How to Remove a Car Wheel That Won't Come Off

A Trick to Get That Wheel Unstuck to Change the Tire

Woman using a lug wrench to remove a car tire on the side of a road

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Changing a tire is frustrating (and difficult) enough, but when the wheel is stuck and you can't get it off your car, it can make this challenging process downright infuriating. If you're changing a tire by yourself, it's even more annoying when the wheel is stuck, and many people give up and call for roadside (or other) assistance.

Sometimes, even with all of the lug nuts removed, the wheel isn't ready to come off. There are a number of things that can cause this, none of them is very serious. First, make sure you have the lug nuts off, otherwise, that wheel's not going anywhere.

What Causes a Stuck Wheel?

Usually, it's just a matter of a build-up of corrosion from the wheel being in place for a long time. This corrosion between the wheel and the mounting surface of the hub can get pretty sticky; it's like a layer of glue that can really adhere the wheel to the hub.

To prevent this from happening, try to keep the insides of your wheels clean and painted, as well as the hub surface. You can also try applying a thin layer of thick grease before you remount your wheels.

A Trick If You Have Access to a Car Lift

There's a trick to freeing a stuck-on wheel that almost never fails, assuming you have access to a car lift. With the car on the lift and the lugs removed, now reinstall the lug nuts leaving about five turns before they start to get snug.

Now lower the car to the ground, get in and start it up. Drive back and forth 4 or 5 feet a few times. It's important to do this on a level surface in a safe area with zero traffic. It's also important to only drive a few feet back and forth. Never take a vehicle on the road with loose lug nuts.

Once you've carefully driven back and forth a couple of times, your wheel should be much looser. Now jack the car up and test the wheel. It should be nice and loose now, ready for you to replace with your spare so you can move on down the road. 

Safety Tips

Don't try to loosen tight lug nuts when your car is jacked up with the factory tool kit jack, or even a small hydraulic auto parts store jack. A really tight lug nut can require a huge amount of force to remove, and once you get enough leverage to break the nut, you might accidentally knock the vehicle off the jack. Not only can you do some real damage to your car or truck, but you could also injure yourself.

If you don't have access to a lift or are trying to change the tire and wheel yourself, you may be out of luck if it's still stuck once you've removed the lug nuts. Don't try to force the wheel off, because as in the example above, you could do real and permanent damage. Call a professional to help you with the job.