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.
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.
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