Rusty Studs & Nuts

I own a 1995 Camry (215,000 miles and runs fine—still has the original muffler!) and live in Wisconsin, so am exposed to a lot of salt and snow. I have a set of snow tires mounted on extra wheels and make the changeover myself every spring and fall. I use a 4-way lug wrench to loosen and tighten the lug nuts. Recently, I have experienced two problems:

1. The lug nuts get rusted on to the studs and are extremely hard to loosen. I try not to overtighten, but they still seem to get stuck and creak. I can barely get them off using all of my strength. Is there any lubricant that I can apply that will help the problem without causing my nuts to fly off?

2. Once I get all five lug nuts off, the wheels themselves are rusted to the car wheels. Kicking the tires to loosen it doesen’t even help, so I have resorted to taking my handy-dandy propane torch (also great for creme brule!) and heating the wheel. Then when I give it a good swift kick the tire/wheel comes off. Any suggestions on how to prevent this?

I use antiseize compound on both the studs and on all contact surfaces. It’s worked excellent for me.

It comes in a small tube. Use latex gloves and use sparingly. That stuff spreads everywhere and is a bear to get off. It’s the messiest stuff I’ve ever used. It has a mind of its own. But it does work.

I, too, have a set of winter tires mounted on steel wheels, which I change myself twice each year. I agree with Mountainbike, and I second his suggestion. A small amount of anti-seize compound on the threads, and a bit on the wheel/hub mating surfaces should do wonders. DO NOT over-do it. A little bit of this stuff goes a LONG way, and a small tube should last a long time.

I also suggest using a torque wrench to tighten the wheel nuts. You really have no idea how tight you are making them with a 4-way lug wrench (unless, of course, you are doing the complicated math involved, which I doubt). A torque wrench is a worthwhile investment if you do your own wheel changes, especially if your summer tires are mounted on alloy wheels. You REALLY should be torquing the nuts, not just tightening them.

To get the wheels off, first loosen the nuts a few turns. Here are some things you can try. Do whatever is convenient.

  1. Push on the side of the car to rock it back and forth.
  2. Hit the inside of the wheel with a BIG hammer or mallet. You don?t want a sharp blow, buy a slow hit with a lot of inertia.
  3. Drive slowly around the block.
  4. My favorite, back or drive down the driveway slowly and hit the brakes reasonably hard, repeat as necessary.

This time around when you have to loosen the nuts use a penetrating Oil like PB rust buster. Spray and let in soak then loosen the nuts. And use the Antisieze when you put the tires on. You might have to resort to some Impact method to free up the wheel, but remember any time you do that you can potentially damage the threads. For tightening Torque wrench is in my books a must.

Never use anti-seize on lug studs or nuts. Doing this creates a false torque readings where the lug nuts can can be overtightened. This can result damaging the threads and or overstressing the lug studs causing failure.

Read it here


That article is a good theoretical treatment of the problem. I’m sure that the article author always has an impact wrench to loosen those “pesky little lug nuts”. The author’s only remedy proffered is to dab some anti-seize on the lug nut cone. This is good, but inadequate. Meanwhile, back here in Real World, the question poser is talking about having to apply 150 to 200 foot pounds of effort to loosen “those pesky little lug nuts”; not, the 10 ft. lb. over-torque the author is so worried about. Today, we have to concern ourselves with wheel studs and lug nuts which are of sub-standard metal alloys. I specifically am referring to the crapola metal alloys coming out of China (now, and for 10+ years, back). How many lug nuts and wheel studs on your vehicle are of this sub-standard steel alloy? /// When I have run into lug nuts that require 50 ft. lb. torque to turn AFTER they are loosened, I’ve found a drop, or two, of motor oil on the threads to make re-installation considerably easier. Until the Chinese, and other suppliers, decide to stop making sub-standard steels, I’ll continue to put a drop of oil on the studs. What recourse do I have…change every stud and lug nut with a proven quality steel studs and lug nuts? How would I prove those meet the standards?

