How Much Torque to Remove Lug Nuts? Can You Use an Impact Wrench?

You risk damaging them if you don’t know how to safely remove lug nuts that have almost fused into their wheel studs because of rust. Do you know how much torque to remove lug nuts? Can you use an impact wrench?

If you consult a lug nut torque chart, it will tell you that the safe amount of torque you can apply into a lug nut should be 80 and 100-foot pounds. You can use an impact wrench with a minimum capacity of 500 ft.-lbs of torque to remove lug nuts. The best tool for this work is an impact wrench, either air-operated or battery operated.

In removing the lug nuts, you need a hex shaft to square drive to attach a lug nut socket to the impact wrench. But be aware that some impact drivers may not provide enough torque to remove a rusted, over-tightened, or frozen lug nut.

Read on to learn more about the amount of torque required to remove lug nuts and if you can use an impact wrench to do it.

How Much Torque to Remove Lug Nuts?

how much torque to remove lug nuts

If you consult a wheel nut torque settings chart, you will know that the safe amount of torque that you can apply to most lug nuts is between 80 and 100 ft.-lbs. You can use an impact wrench with a minimum capacity of 500 ft.-lbs to remove lug nuts.

Torque Chart

Here is a torque chart that will give you an idea of the amount of torque you can apply to various sizes of studs/nuts:

Wheel Stud Size, in inches and millimetersTypical Range of Torque, in Foot PoundsNumber of Turns of Hardware Engagement
7/16 inch70 to 809
1/2 inch75 to 858
9/16 inch135 to 1458
12 x 1.5 millimeters70 – 806.5
12 x 1.25 millimeters70 – 808
14 x 1.5 millimeters85 to 907.5
14 x 1.25 millimeters85 to 909

The best tool that you can use for this kind of work is an impact wrench that can either be battery or air-operated. The typical size of the impact wrench for this job is 1/2-inch or 3/8-inch.

They are the two sizes that can give enough power to break loose even lug nuts that are fused into their bolts without applying too much torque.

Use an impact wrench to remove overtightened lug nuts on tire wheels. Just imagine that the lug nut must be tightened from 80 to 100 ft.-lbs to hold the wheel on. So, it is just as easy for people to over tighten them.

How to Use the Right Amount of Torque

You should carefully remove overtightened lug nuts with an impact wrench. You can easily over-torque the lug and destroy it in its place. If that happens, it will be much more difficult for you to remove it.

You may have to cut its body off before you can break it loose. While doing this, you may also damage the wheel and tire. So, you need to apply just the right amount of torque to loosen the grip of the lug nut on its bolt:

1. Refer to a Standard Torque Chart

Before you attempt to remove a tough and stubborn lug nut, it is best if you can get hold of a standard torque chart. This chart will show you how much torque you can apply for a certain size of lug nut that you want to remove.

Apply the Torque Slowly

The safest amount of torque can be from 80 to 100 ft.-lbs in most cases. But a lug nut that is not too much tightened may require less torque than these. The best practice is not to apply the ‘required’ torque aggressively.

Build Up the torque Gradually

You can apply the torque slowly and build it up gradually. While you are tightening it, feel the lug nut if it still can take the pressure. Continue building up the torque until you reach the ‘required’ amount.

Wait for the Nut to Give In

Hold to that level if you feel that the nut is already giving in. Then wait and see if it will release without so much resistance. Don’t apply any unnecessary torque at this point, or you may accidentally break the lug nut.

2. Observe At Every Turn of the Impact Wrench

Remember that it is being materially stressed as you apply torque to the lug nut. The nut may have rusted or is already brittle and can unexpectedly snap off.

If it breaks internally, it will be more difficult for you to remove it. Its inner parts are probably fused into the bolt, and applying too much torque may shatter it.

You can’t see what’s happening inside the nut threads and the bolt’s threads. If you have a light source, perhaps a small led flashlight, you can point it to the lug nut so you can see what’s happening at every turn of the impact wrench.

3. Avoid Over Torquing

Over-torquing has its uses. But in the matter of loosening lug nuts, you should avoid over-torquing because of the risks involved.

You risk breaking the lug nut making its removal more difficult. If the lug nut breaks, you may have to cut off the lug nut by using a cutting tool.

As mentioned a while ago, you may even damage the wheel and the tire when you try this.

So, the best route is not to use over-torquing when removing lug nuts since it will create more difficulties that you cannot easily resolve. Remember, it is not like revving up your engine. The idea is to use additional torque sparingly.

Can You Use an Electric Impact Wrench to Remove Lug Nuts?

how many foot pounds of torque to remove lug nuts

Use an Impact Wrench with a High Rating

Using an impact wrench with a high rating, you can remove stubborn lug nuts. An impact wrench makes the job easier and removes the lug nuts faster.

Spray Some Penetrating Oil to the Lug Nut and Wheel Stud

Before using the impact wrench, spray some penetrating oil to the lug nut and the wheel stud to make the job easier. Then wait for a few minutes for the oil to work its way inside the joint.

Alternate Between Loosening and Tightening

When breaking free the nut from the bolt, try alternating between loosening and tightening. This action will help the nut break free from the stud with less risk of breaking the wheel stud.

But it is not advisable to use an impact wrench in tightening a lug nut to the wheel stud. If you use an impact wrench, the chance of over-torquing the lug nut is higher.

Always Tighten the Lug Nut with Just the Right Torque

Remember, you should always tighten the lug nut with just the right torque. If you use an impact wrench to tighten, you can’t apply the right amount of torque to the lug nut.

Reasons Why There Are Hard to Remove Lug Nuts

You need to be aware of certain conditions regarding lug nuts that are very hard to remove. Most probably, these nuts have already developed any of the following conditions:

  • Over tightened
  • Presence of rusts.
  • Frozen or stuck.

If you tighten the lug nut to 100 ft.-lbs., you can easily remove it with a wrench that has a capacity of more than 100 ft.-lbs. However, this is only true in ideal conditions.

In general, if you tightened the lug nut at a particular torque level, you could also remove it with the same level of torque – unless the three factors mentioned above enter the equation.

The struggle to remove stuck lug nuts that were over tightened by the use of impact drivers or by over-enthusiastic tire mechanics becomes easier when you use an impact wrench. If the lug nut is holding out because of high torque tension, use an impact wrench to make the job easier.

Instead of using a ratchet wrench or a breaker bar, you can use an impact wrench. You will be able to loosen lug nuts and even fasteners easier and faster. A conventional impact wrench can accommodate 1/2-inch sockets of different sizes, including those used for lug nuts.

Impact Wrenches Are Available in All the Standard Socket Sizes

Most impact wrenches are available in all the standard socket sizes. That includes 1-inch and 3/4-inch sockets for industrial applications. If it’s the lug nuts on your truck that are the problem, you can go to your impact wrench if you want an easy fix.

Again, how much torque to remove lug nuts? To remove lug nuts, you need to apply torque between 80 to 100 ft-lbs, according to a lug nut torque chart.

How an Impact Wrench Works

So, you now know that impact wrenches are perfect for loosening stubborn lug nuts since they can generate extremely high torque. When you apply it even with just a slight amount of force, you can remove stuck-up lug nuts in just a breeze.

Has a Motor with a Hammering Mechanism

An impact wrench has a motor with a hammering mechanism that delivers powerful concussive blows to the lug nut or the wheel stud. This is the force that creates enormous torque.

The huge amount of force generated by the impact wrench allows you to break loose even the most tightened bolts and nuts.

Torque Generates Steady and Sudden Twisting Motions

The torque generates steady and sudden twisting motions to the lug nut, but only in short bursts and not in a continuous, non-stop manner. This causes the stuck lug nut to move. Pretty soon, the stubborn nut will break loose from the wheel stud.

There are impact wrenches that can generate 700 ft.-lbs of torque. Since most lug nuts are torqued between 80 and 100 ft.-lbs., an impact wrench with 700 ft.-lbs has more than enough power to loosen a tough lug nut.

This is why professional garages use impact wrenches to remove lug nuts at auto racing events. Car care centers have taken the cue and used these wrenches to serve their customers’ wheels and tires.

Cordless Impact Wrenches

Impact wrenches available in the market are cordless types. Some of the most popular models are the 18-volt impact wrenches. They are powerful enough to remove lug nuts that were tightened at the maximum of 100 ft.-lbs.

Using other pneumatic tools to do that would be a lot more difficult if you could even do it. Additionally, portable impact wrenches are not as noisy as their pneumatic counterparts, although they are still loud. Wearing a pair of noise diffusers will do well in protecting your ears.

Definition of Terms

how many pounds of torque do i need to remove lug nuts

Since we are discussing torque, I think it is proper to explain it in basic terms, along with other things related to it:


Measure of the Impact Wrenches Turning Power

Torque is a measure of the turning power of the impact wrench. You can use this turning power to loosen or tighten the lug nut. The amount of torque required to loosen a lug nut is different from the amount of torque needed to tighten that same lug nut.

One of the highest torques an impact wrench can generate is that of the Dewalt’s. Dewalt impact wrench can generate 700 ft.-lbs of torque and 1,200 ft.-lbs of breakaway torque.

Breakway Torque vs Dynamic or Running Torque

There are two kinds of torque that are in action while you are loosening a stuck-up lug nut. Breakaway torque refers to the force required to start the rotation of the stubborn lug nut from its stationary condition. So, this torque starts everything.

When you have already started the ball rolling, so to speak, you will now apply dynamic or running torque. This is the torque that keeps the nut moving. You will soon loosen the lug nut from the wheel stud as you continue applying dynamic torque.

Hammering Action

A stuck-up lug nut will hang on tight because there is an enormous amount of friction between its threads and the wheel stud threads. So, just turning the nut will not do it.

You should also apply something else to loosen the friction. And that other force is hammering, which is an impact action.

This is why it is called an impact wrench. So, a hammering action is added to the turning action. And the nut can no longer maintain its hold on the threads of the wheel stud. So, it gives in, and it breaks loose after a while.

There is a measurement for this hammering action. It is called IPM or impact per minute. The Dewalt impact wrench is rated at 2,400 IPM, which is a lot.

Revolutions Per Minute (RPM)

You’ve guessed it right. RPM means revolutions per minute; this determines how fast the wrench can turn the stuck lug nut. We again take the example of the Dewalt impact wrench.

This power tool comes with three-speed settings. It also has a progressive trigger. Meaning you have full control of this tool. If you set this wrench at the number 1 setting, you can get a 0 to 400 RPM speed.

If you set it to the number 2 position, this power tool will run from 0 to 1,200 RPM. And in position number 3, it can go from 0 to 1,900 RPM.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some questions that are frequently asked about impact wrenches and if you can use them in removing stuck up lug nuts:

Can I Use an Impact Wrench to Remove Lug Nuts?

You certainly can use an impact wrench to pry out a stubborn lug nut from its wheel stud. It is the tool that professional garages use in their racing circuits. To use this tool, you will need a hex shaft to square drive adapter so that you can attach the lug nut socket to it.

You should also use an impact wrench to match or even outmatch the torque level used to tighten the lug nut.

How Much Torque Do I Need to Remove Lug Nuts?

You need an impact wrench with a capacity to generate 500 ft.-lbs of torque to remove a lug nut. Most lug nuts are tightened from 80 to 100 ft.-lbs of torque. So, you should use an impact wrench capable of delivering a torque level of more than 100 ft.-lbs.

What Is the Standard Torque Applied on Lug Nuts?

In most cars, the standard torque to tighten the lug nuts is from 80 to 100 ft.-lbs. This is the amount of torque required to hold the wheels in place.

Can I Also Use an Impact Wrench to Tighten Lug Nuts?

It is not advisable to use an impact wrench to tighten lug nuts. Remember, you should tighten the lug nuts from 80 to 100 ft.-lbs. You can only be sure of the exact torque level to apply if you are using a torque wrench, not an impact wrench.

Some have used their impact wrenches to tighten lug nuts for convenience. But that doesn’t make the thing right. And it is not safe either.

Conclusion: How Much Torque to Remove Lug Nuts?

By looking at a lug nut torque chart, you will see that the safe amount of torque that you can apply into a lug nut ranges from 80 to 100 ft.-lbs. An impact wrench with a minimum capacity of 500 ft.-lbs is one tool you can use for this.

But the best tool for this work is an impact wrench. This wrench can either be pneumatically operated or battery operated.

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