Wrench Tips - Tip #10: Bust a Nut

How many times have you jacked up the front of you car to work on the suspension only to realize you forgot to break your lug nuts loose while the wheel was firmly on the ground? If you're slumming without air tools and you don't happen to be working on a 1983 Subaru (which had the parking brake on the front wheels, much to the detriment of my adolescent drifting career), you're probably about to put it back on the ground.

Well don't. First grab your breaker bar and try using your wheel's inertia to break the lugs loose. All you do is stick your breaker bar on the lug nut, spin the whole wheel clockwise as fast as you can, and then snap the breaker bar back counterclockwise with a clean, sharp jerk.

If you're lucky, the inertia of the wheel will be enough to crack the lug nut loose. Sometimes it takes two or three tries to get the each nut moving, but unless they were overtorqued, it almost always works.

Here are a few details, in case you're having trouble.

First, this will always be easier with a heavier wheel (more inertia…) but it obviously still works with the bantamweight Miata wheels I'm demonstrating on.

Second, make sure you're making the best use of the leverage you have. With the breaker bar positioned like this, across the centerline of the wheel, your leverage to stop the wheel from spinning is only the distance from the axle to your hand, but your leverage to break the lug nut loose is the full length of the breaker bar. This gives you the nut busting advantage.

wrench tips break lug nuts right way


If you have the breaker bar on the rear lug, like this, its easier to stop the wheel than it is to break the nut loose, making your job much harder.

Wrench tips lug nut wrong way




The inertial impact wrench from Dave Coleman on Vimeo.


 -Dave Coleman


Got any tips of your own? email them to dave@motoiq.com!



Click the Wrench to read the rest of the Wrench Tips

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Monday, January 18, 2010 12:17 PM
I like to use this trick to tighten lug nuts before lowering the car and torquing them. However I hadn't considered the leverage difference across the wheel versus the outside of the wheel. Thanks!
Monday, January 18, 2010 12:52 PM
you might also be able to get away with holding the tire with your hand, or wedging your foot in between the ground and the tire. these have both also worked for me!
Monday, January 18, 2010 12:57 PM
also..... Dave I keep getting emails returned when I try to send wrench tips to dave@motoiq.com
Monday, January 18, 2010 1:04 PM
the e-mail problem should be fixed. let me know if it's not.
Dave Coleman
Dave Colemanlink
Monday, January 18, 2010 2:32 PM
Sorry, I changed that to eyesoreracing@motoiq.com, but then I started re-using text from an old story that still had the dave@ address. Aaron should have made both addresses work by now.

Send me your tips, I'm running out of my own!
Monday, January 18, 2010 6:31 PM
Snap On Impact
Dave Coleman
Dave Colemanlink
Monday, January 18, 2010 8:27 PM
You're such a baller with all your fancy tools. If you were stuck on a desert island with an RB26, a blown headgasket, and no Snap Ons, what would you do? I could fix that shit with a coconut.
Monday, January 18, 2010 9:08 PM
good idea! i've always had to find someone to step on the brakes... in hindsight, lowering the car again would be so much easier...

and if i could make a site suggestion, more videos = more better. i understood the content from the text and pictures, but videos make me happy.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 4:15 PM
Nice. I usually do the foot trick.
Thursday, January 21, 2010 10:26 AM
this happens to me more than i'd like to admit.
Thursday, January 21, 2010 5:34 PM
i rarely have this problem anymore after my arms got sore from using this trick soo many times. oh but i used a crosswrench instead of a breaker
Friday, January 22, 2010 6:05 AM
If I were stuck on a desert island with an RB26, a blown headgasket, and a coconut , I think I would eat the coconut, and use the RB as an anchor.

They don't blow headgaskets much anyway, just spin bearings. I am decent at fixing things on the side of the road, and at the track. Done it a few times.

Its a good tip, but I like my Snap On Impact. Even the good 3/8ths one will break lugs now.
Sunday, April 17, 2011 6:09 AM
I thought I was the only one that does this lol
my friends always look at me funny when I do it, I just feel like lowering the car and then raising it back up again. Then you get the really tight nuts where you have to lower the car.
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