My wife’s Toyota Corolla uses a 21 mm socket. Use a metric socket–not an SAE socket. I use 'Knock-Er-Loose" or another penetrating oil on the studs. Get a drop or two at the outside edge (end) of the lug nut so’s it’ll find its way under the nut and onto the underlying threads of the nuts. Follow directions on the can. Typical is letting the penetrating oil set for 5-10 minutes. You can also apply heat after the set-up time the first time that you do this. I use a portable propane torch set low and only long enough ‘til the oil starts to smoke. Most times, I don’t even have to use this torch method especially if I was the last guy to tighten the lug nuts the last time. Get the wheel off by either kicking the tires or using a large rubber mallet or wooden mallet at 3, 9, 6 and 12 o’clock. An appropriate length of 2" X 4" framing lumber works well, also. Start out easy. Gradually increase the force until the wheel ‘pops’. (Opposite pattern 180 deg. from each whack. It might take two or three tries, but that way, you won’t deform or break anything). A ‘strong-arm’ bar will help you get those nuts loose. Just don’t give it one hard yank. If you put steady pressure on the handle and gradually increase pressure on the stong-arm bar, they’ll come loose. A two or three foot length of “helper” bar also helps. That’s a steel bar that fits over the handle of the strong-arm. If the pipe doesn’t quite fit over the handle, flatten or oval out about 1 foot of the helper bar until it just fits over the strong-arm handle. Much better leverage! I also use a deep well socket for clearance between the lug nuts and the outside of the rim. Using your own body weight on the bar, gradually increasing pressure, works for me. Before replacing the wheels, look on the brake drum for where the wheels match up to the drum or hub. Daub just a little grease on the drum or hub. Just a little! You only need a very light coating to deter rust. A light sanding will clean off the rust enough for the wheel and drum/hub to match up flat. Lightly sand both drum/hub and inside of the wheel. Daub the wheel where the wheel ‘bosses’ meet the drum/hub. Use about 2 or 3 drops of either motor oil or Marvel Mystery oil (my favorite all-around lubricant. Smells good, too!) on the wheel stud threads. Just a drop or two. That’ll give you a coating and at least reduce if not eliminate rusting of the studs. Then use a torque wrench to tighten the lug nuts to the recommended specs in your Owner’s Manual. All of my vehicles have a strong-arm bar and an appropriate deep well socket kept in each vehicle. It’s well worth it, especially out in the boondocks, in the dark, in the snow or rain, with the wind blowing, etc. Anti-seize compound on lug nuts is a no-no. Horror stories abound about lug nuts coming loose because people used anti-seize compound on the lug studs/nuts. Why do you suppose they call it "anti-seize’? ?? (Has anyone ever seen a tire store chain person use a torque wrench? ?? I didn’t think so. IF they bother to check, they usually depend on the torque setting on the air wrench itself. Those built-in torque settings flat-out do not work–at least nowhere close to accurate–and especially the way those air wrenches are dropped, thrown around and otherwise abused).

PB Blaster is the bomb. i have had to use a 4x4 post to knock off the old rims from the hubs.

just a dab of anti seize and i do mean a dab, NOT a dollop!

and a torque wrench.

Posters are right about having to be careful w/antiseize- it creates too much tension in the wheel stud even if you torque to mfr’s specs. If lug nuts and studs are real rusty when you put them back on you get the opposite effect- not enough tension (tightness)- w/mfr’s torque specs. There’re guideliness for adjusting mfr’s torque specs for when you use lubricant on studs, but now you’re “out on a limb”.

Suggestion: No anti sieze and threads clean and dry. Get a 3/4" drive breaker bar or ratchet; or , sliding T-handle, doesn’t really matter. Now I know what you’re thinking- if the 3/4" drive tool in question isn’t any longer than a 1/2" drive tool, how can it give me more leverege? It can’t. But have you ever noticed w/a 1/2" drive bar or even the 4-way wrench that the length of the tool bends or bows a

little as you exert real force? Now you’ve gotta not only apply the force required to actually break nut free; but also the added force necessary to overcome the tools tendancy to “spring back” as it bows. No lie: you won’t believe the difference in the amount of exertion required. It literally has made the difference for me as to whether I could break a tough fastener free or not. An Old Timer told

me this. Try sears or John Deer tractor dealer- they sell craftsman-quality tools cheaper w/lifetime guar. Mine are made in China but they’re not the cheapo Chinese tools you usually see. If you don’t care about the looks of your car, you could spray paint lug nut area after putting wheel on to keep out rust. I’m not kidding about the 3/4" drive advantage. P.S: You’re not supposed to put a pipe on a tool,

but; it’s an imperfect world… Oh yes- craftsman or equal quality 1/2’ drive torque wrench- can someone give this guy torque spec? Can’t get on Alldata till after holidays. Or call dealer.

The article you posted is not technically accurate, but does make a somewhat valid point.

The article indicates that using a thread lubricant increases the torque above what the torque wrench indicates:

?So, when you tighten a wheel to 85 ft/lbs, it may actually be torqued at 95 ft/lbs?

This is not true. If the torque wrench reads 85ft-lb (his units are wrong too) the torque is 85 ft-lb. Thread lubricant can not add energy to the system, which the author seems to indicate with his example.

What is actually happening is that a higher percentage of the torque is being converted into axial load with the addition of the thread lubricant because the friction between the threads on the stud and nut is lower. This means a lower torque value is needed to achieve the same axial load. The energy imparted on the stud and nut is the same.

