You are not on your own; this is such a common problem. I know the feeling; some jobs fight you all the way. Getting a flat is bad enough without struggling with a stuck wheel.
Car wheels commonly stick because corrosion builds up between the hub and the wheel. Knocking it loose using a block of timber and using copper grease on the hub will solve the problem.
I’m a mechanic, and I’ll share my simple safety tips for getting the wheel off right now and preventing it from sticking again. Please, never trust a car jack. Don’t get under your car without first supporting the vehicle.
Why Is My Car Wheel Stuck?
Most cars today are fitted with Alloy wheels; not only are they sporty looking, but they are lighter than steel which helps manufacturers meet strict fuel efficiency targets.
The hubs on your car a made from steel, and when two different types of metal interface, corrosion develops and causes them to stick. This is a problem with all cars fitted with alloy wheels.
Safely Removing A Stuck Wheel
Working under a car is dangerous; this post will show you how to remove the wheel safely. Begin by loosening the lug nuts and jacking up your car. When you find the wheel is stuck, follow these simple steps to quickly and safely remove the wheel.
Leave one lug nut on, just one or two threads. This prevents the wheel from falling off in an uncontrolled manner later.
As the car is on a jack, and they aren’t very secure, we won’t be getting under it without first securing it. We will place the spare wheel under the car chassis to help prevent any possibility of the car falling off the jack and onto the ground.
From behind the wheel, use a hammer, tire iron, or timber to strike the tire (not the alloy rim).
This will cause the rim to loosen, and you’ll be able to rock it from side to side to release it from the hub.
How To Prevent The Wheel Sticking
As you know, corrosion builds up on the hub-to-wheel interface. This happens because the metals are different, and that promotes corrosion. But also because the wheels generally aren’t rotated as part of service anymore. This is a particular problem on low-mileage cars in salt states where the wheels may not be removed for years.
To prevent this from happening, follow the simple steps below. Your wheels should be removed, hubs cleaned, and copper grease reapplied once a year.
Tools you’ll need:
- Axle stands
- Wire brush
- Copper grease
Clean the corrosion from the hub thoroughly by using a wire brush to loosen up and remove the rust.
Apply a thin coat of copper grease to the central hub and the wheel; however, don’t be tempted to grease the lug nuts.
Fit the wheels and torque the lug nuts to specification. Usually, between 75 and 110 ft-lbs (Check the spec for your car), tighten in a star pattern as per the graphic below.
You’ll need a torque wrench to set the lug nuts to spec; check out this post which covers how to use a torque wrench “Mechanics Torque wrench”.
Wheel stuck on the rotor? A build-up of rust behind the wheel has caused the wheel to stick to the rotor. To break it free, first support the car jack by placing the spare wheel or axle stands under the chassis, then Strike the rear of the tire sharply to break it free.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.