Lug Nuts

Go check em. Right now… I mean it. Stop reading right now, go outside, and put a wrench on your lug nuts. All 4 wheels, just as tight as you can get them. I’ll wait.

Back now? OK… well because I have been less than diligent doing the above, I found myself on the side of the road yesterday. The left rear tire came completely off (I actually saw the lug nuts fly off in my mirror). Fortunately I was only going about 45 on a country road, with wide shoulders. Also very fortunate, the brake drum landed inside the rim, and the wheel stayed under it as I got off the road. Yes it could have been much worse!

I think the culprit is my pretty aluminum wheels… aluminum is soft and over time can loosen up. This is why they banned aluminum house wiring in the 1970s - too many loosened up wiring / arcing / wall fires.

But really, they’re not so bad if you keep checking. And that’s what I didn’t do. Even steel wheels will come loose if you don’t pay attention. This now goes on my regular maintenance list.

Other things to check - make sure the jack in your truck will in fact lift the vehicle (I was missing a handle), make sure you have jumper cables, and be sure your lug wrench actually fits the lugs (mine was close but not perfect).

All that said, I had a great trip apart from that, the gasifier did fine, and I got the transmission I was after. I also checked my lug nuts about 5 times on the way up there… a bit paranoid now I guess.

Hi Chris, On the cast aluminum wheels you need to check them every few hundred miles. If you have fancy inner hub caps, remove them so you can keep check on the real lugnuts. It is way worse up here where we get salt corrosion behind the wheels and brake rotors and drums which falls out … Good post !!! My wife almost lost a wheel 2 weeks ago … Quick check for loose lug nuts is to wobble back and forth in your lane and LISTEN … You can usually hear the clunking or what sounds like a wheel bearing noise … Mike



If it ever happens again, take one lug nut off each of the other three tires and if you have a jack that works, you can drive a short distance to get more lug nuts.

Wife is a rural mail carrier. Rapidly approaching that 1 M mile mark. Aluminum wheels lost 4 one by something that pierced tire then on thru the wheel. Rest by lug nuts. Steel wheels lost 1 helps if you tighten nuts in the first place. 90% of route is on unpaved roads personally don’t have any use for aluminum wheel on a work vehicle

That could have been much worse. Never had a problem with my Toyota aluminum alloy wheels, but I tend to over torque them (I stand on the 1/2" ratchet with my whopping 130 lb self). Stripped a stud a while back, but I’d prefer that to a runaway wheel.

WOW Chris !

Sorry to hear about the lug nuts !

I will be checking the vehicles here today . I have never had a problem with a lug nuts working loose ?

I have been trying to remember if I put those wheels on or if the guy at the tire shop did the torquing when I bought the tires ?

Real glad you are safe .

I have millions of miles in heavy trucks with aluminum rims the only problems Ive ever had with them comes from over tighting . The standard for big trucks is something like 450 foot pounds and some places insist on 2400 or more that galls the wheels and weakens the threads.
Be sure to clean the wheel and mounting surface. I like to use a little white grease on the mounting face but be carefull NOT to get it on lugnuts or threads I usually clean them with a nonlubricated starting fluid just before I use them…

If you are having to retighten lug nuts on either steel or aluminum wheels you need to be looking into WHY.
Steel factory for light vehicles use stamped raised cone seats. These are intended to compress and metal spring back along with the cone seat and cone nut metal to metal “stiction” and NOT come loose. Aftermaket spoked steel wheels lack this raised stamping portion just having a machine cone edge. THEY SUCK. Recheck often.

Aluminum light duty wheels can have this same machined cone surface OR designed to take a sleeved and shoulder special centering lug nut.
Closed ended nuts CAN stud end bottom out fooling you into thinking they are to wheel tight.
Worn cone huts will lie tight, reseat set then loose and need to be replaces out.
Have you looked? What do you have?
Factory engineered aluminum wheels (almost) ALL use the machined cone system using the same cone nuts as a factory steel wheel.
PITA aftermarket are mixed up types. So you can end up with both on the same vehicle installed for pretty.