That being said, the addition of a thread lubricant, especially anti-seize, can result in coming close to the yield strength of the stud and nut if you used the recommended DRY torque spec. Here is an example:

?-20 wheel stud, tightened to 75 ? 85 lb-ft, non lubricated, stud yield strength = 120,000psi:
Axial stress = 42,000 psi (approximately) -----> safety factor of 2.86

?-20 wheel stud, tightened to 75-85 lb-ft, LUBRICATED with anti-seize, stud yield strength = 120,000psi:
Axial stress = 102,000psi (approximately) -----> safety factor of 1.18

This example illustrates that though the yield stress is not exceeded, it is very close. And given that using torque to specify bolt load can result in error upwards of 25%** It is pretty risky to use thread lubricant while still using the dry thread torque spec.

Keep in mind that reaching the yield point does not mean that the stud has failed, however, it does mean that the stud and nut have to be replace the next time the wheel is removed.

I?ll post up the equations if anyone is interested. They are quite simple.

** Machinery?s Handbook, 26ed, Industrial Press, New York, NY, p. 1480

The other poters have made an excellent point about being careful not to overtorque the lug nuts with antiseize on the studs. And I admit to neglecting to mention that I’m always very careful not to do so.

However, I’ve been doing this without incident for as long as I can remember (decades). I’m open to seeing some actual analysis of the tesile load that such an application would put on a stud and how that would compare to the tensile load necessary to deform the stud, however I’m not convinced that it will without such an actual analysis. In the absence of such, I have to submit that if the danger were that great the probably of my never having damaged a stud by now has to be pretty small, considering that every vehicle provides 16 to 20 opportunities with every wheel change.

I do agree that care should be taken not to exceed torque values ESPECIALLY when using anti seize. And I’m glad they made the point.

It depends on the material used, some studs extend within its limit and others don’t. Measure the length of studs before and after tightening it. If there is a big difference with or without the lubricant then adjust the torque spec. Oh, forgot to mention. I’m a big fan of ‘Never-seez’ This stuff really works.

Boy, this is getting to be an interesting discuusion. I’m still a purist- “Install lug nuts clean and dry”; but maybe if I lived in the upper midwest, I would use anti seize, too. That gets me to thinking- some torque specs have a range as opposed to one value- my ‘96 Cirrus’ lug nut torque specs are 85 to 110 lb ft. If tttyyy’s Camry has the same kind of deal, why not put a little Schmutz (Oops, that’s my Pennsylvania

Dutch English.) Uh- a little “anti-seize” on and torque at lower end of range? That brings up another point- isn’t this whole discussion a little “academic” if this poor guy doesn’t have any spec info to begin with? I get free Alldata at the trade school I used to attend, but the kids are all on Christmas break till Jan. Anyways, I still think spray painting lug nut area will slow down rust process; if

he has steel wheels and hubcaps- cosmetic factor. Profhandy’s idea of working your way around wheel while knocking it off is good, but I would duct tape a hardwood block to a sledgehammer head and take easy swings at edge of rim on the outside. Don’t try to hit inner side of tire-wheel ass’y- might get crushed under car. Last- anyone think it would be bad to put a liberal amount of anti-seize on wheel vertical mounting plane- oops- surface that goes up against hub? What about on wheel center hole? I can’t see how it would hurt.

Lug nuts are intended to be dry torqued. That is, no lubricating factors to effect the torque readings. Where with other fasteners, a wet torque is desired. But this is usually used on a one-time torque spec.

Lug nuts are constantly removed and reinstalled for things such as brake jobs, strut/shock replacements, halfshaft replacement, etc… With these constant type of repairs, over time the lug nuts are over torqued with some kind of lubricant. Over-torque a fastener long enough and eventually it will fail.


According to’s wheel torque chart, the 1995 Camry lug nuts should be torque’d to 80 ft-lbs.

I’m not disagreeing with you, applying an antiseize or lubricant is not always a good idea. It would tend to be more sensitive to the torque applied to threads than the friction generated during tightening and more importantly attract dust or dirt(salt?) that’s the reason why they are designed so. But no ideas other than replacing the hub assy and wheels with central locking system that way the OP will not be bothered if he can handle the torque wrench.

To the OP:
If the nature of this discussion has caused (understandably) concern about using antiseize, let me suggest using it on the contact surfaces OTHER than the studs. The conical areas where the nuts center the wheel holes, and the center area where the hole in the wheel wheel centers on the end of the axle. That should still help.

I have an '03 Camry and I am very familiar with the issue, especially the rears being nearly welded in place. In my experience, no amount of kicking, rocking the car with the lugs loose, tapping or pounding the rim from the outside diameter will remove them. BTDT. My approach, after the years I have had this car, is to support it properly and then get under and lightly tap the rim outward as you rotate it to work it off. I’ve spent enough time wrestling with them to know these are the toughest to remove rear tires I have ever had. Every time, I clean up the interface and apply anti-seize. 6 months later, it’s the same deal. I carry a spare 5lb sledge in case I get a flat on the road (knock on wood).

if using anti freeze gives you more torque then set the wrench to 60 pounds and then you get 90 pounds