Using a cordless or corded impact wrench to remove lug nuts is possible. It has to be done with care to avoid over-torque on the lug nut and damaging it in place. Then it’s a real problem to get off the wheel after that and often must be cut off which is problematic and may ruin the wheel and tire in the process too.
What Torque is Safe to Use or Typical?
You can access recommended torque charts for working with lug nuts. This gives you a good idea depending on the size of the nut to be removed. In most cases, however, the torque is likely to be around 80 ft-lbs to 100 ft-lbs to be safe. It’s quite possible that a lug nut that’s not overly tightened and easier to remove won’t even require that much torque to work it loose and then remove it quickly and easily.
It’s an excellent idea to use less torque and build it up slowly. This way, if the nut starts to move satisfactorily with less torque, you can just hold at that level and see if it will release all the way without applying unnecessary torque to the nut. This avoids ruining the nut or breaking it without meaning to do so.
Unexpected Problems You Can Experience with Removing Nuts
Bear in mind that nuts can become rusty or brittle from cold and snap off quickly and unexpectedly. They can break internally to a point where they cannot be removed easily too. They might have rusted and become stuck in one position where applying too much torque can shatter them.
It’s not always obvious what the state of play is with each nut as you approach it, especially if the light source isn’t that great. It’s sensible to use a LED light source – even if you have to hold a torch in your mouth to direct the light source – to inspect each nut in turn. Then you have a better idea what you’re dealing with before you start putting a cordless power tool onto it and perhaps making more problems than you expected.
Risk of Adding Too Much Torque
There are power tools on the market and online wrench guides store that can deliver far more torque than 80 ft-lbs to 100-ft-lbs, but what’s the real benefit? It’s going to be a rare situation that a nut won’t become loose when using that amount of torque. You can try applying an excess amount to help get it loose, but likely the fastener/nut won’t survive the treatment.
There is a case for using more torque, but we would caution that that’s not something to be done every time. Rather, it’s something to try when the regular amount of torque is not working, and the nut isn’t loosening up. Then going on to Plan B – more torque – is perhaps the answer. But not routinely over-torqueing nuts which is going to create unnecessary headaches that aren’t easy to resolve once they’ve occurred.
Some common sense much be applied when using tools that deliver ample torque. It’s not like revving an engine or going fast in a car. Use the extra torque sparingly.