Aluminum Wheels

Okay, I have managed to destroy two thirds of the wheel (as well as two thirds of the lugnut) around a frozen lugnut, and after removing all the other lugnuts, jacking up the car, and beating on the wheel with a five pound sledge and an iron pipe for the better part of an hour, I’ve come to the realization that the wheel has bonded rim has bonded itself to the hub. I even tried driving the car a few feet with all the lugnuts loose to see if that would free it, but no luck. How do I get this &$&%^ing wheel off my car so I put the spare on and be mobile again?

Since you were able to beat on it I’m assuming it protrudes a bit. If so, go on down to the hardware store and get a bolt splitter.

They look like this. And they are actually nut-splitters, but for some reason I’m used to them being called bolt splitters, which isn’t accurate.
Just make sure you get one big enough for your lugnut.

That’s not the problem. The problem is that the wheel has bonded itself to the hub on the car. What’s left of the lugnut is not holding the wheel onto the car.

I had this problem before. Think leverage, you need to hit the outermost part of the wheel to get it off. Of course it doesn’t help that that is the rubber part, but that is where pressure will be the most effective. I’m not telling you to kick the crap out of it, but that is what has worked for me, if you haven’t already.

I’ve been reading this saga as it progressed. Advice #1, don’t drop the damn car off the jack stands and crush yorself, as if you need any more drama in your life. #2, big ass pry bar. Improvise with a length of pipe or whatever else you can get your hands on. #3, do you have full insurance? Never mind… not such a good idea.

Use a torch? You should be able to melt alumium.

Thermite? :wink:

I don’t think that the little old lady who lets me park my car in her driveway would be happy with me if I did that.

Squink, I’ve got the formula for that around here somewhere, but again, I don’t think that the little old lady would be too happy with me, no matter how satisfying that might be.

Mr. Goob, if I had full insurance I would have exercised that “option” a while ago (like when I found out you have to take out the radiator to get to the starter, or that the alternator can only be removed by a contortionist). We do have some long rebar at work that I could probably borrow to use as a pry bar. I’ll give that a shot tomorrow.

How about an improvised puller from unistrut and threaded rod? Bear on the hub center, load and give it a shot-you might get lucky.

Take off the central hub nut, and the hub will come off with the wheel. Then you will have better access for brute force. You can also take it to a big tire shop. They can remove what’s left of your last lugnut, and they probably remember what they did last time it happened in the shop. If all else fails, you are then free to put on a new hub. When you go to the tire shop, pre-empt their derision by saying, I’ve got something to amuse the guys in the garage. Face it, they’re going to laugh at your predicament, so you might as well start by laughing at yourself.

I was once in a very similar jam, and the guys at the tire shop were pleased to show off their cool equipment, and solve something in 90 seconds that had stymied me all day. Brrrrrap, brrrrap, brrrrap, brrrrap, brrrrap, bang, bang, clang, and I was outa there.

Sadly, I can’t get the cap covering the central hub nut off. That was one of the first things that I tried (since I could then take it to where I work and use all the cool toys while sparing myself the humiliation of having the guys in the garage laugh at me).

Well you don’t have to melt it, just heating it could break the bond (along with generious help from Mr S. Hammer), and even if you do melt it it’s not going to form a pool of liquid Al on the driveway.

Having played with plenty of molten aluminum in my day, I can safely say that you’d be surprised at how fast it can go from “gummy” to molten.

I think your idea of driving a bit with the lugnuts loose is the right strategy. However, it may take more than just a few feet. You need some serious stress to break the unwanted seal. Try driving in circles, or at least making some hard turns along those lines.

And in future, apply anti-seize to all your wheels where this one is sticking. And to the lug threads.

Tuck First off do read any further in this post unless you have the car supported on jackstands, if you try the following with the car supported only by a jack it will fall on you and ruin your entire day.
Support the car on jackstands (at least the end you are working on)
Wiggle/ push bash whatever the fender of the car to make sure it will not fall. once you are sure spay some rust penetrant down near each lug stud, and around the hub area.
Now and only now climb under the car with your BFH* Beat on the outer edge of the wheel. Don’t beat on the tire, it will just absorb the blows. Hit one area 4-5 times, rotate the tire and repeat.
Lather rinse repeat until the wheel breaks free.
Clean the hub area of rust and apply anti-seeze before remounting the wheel. It will also be a great idea to take the other wheels off when you get a free chance, before you get a flat in BFE and have to deal with this by the side of the road at midnight in the rain.

*Big Fucking Hammer In this case a dead blow or soft faced hammer will be a better choice.

Spray PT Blaster or an equally effective penetrant on the junction between the wheel and the hub. With the car jacked up, pound the bejeezus out of the stuck wheel. Hit it on the edge of the rim (where the tire meets the wheel) on the inboard side, so as to knock the wheel off of the car. Rotate the wheel between blows to target different parts of the rim. If this is what you’ve done already, try more/better penetrant and a bigger hammer.

Er, no. Not unless you want serious trouble.

This is the problem with unprotected aluminum wheels up against steel hub. They really should have an isolator compound or galvanic inhibitor between them. The smartest, safest thing you could do at this point is drill out the center of the aluminum wheel and attempt to remove the center nut on the hub. (Tricky, 'cause the nut will have a cotter pin that you’ll have to remove as well, but…)

This is a frustrating situation, I know (boy, do I know) but don’t do anything foolish in which the car is going to end up lying on you. If you have to get a grinding wheel and cut that aluminum monstrosty off, do so (you should be able to get one for about $20/day at any rental yard) but I’d be real cautious about applying too much leverage to the thing.

Anti-sieze will protect against thread siezure, but I don’t know how effective it’ll be on the mating surfaces of dissimilar metals. What has happened in this case is that the galvanic corrosion caused by the higher electronegativity of the aluminum has created a bond (effectively a weld) between the steel and aluminum. Normally, these things get removed often enough that it isn’t a tremendous problem, but if they’re on there a long time or in highly ionized conditions (near a marine environment or salted roads) they can bond fast. The best thing to prevent this is a galvanic inhibitor. This stuff comes in a gel and should be available from welding shops and the like. (I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it at an autoparts store but you can give it a try.) You can also spray the surfaces with silicone lubricant (not WD-40, which will attract water as the distillates evaporate) but I can’t vouch for effective that’ll be in the long run.


basically what you need to do is apply force in such a way to make the wheel and hub move parallel to each other.

Whacking on the rubber tire is probably not going to be very satissfactory. You could try sticking a piece of metal on the edge of the rim and then whack on that. Reposition the wheel, whack. Reposition the wheel, whack.

Depending on the design of the wheel, you might be able to hook a Z-shaped prybar around one of the spokes and whack on the other end of the Z so as to apply force that would tend to pull the wheel off. Again, change the position periodically.

As for the driving around on it with the nuts loose… speed bumps at an angle.

At work I change a fair number of flat tires.

Since I am down the shore, the wheels are often frozen to the brake disk/drum in the way you menttion (damp, salty air and all that).

Changing the tire is accomplished thusly:

  2. Jack up the wheel.
  3. Try giving the wheel (not the tire, the wheel rim) a good whack from behind with a cinderblock or other solid object with some heft.

I’ve managed to crack off a 30 year old rim off a rusty drum this way.

BTW…do NOT attempt to scoot your leg under the car and kick it off from behind; the car may fall off the jack and give you one hell of a boo-boo.