Changing a car tire nowadays! Should it be this hard?

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Don2222

Minister of Fire
Feb 1, 2010
8,898
Salem NH
Hello
It seems that the wheel lug nuts on car tires get overtightened way too often these days so you have to call for help!
Therefore I was determined to check out all the wheel lugs on the 2007 Camry to see if I could remove them if I had a flat on the road?
The answer was Certainly Not!!
Here are the agonizing steps I went thru!
1. Did not even try the lug nut wrench that came with the car.
2. Had a cross bar wrench that I could loosen some but not all 5 to get even one wheel off!
3. Got more loose with the air gun but not all!
4. Had an icon breaker bar wrench with a 21 mm socket so I could loosen a few more lug nuts but not all!
Some of the wheel lug nuts were distorted and the breaker bar did not seem to grip them properly to get enough torque on them!
5. Using a Maddox impact set and a rubber hammer, I banged it on those tough ones and got the grip I needed to get those lug nuts off!
Thank god but see pic of ripped lug nut? I cannot put that back on! Also had to bang the lug nut out of the impact socket on the bench vise!
6. Purchased non OEM lug nuts at Pep Boys
packs of 4 for $7.49 each
7. Looked up torque specs for Camry
76 ft-lbs but many mechanics say more is needed when using aluminum wheels instead of the old steel wheels of yester year!
8. Using a 90 ft-lbs red torque stick on the new lugs, I spun them on with the air gun,
Now ran two important tests.
1. Yes I can get the lug nuts off with a crossbar wrench if I got a flat somewhere and change my tire!!
2. Ran car on highway to assure tires were on securely even at high speeds.
See pics
1. Standard Cross Bar wheel wrench
2.Icon Breaker Bar and 21mm impact socket
3. Maddox wheel lug impact removal set
4. Distorted and torn wheel lug after finally removing it with breaker bar and Maddox impact removal socket
5-6 New non OEM wheel lug nuts for Toyota from Pep Boys $7.99 for set of 4
7. Installing new lug nuts with red 90 ft-lbs torque stick on HF Earthquake XT impact wrench.
8. Manufacturer wheel lug nut torque spec
9. New lug nut specs

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Don2222

Minister of Fire
Feb 1, 2010
8,898
Salem NH

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,337
Northern NH
Lug nuts rarely fall off unless someone completely forgot to tighten them. The average person just does not understand how a bolted joint is supposed to work. When the lug nuts are torqued appropriately, the bolt studs are stretched slightly and that clamps the wheel to the hub. The manufacturers spend a lot of engineering time to come up with the optimum torque, I would go by the recommendations in the manual> the problem is the wheels and hubs are in a tough environment and corrosion can form on the threads of the lug nuts, this can lead to "stiction" that creates torque in the lug nut that is not related to bolt tension.

There is a major long running debate on the use of lubricant on wheel studs. I have seen convincing arguments either way. The old cadmium plated fasteners were inherently stick free and nothing as good really has replaced it.

Keep in mind almost every service tech is on flat rate pay and they are driven to get it done quick and that usually means a high speed impact wrench and possibly a torque stick (which are not particularly accurate)

I personally hand torque my lug nuts and use a torque wrench. It always feels like they are not tight enough after what I go through breaking them loose after a tech has tightened them.
 

Corey

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2005
2,698
Midwest
...
7. Looked up torque specs for Camry
76 ft-lbs but many mechanics say more is needed when using aluminum wheels instead of the old steel wheels of yester year!
8. Using a 90 ft-lbs red torque stick on the new lugs, I spun them on with the air gun,
Herein lies the problem. I'm not sure why everyone... including those complaining about how hard lug nuts are to get off... insists on over-tightening lug nuts. Also note that those 'torque sticks' aren't magic. They simply limit the torque to 'approximately something', then it is up to you to figure out what that number is and adjust the air pressure of your specific gun to make it 90 ft lbs, then keep the gun in good condition and at the set pressure so the torque falls within some ballpark of the 'rating'.

... The average person just does not understand how a bolted joint is supposed to work. ...
Reminds me of a comic strip I read...
average familiarity.jpg
Keep in mind almost every service tech is on flat rate pay and they are driven to get it done quick and that usually means a high speed impact wrench and possibly a torque stick (which are not particularly accurate)..
And even some home mechanics!
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,337
Northern NH
For those who really want to know the answer ;)

I havent taken the course but sat through a 4 hour Snap On industrial seminar once.