ALL factory wheel systems use a machined center wheel pilot hole so vehicle weeght is supported on a machined hub edge NOT BY THE STUDS AND LUGNUTS!
Many, many slapped on aftermarket “universal fits many” wheels have oversized centers so ALL VEHICLE WEIGHTS AND ROAD FORCES ARE JUST NUT CENTERED AND HELD. A plastic adapter sleeve just not the same.
These the ones that will kill you working loosened and even stud shearing.
What do you have? Sucky systems, yep better check, recheck and curse the Boys turning old aluminum beer cans into a high profit driver for them with Glitz. I’ve had to add up to 4 to to 8 OUNCES of glue-on lead weights at Chrysler, Nissan dealerships work on NEW vehicles with made in India and China glitz wheels dealership wheels “upgrades”. Ain’t right to still-birth a new car purchase by my ethics. Sex sells. If we cannot sell it you do not get paid Steve I was told. Grump.

Factory system steel or aluminum you really do need to torqure to spec in pattern. Yes. I will light lube or graphite the threads ONLY. Keep it off the cones surfaces.

Aftermarket crap systems steel or aluminum: Check, Recheck forever until you can scrap them off for a set of factory take off wheels that are right. Vehicle buying I Insist on a discout for aftermarket wheels installed. No discount or change back to factory wheels then spared the problems later.
Over Torquing just taco distorts brake rotors and drums causing brake pulsation and strips threads.

Never actually had one come off ChrisKY.
Have had too damn many close calls.

I guess I have been fortunate, All my vehicles have aluminum wheels and I have never had a lug nut come loose. In most cases when someone does my tires they use an air impact wrench and then when I want to rotate tires I have to get my big star wrench out and grunt to get them off. I never tighten them with an impact driver but do use a tightening sequence and try to get them to the same torque. I’m told that will help keep the rotors from warping.

I always tell customers come back 50 /100 miles up state ny salt belt and corroded rims either I cant get the tires off or they don’t stay on go figure.

Paul, That is the routine here. I check them a couple of times a year. It is not an everything thing but it happens on occasion as Chris found out. I was in a mid 60’s Dodge 3/4 ton around 1977 up near Steve U when the lugnuts came off his (Don’t remember name) truck. Do you mind disclosing what part of NYS you are in ??? I grew up in South Hempstead on Long Island and graduated from High School in Rockville Centre with Howard Stern and then left. I have lived in Morrisville, and Buffalo (8 years in 2 stretches). Moved here in 1982 and been in my current house 30 years last weekend (Linden, WI). Salt belt all the way … Once they work loose and the wheel macres the lugs themselves, it is worth considering replacing the lugs if they have been damaged or are loose. Most mechanics around here don’t have a clue how to install new lugs !!! I had to have my wife take her last (new used) car back to the dealer for them to fully pull the lugs through. In the old days some cars had left hand threads on the driver side and dummies would snap a lug before they figured it out … I think I have 4 vehicles with left hand threads on the driver side … Regards all, Mike

PS on the left hand threads, some mechanics would put the front drums on the wrong side after greasing the wheel bearings or installing brake pads. I had to pull my drums and put them back on the correct side one time so I stopped trusting them knuckleheads … Not all left hand thread lugs have an L on them… I just checked … The front of my 72 Dodge has 2 snapped off. 6 out of 8 ain’t bad… M

mike I agree most so called mechanics don’t give a crap .on a side note I personaly know my customers and don’t want to hide every time I see someone because of something I had done .I would rather loose money verse my reputation .not everything can go right but what you do about it is what counts .on a side note I live in a small town martville ny just off lake Ontario 10 miles from Oswego.

Paul, I caught a sunset near the nuke plant by Oswego in 1976. The water was still as glass. Very weird. I had never heard or seen a silence like that before. I remember it like yesterday. I do recall that I didn’t get nkd and dive in as I usually do … It was a beautiful sunset and my my dog went for a swim but he died nearly 30 years ago (at age 13) … Stay well, Mike

Paul, PS, I’m self employed (surveyor) and have an unlisted business number … By reference only … Do it once and do it right. Only way to be … I barely have time to play … I wish the mosquitos would let up so I can get my new gasifier up and running on something … Recovering from an attack of Guillain-Barre a year ago. I almost fell off my trailer re-loading in Illinois in May on my way home. Fortunately my onion sack melted to my poker hole … I have no reflexes in my knees or elbows (yet). Muscles are mostly back now. Tighten the lug nuts even if they don’t need it :o) … Good exercise …Mike