervous that something bad would happen to him if he stayed in this bad area much longer, he decided to drive off on the flat tire. He escaped unharmed, but he ruined his rim in the process. He figured if he waited for a tow truck, that extra time spent in that area would increase the chances of bodily harm to himself.

After that fiasco, he removed the locking lugs and threw them in the trash . . .

I recall charging more than 2 hours labor to drill out 4 lug studs from damaged tamper proof nuts in the cast aluminum wheels on a car. The owner was happy to pay the bill after being stranded with a flat tire that neither he nor the wrecker driver could change. The tools made to remove damaged tamper proofs are a pain to use and when the nut is deep in a cast wheel with minimum clearence drilling is required to save the wheel.

When I realized my new car 2002 bought 2001 had those lug nuts, I took the key in and bought a second one, based on my knowledge that things do got lost, and more often as they are more important. One is in the real well where the jack goes, the other one is down inside the console beside the driver’s seat. Over 12 years, and still haven’t lost one.