The 7 Best Lug Wrenches
This wiki has been updated 28 times since it was first published in February of 2016. Whether in the garage or on the side of the road, removing a wheel from a vehicle calls for a tool that can generate enough force to release a stubborn lug nut. One of these reliable and sturdy wrenches will allow you to quickly and safely change a flat tire, and we've included durable models designed for workshop use and some that can fit easily in your trunk for emergencies. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
August 29, 2019:
Removed the Titan L-Type, and the GTE Lugstrong because of availability issues. We added the ARES 70092 because it has an interesting design and it includes a 1/2-inch drive which is very useful for those that have locks on their wheels. Normally, the lock keys only come with a small extension that can be difficult to use. The Ares allows you to use a full-sized lug wrench on those locks. Promoted the Powerbuilt 940559 to the top spot because it is an affordable, straightforward, and very well-made lug wrench. You don't need much more than that.
Working on automobiles can be dangerous. Safety precautions should be observed to prevent personal injury or damage to the vehicle.
Choosing the Right Lug Wrench
The good thing about these is that they don't take up much space in your trunk.
Typically, when you buy a new car, it comes with a lug wrench that's designed to fit the lug nuts on the vehicle. However, as you might expect, many times these wrenches aren't exactly the most high-quality options on the market, so you might want to replace yours with a more useful model.
Meanwhile, if you get a used car, there's no guarantee that it will even come with a lug wrench (or lug nuts, or seats, or a steering wheel — you get the idea). In that case, you'll need to buy a replacement — and there are a few options to choose from.
There are two basic models of lug wrench. One is in a basic L-shape, while the other is more of a cross. The difference between the two is that the cross-shaped one, called a four-way wrench, has an assortment of sizes (well...four). It's good for garages, or for families that have multiple cars with different nuts.
The other style has just one size, which is perfect for stashing in your car (provided it fits, of course). Some have interchangeable heads that allow you to service multiple cars, but that's not a standard feature. The good thing about these is that they don't take up much space in your trunk.
Many have rubber grips on them as well. This comes in handy when you have to change a flat in the rain, or if you just need to try to get a good grip with a sweaty palm. It can also spare you some pain if you grab one that's been left out in the sun all day.
There's not much to it beyond that. They're not high-tech machines that are constantly being updated, or that have a wide array of features to choose from. Just make sure it fits, that it won't take up much room in your vehicle, and that it's easy for you to use.
Also, if you suspect you're in a hard-boiled detective novel, make sure it's good for bashing someone over the head with.
How to Change a Flat Tire
There's only one thing worse than being stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire, and that's being stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire that you don't know how to change.
It's not rocket science, though, so it shouldn't take too long to figure out, even if you're frantically googling it on the side of the road in the rain.
The first thing to do is pull well off the side of the road, or to a rest stop or parking lot if you can. If you have an emergency road kit, check to see if it has flares or signs you can post up to help keep you safe as well.
Sit in front of the tire with a leg on either side of the wheel.
Park on a flat surface — you do not want to do this on an incline — and engage the emergency brake. If you have wedges or blocks to put behind the tires, do so before you begin; if the flat is in the front, put the wedges in the back, and vice versa.
If you have a hubcap or wheel locks, take them off. Then, get your trusty lug wrench out and loosen the nuts while the car is still on the ground, as this makes it easier to get leverage and generate torque.
Take out your jack and place it under the frame. Make sure you put it under steel components, because if it's under plastic, it can damage your car. The owner's manual should tell you exactly where to put it, as well as how to operate the jack.
Raise the car up to where the tire is off the ground. It just needs to be able to spin freely, so don't try to jack it twenty feet off the ground. Unscrew the lug nuts the rest of the way.
Sit in front of the tire with a leg on either side of the wheel. Pull off the flat, and set it aside, and then replace it with the spare. Put the lug nuts back on, then tighten them by hand (don't use the wrench, unless you like to just watch the tire spin uselessly).
Lower the car and tighten the nuts with the wrench. Then set the flat in your trunk, gather up your gear, and drive to the nearest service station to get your tire repaired or replaced.
Now go on social media and tell all your friends how close you came to dying on the freeway.
Other Important Gear to Keep in Your Car
While it's important to keep equipment for changing tires in your vehicle, that's far from the only thing you need to have on hand.
Expect that, if something goes wrong, that it will happen at the worst possible time. You should have emergency gear for just about any situation; that includes blankets capable of staving off extreme cold, food and water, and a first aid kit for injuries.
Plus, the GPS on your phone can help emergency crews find you if you're lost.
Dead batteries are a big concern. Having a pair of jumper cables is a must, or you might want to consider having a battery charger on hand.
Nowadays, having a car charger for your cell phone is as vital as anything else. If you have enough juice, you can call for help, or you can use the internet to search for a solution to your problem. Plus, the GPS on your phone can help emergency crews find you if you're lost.
Speaking of which, having a paper map or atlas is still a good idea. The places where you're most likely to get lost are also the places where you're least likely to get a signal, so it's smart to have a backup plan in place.
There's an assortment of random items that you should have stashed away as well. Kitty litter is good if you get stuck, matches can help start a fire if you need to keep warm, and a multitool can replace a large toolbox full of gear.
Oh, and keep a good book in the glove compartment. Those tow trucks take forever to arrive.