Three Things to Know When Buying a Tire Iron (Lug Wrench)

Do you have the right iron for the job? Consider these three factors when making your decision.

tire iron on a wheel
Change flats easier with the properly sized tire iron.Neonbrand via Unsplash

Tire irons are the last thing you want to have to use when operating your vehicle. But when you need them they better work, and work well, and you better be able to find them. The only thing worse than standing in the rain or snow trying to change your flat tire is standing there with a lug wrench that doesn’t fit, doesn’t work or you can’t find. Tools supplied with your vehicle aren’t always reliable. When you finally figure out where they’re stowed and how to assemble them, all too often you’re pitifully undergunned for the task at hand. Here are three factors to consider to ensure you aren’t that guy.

Size

EPAuto 14" Heavy Duty Universal Lug Wrench
This four-way universal lug wrench will fit up to eight SAE and metric lug nut sizes, and offers two-handed leverage to loosen the toughest seized nuts.EPAuto

Your vehicle has lug nuts of a certain size. Depending on your vehicle the nuts could be either standard or metric, with the most common sizes being 10-14mm or 7/16 to 5/8 inches. Make sure your tire iron fits them. Your owner's manual should tell you the size you need.

Style

WORKPRO 14-Inch Universal Folding Lug Wrench
Some 4-way lug wrenches offer folding arms, making for easier storage.WORKPRO

Tire irons or lug wrenches come in a number of styles, from the traditional L-shaped or four-way lug wrench to versions that telescope or can be disassembled into a small tube. The most common are the cross-shaped universal lug wrench that features four different socket sizes, one on each end (or sometimes three with a wedge used to pop off wheel covers and hubcaps). L-shaped irons have a socket on one end and wedge on the other, but are not as popular due to lack of versatility.

Stowability

Gorilla Automotive 1721 Telescoping Power Wrench
This telescoping lug wrench features four sockets and easy storage possibilities.Gorilla Automotive

One problem with standard 4-way lug wrenches is that they're awkward to stow; which then can lead to misplacing them (not fun when you need them most!). Newer designs feature telescopic, folding or assembly designs that make them easier to stow. You might have plenty of room for your four-way and love the leverage you get with tough-to-loosen lug nuts, but with smaller vehicles stowability can be a significant factor.