How to Use An Impact Wrench to Change Tires/Lug Nuts

how to use an impact wrench to change tires
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Impact wrenches are a great tool to use for changing tires. Significantly, these new wrenches have made a great impression on users.

Generally, air impact wrenches come with more power, performance, and reliability, making them much better than the impact drivers.

To understand the pros and cons clearly, and to know how to use an impact wrench to change tires, read our guide below. We hope it would be helpful!

Can a Cordless Impact Driver be Used for Removing Lug Nuts?

Yes, you can, but depending on some specifications.

You can remove the lug nuts using a cordless impact driver provided that the nuts are tightened at the correct amount of torque, which is 80-100 lbs/ft.

And, your impact driver’s output torque has to be higher than 100 lbs-ft. But remember that any rusted, frozen, or over-torqued nuts will not break loose with your cordless impact driver.

One might think that the new impact drivers are the right choice because of power and reliability. But don’t be fooled by the numbers; they are not the correct tool for the job.

Why are Impact Drivers the Wrong Tool?

Impact Driver
Sample Impact Driver

Technically, an impact driver might seem like the right tool for changing your car tires, but the problem starts when the lug nuts are torqued more than 100 lbs-ft.

Usually, the lug nuts are supposed to be tightened from 80-100 lbs-ft; many of them are found to be torqued more.

Heavy vehicles like trucks and dozers with bigger tires need to be tightened much more than regular car tires, which means that the standard impact driver will face around 125 lbs-ft, which is their maximum limit of capability.

Here, some impact drivers can overcome the additional amount of torque. If there are more obstacles like rust, freezing, or if the nuts are over-tightened, then removing them is beyond an impact driver’s capabilities.

Suppose a lug nut is Frozen, Rusted, or Over-Tightened; it can hold onto its place for more than just 100 lbs-ft.

That means that you will need to find a different tool that can loosen the nuts so that an impact driver can remove them.

N.B. It would be wiser if you have the right impact wrench along with the best air compressor for your garage.

Using Impact Wrenches for Tires/Lug Nuts

An impact wrench is much stronger than an impact driver. Some models of the impact wrenches are built to deliver a torque of up to 220 lbs-ft.

Even the most rigid and tightest lug nuts are going to break loose under that amount of power.

However, it is recommended that you use a full-sized, heavy-duty, and powerful impact wrench while dealing with comparatively harder and tighter lug nuts.

To be noted: Don’t get confused between an impact driver and an impact wrench. The impact driver is for drilling and driving screws.

On the other hand, the impact wrench is used for removing and also tightening nuts and bolts.

If you are still confused about the difference between impact drivers and impact wrenches, we suggest you look upon that before making any decisions.

It is usually a good idea to manually loosen the lug nuts using an impact wrench or any other wrenches that require muscle strength so that it becomes easier for your impact driver to do the job afterward.

Make sure that the position of the impact wrench is correct. The wrench should be level such that it doesn’t dent or scrape off a corner.

You should test the impact wrench by operating it to see if it’s moving in the right direction.

A little cautiousness and patience can save you from doing any damage to the lug nuts that may cause further problems.

How Much Should a Lug Nut be Torqued?

You should torque the lug nuts of a car wheel around 80-100 lbs-ft. This amount is tight enough to keep those in place but not too tight to be unable to remove them again.

If you are thinking of DIY and using an impact driver, you should tighten the lug nuts until the driver stops and then give it a little extra spin to secure it nicely.

Different manufacturers use different amounts of torque for the lug nuts. For example, BMW passenger cars are generally torqued between 80-105lb-ft.

In comparison, the wheels of a heavy-duty truck like Ford F-350 are tightened to 165 lbs-ft.

Remember, you are supposed to tighten the lug nuts for keeping the tire in place. There is no need to over-tighten the lug nuts to that point where it gets difficult for you to remove afterward.

If you are not sure about using your impact driver, you can use it till the lug nut gets close to the surface, and then you may tighten it with the help of a regular lug or a torque wrench.

Over Torquing Lug Nuts and it’s Problems

That will put you in trouble. Over torquing the lug nuts might cause the bolts to do any one or several of the followings;

  • Crack
  • Loosen
  • Break off

If any of these happens with the bolts, then the bolts may not be usable again. Moreover, you could cause damage to the wheel and also other components situated near the bolts.

In that case, along with getting the bolts damaged, you will cause additional damage to the wheel hubs too.

These damages could be:

  • Stripped out threads
  • A damaged seating surface of alloy wheels
  • Warped brake rotors (causes the vehicle to overheat, pulse while applying the brakes)

Over torquing could be a pretty expensive mistake depending on the severeness of the damage.

That is why you must learn about the basics and the correct way to secure or remove the lug nuts.

How to Remove the Lug Nuts of the Tires?

Just having the right tools doesn’t make the work right. It needs precision to complete the work correctly rather than only having suitable kits.

  • Park the vehicle on a level surface and apply the parking brakes; doing that locks your car into place so that it doesn’t roll while removing those lug nuts. Keep the spare tire right beside you to make the work more manageable after the main tire is removed.
  • Remove the hub cap and inspect the lug nuts. You need to see if there is any rust in the nuts or if they are frozen or not. Use some WD-40 to loosen the rusted lug nuts.
  • If the lug nut is frozen, use an impact wrench to break free the nut.
  • For the nuts tightened correctly, use a regular impact driver or any lug wrench to loosen them.
  • Don’t jack up the tire right now; the lug nuts should still be on the bolts when jacking up the vehicle, but only when you can use your bare hands to take those off.
  • Whenever you are ready, jack up the vehicle and remove the loosened lug nuts.
  • Now, you may replace the flat tire with a new one. Once that’s done, you’d need to tighten the nuts manually until all of them press tightly against the wheels.
  • Then, you can slowly lower that tire until you take away the jack.
  • Once that is done, use an impact driver to put the lug nuts back.
  • At last, use any torque wrench to secure the lug nuts with the proper amount of torque.

Socket Size, Socket Design, and Safety

You should take a look at these factors while working with impact power tools;

  • Socket Size

Using an impact wrench with the wrong sized socket is a common mistake made by many. It can easily damage your lug nuts.

No socket can fit with all kinds of lug nuts. Find out about your lug nut’s actual size before using any impact wrench on it; if the nut’s head is damaged, it will be very tough to remove it.

We recommend you to buy a full socket set for lug nuts. These sets provide you with all sizes of sockets suitable for all of the standard cars and trucks.

  • Socket Designs

Most of the sockets are designed for the impact wrenches with a square shaft head. In comparison, the impact driver you have has a hexagonal socket.

In that case, you have two choices;

  • Find a lug nut socket that has a hexagonal rear.
  • Use a hexagon to the square adapter.

At first, check the impact driver socket. You should only go for an adapter considering the size of your socket.

  • Safety

Most people tend to use the regular “chrome-plated” sockets for their lug nuts.

Don’t make that mistake. The impact wrenches are too powerful for those sockets. It can exert a massive amount of torque, which the socket cannot handle.

Use sockets that are impact-rated instead. These have a thicker wall and toughened, especially to handle a high amount of torque.

Final Words

An impact wrench is a beneficial tool for securing or loosening the lug nuts. The new cordless ones with 125 lbs-ft are mighty powerful. But like any tool on earth, they also have limitations. Be very precise while using them to avoid any damage.

Well, we hope that our article on “how to use an impact wrench to change tires” was helpful for you. Have a good day.

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