Care maintenance has very few small details. Usually, every tiny part within the car matter a lot. This is also true about lug nuts. Whenever the time to change wheels comes, people tend to carefully pick rims made of specific materials and choose tires for better performance, but the lug nuts often get overlooked entirely. And that is a shame because giving so little attention to the thing that basically secures your wheel in place is not a good idea.
It may come as a surprise to some people, but wheel nuts are not the same across the different makes and models. There is a lot to take into account, like the lug nuts size, thread, necessary torque, and other parameters.
Getting the right specs is crucial to ensure your safety and also to save money on the maintenance that will definitely be needed if the lug nuts are not installed correctly.
“Each car has a specific wheel nut pattern that cannot be changed,” warns Oliver Brown, Data Coordinator at Wheelssize.com.
“A lot of adapters you can find on the market are low quality, and we don’t recommend using them if it can be avoided.” Reliability must be prioritized over aesthetics or hypothetical performance boost.
The Most Common Issue Is The Torque Application
Some problems occur more often than others, and in this case, the reason is poor research. You can definitely change wheels or the faulty lug nuts all by yourself, but the most important thing after the actual size is how much torque you need to secure the nuts. Knowing this specification is crucial for a safe DIY maintenance routine, and you can find out the exact value in your car’s manual or online.
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The problems start whenever the wheel nuts are either overtightened or not tight enough. The latter is very dangerous because driving a car with a loose wheel is insanely risky.
Applying Not Enough Torque
It is unlikely that all lug nuts can be under torqued at the same time on the same wheel, so what often happens is that one or two nuts are not secured properly. And yet this is still enough to set the weight distribution awry. The remaining studs will carry all the weight, which is more than they are manufactured to withstand. This leads to fast deterioration of the metal itself.
Tiny fractures and cracks will begin to appear inside, compromising the integrity. Eventually, this may lead to losing a wheel someday if left unattended.
When the nuts are not tight enough, there are tell-tale signs. Pay attention to the sounds your car makes while you drive. If you pick up noises after changing the wheel or just the lug nuts, that might mean that your wheel is getting wobbly. In this case, the best thing to do is to get your wheel nuts retorqued at the shop.
Problems With Overtightened Lug Nuts
On the other hand, over-torquing the lug nuts results in various issues. This problem sometimes occurs even at professional mechanic shops using pneumatic guns with too much power. Each car has specific measurements for how much torque must be applied, and this information should not be neglected.
When someone uses too much force to tighten a nut, the part that suffers the most is usually the thread. With too much torque, the thread gets stripped and cannot keep the lug secure anymore. The same thing happens when excessive force literally stretches the stud, deforming it too much for it to fit properly. It can result in it breaking apart or slowly deteriorating other studs under increased strain.
Another peril of making lug nuts too tight is reserved for alloy wheels. They are quite popular thanks to their reduced weight and other benefits. However, they are often made of slightly softer metals. And if this pliable metal meets with too much pressure from a much stiffer lug nut, it can possibly deform under this force.
The problems with too much torque extend beyond your wheel. If the lug nuts are too tight on the wheel, they can actually damage the brake rotors. If the grip is too tight, it disrupts the way the rotors are supposed to cool down after heating up during their work.
The best thing you can do to prevent overtightening is to either ask for professional assistance or, if you insist on doing it yourself, get a good torque wrench. This tool is specifically designed for the task.
Why Do Lug Nuts Seize?
Seized lug nuts are more than a source of irritation, they can be extremely hard to remove. Especially so if you decide to do this yourself without damaging the wheel or its hub. And thus, there are a lot of life hacks that are supposed to help you prevent such problems, but some of them do more harm than good.
The seizing is caused by deterioration from long exposure to water, salts, and other factors of the harsh environment that can oxidize the metal and rust it. Naturally, your first instinct would be to treat the issue with something akin to an anti-seize product, and that is a common ill advice one can still find online. This piece of advice has been obsolete for decades, and yet it still finds its way into automotive communities somehow.
The problem with this method is that it seems reasonable when in reality, it is able to change the torque for your wheel fasteners. It does its work too well, reducing friction, which is essential to secure the nut in place. And you can unintentionally apply more torque than you should without realizing it. The studs will get stretched more and wear out faster, not to mention other issues with too-tight lug nuts.
The best way to prevent oxidation is actually quite simple. If you are changing the lug nuts and studs, opt for the parts that have a special anti-rust coating from the manufacturer. And then keep an eye on your wheels from time to time, keep your car reasonably clean and that should do the trick.