Any machine is only as good as the littlest part. Before you consider your car’s wheels as less important than the cabin, upholstery, exterior, or engine, think about your wheels as your car’s shoes. Without your wheels, you would go nowhere. This is why each part of your wheels should be in tip top condition. As you drive, your tires sometimes get uneven wear, due to misalignment of the steering, wrong weight distribution on the wheel itself, and uneven torque on the lug nuts. Improperly installed lug nuts are even dangerous, in that they can loosen over time, and cause your wheel to wobble.
Checking your car’s lug nuts basically involves making sure they have the proper amount of torque. Too little, and the lug nuts will loosen over time. Too much torque, meanwhile, might cause the lug nut to strip the rotor bolt of its tread. It can also cause the brake rotor to distort.
The best time to check lug nuts on your car is during tire rotation. Every three months (or 6,000 miles), it’s a good idea to rotate your tires to ensure uneven wear, including the spare tire. When you are rotating your tires, consider these tips in checking the lug nuts:
- When removing lug nuts, use the lug wrench to loosen each nut first, in a star or criss-cross pattern. This ensures balanced distribution of weight. Then, when the nuts are loose, you can remove each one by hand.
- Inspect the inside of the lug nut for abnormal wear on the treads. Also check the lug bolt for the same. If you see stripping, or worn out treads, this means you have to replace the bolt. If the abnormal wear is on the lug bolt, then you will have to have these replaced, too.
- After rotating your tires, install the rim onto the bolt, and tighten the lug nuts only to up to “finger tight.” This means that there is no longer any play, but you can no longer tighten it further with your fingers. Remember to do this in a criss-cross or star-like pattern.
- Use a torque wrench to tighten each bolt gradually, again using a criss-cross pattern. Make sure you follow the torque specifications on your car’ user manual. Depending on the torque wrench you are using, you can either turn the wrench clockwise until you reach the proper level on the gauge, or until the wrench starts clicking.
- When all wheels have been returned, you will need to drive it around, and re-check the torque values again on each wheel.
You will need to recheck your lug nuts after traveling about 50 miles. This is to ensure they have not become loose in the course of normal travel.
Checking your lug nuts is a basic safety measure that you should do regularly, in conjunction with your regular maintenance service, which includes checking or changing the fluids, belts and hoses on the engine. If you see any abnormality or damage on the lug nuts, better change these early on, to avoid possible complications.