Of course all bets are off if the owner has a Ford or Lincoln with those darn two piece lug nuts
It took a few years but there are now one piece lug nuts made to replace them. I must have thrown away a full set of them for my Fiesta. Ford was still using them in 2021. I lucked out and caught swelled up at home so I could drive a odd sized socket onto them to get them loose. Someone on the road would be screwed into expensive tow and repair. The Ford version in the nice plastic bag were around $9 a piece. If you have a Ford with two piece lug nuts do yourself a favor and swap them out before you get caught.
 
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vinny11950

Minister of Fire
May 17, 2010
1,779
Eastern Long Island, NY
Yeah, lug nuts are a PITA when overtightened. Happened to me on my 96 Jeep Cherokee and it took a lot of force to get them off. So now I redo them every time I have a tire shop work on the Jeep.

On a related note, I was working on the 2007 Corolla (hope to have it on the road soon for fuel efficiency reasons) and I had the hardest time getting the wheels off once the lug nuts were off. The car has been sitting for 3 years and all 4 wheels were nicely rusted to the hubs. I had to use the BFH to bang them from behind to free them. Had I been on the road without the BFH, I am not sure I could have gotten the wheels off. I have now applied a healthy amount of anti-seize on the hub/wheel contact points to avoid that in the future. But bloody hell.
 

Corey

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2005
2,698
Midwest
... The car has been sitting for 3 years and all 4 wheels were nicely rusted to the hubs. I had to use the BFH to bang them from behind to free them. Had I been on the road without the BFH, I am not sure I could have gotten the wheels off.

Had to use my spare tire as a 'big rubber mallet' to free a stuck tire once. Assuming the jack is relatively stable, I've also found that standing facing away from the tire and giving it sort of a 'mule kick' along the edge is usually enough to break it free. Historically, this hasn't been much of an issue as we haven't had as much snow and salt as up north. Though more often, it seems like they salt everything heavily! A few storms I swear we get more salt than snow.

The fun really begins when the knurling between the wheel stud and the hub breaks loose before the lug nut breaks loose! Then the whole stud/nut combo is spinning but not loosening!
 

Don2222

Minister of Fire
Feb 1, 2010
8,898
Salem NH
Yeah, lug nuts are a PITA when overtightened. Happened to me on my 96 Jeep Cherokee and it took a lot of force to get them off. So now I redo them every time I have a tire shop work on the Jeep.
Great idea! This happened after getting 4 new tires. Sure they would probably last a long time but since they were on way to tight, by the time they needed changing maybe too late! !!!
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,924
Downeast Maine
I'm pretty sure your OEM lug nuts have decorative covers. That's why you had a hard time.


For whoever needs to read this, don't try and loosen any fasteners while the car is on a jack. Loosen the lug nuts before lifting the vehicle.
 

tlc1976

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2012
1,049
Northwest Lower Michigan
Any vehicle I get, that’s one of the first things I do. Make sure I can actually change a tire if needed. So pull the wheels, anti seize the studs and wheel mating surfaces, replace lugs if they’re junk ones with covers, and torque them properly. And make sure I got a proper jack, wrench, and spare. I also retorque my lugs in the event I have a tire shop do anything, but 9 times out of 10 I just take loose wheels in anyway. In the past I’ve had shops snap off or strip studs and just leave it. My mom left a shop where they forgot to tighten the lugs on one wheel, another driver got her attention. And if I do it myself in good weather I’m familiar with the jack points before I’m on the side of the road in the dark.
 

Don2222

Minister of Fire
Feb 1, 2010
8,898
Salem NH
I'm pretty sure your OEM lug nuts have decorative covers. That's why you had a hard time.


For whoever needs to read this, don't try and loosen any fasteners while the car is on a jack. Loosen the lug nuts before lifting the vehicle.
Oh yes, I never knew they had decorator covers! That is how they got warped and the tire wrench would not fit properly!
Do you know if the aftermarket lug nuts have them??
The OEM lug nuts were $5.18 each! I certainly did not want those!

Yes, I rocked my wheels loosing those lug nuts, that could be very dangerous on a Jack Stand!
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
1,271
MA
Our winter wheels and tires came with lug nuts. Use them all year and only put the two-piece Ford lugs back on when selling vehicle.
 

Don2222

Minister of Fire
Feb 1, 2010
8,898
Salem NH
Our winter wheels and tires came with lug nuts. Use them all year and only put the two-piece Ford lugs back on when selling vehicle.
I was just talking to the local Toyota Dealer Service Manager and he said the humidity gets into the OEM wheel lug nuts with the decorative chrome covers that all the manufacturers use nowadays (That explains the title of this thread!) and makes them swell and also can make them rust inside! