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Covering the nuts and bolts of stubborn lug nuts

Click & Clack Ray Magliozzi
Dear Car Talk:
The lug nuts on my car have some kind of cover on them. And the covers are turning instead of the lug nuts themselves. How do I get the lug nuts off?
— Sidney

Ah, the scourge of decorative nuts, Sidney.
Lots of cars and trucks use chrome covers over their lug nuts. It gives the lug nuts a nice, shiny finish, because who among us wants dull-looking lug nuts?
But the downside is that they can corrode. Water and salt eventually get in between the chrome cover and the nut itself, and the nut swells up and you can’t get a socket on it. Or if you can get a socket on it, the chrome has separated from the nut, and the chrome moves but the nut doesn’t.
In that situation, we chisel off the thin chrome cover and what’s left is just the lug nut. You’ll then need a smaller socket. So, if the lug wrench that comes with your car is a 21-millimeter, you might need a 19-millimeter wrench now to remove the lug nuts.
Then you have to decide if you want to drive around with your lug nuts exposed, or do you want to spend the money to replace them with new, chrome-covered lug nuts?
The downside of leaving them exposed is that eventually they’ll rust and corrode and be hard to remove. The other downside is that your lug wrench will no longer work, so you’ll have to buy a new one that fits your pared-down lug nuts and toss it in the trunk.
But if the car is 15 years old, and you’re not sure how long it’s going to last, leaving the lug nuts exposed might be a reasonable choice.
You might be unpleasantly surprised to learn that a new set of chromed lug nuts from the dealership will cost between $5 and $25 a nut, depending on the car. And you need 20 of them.
You might find some at parts shops or online for about half that. Even so, it’s still a lot to pay for something that really should last the life of the car — but doesn’t.
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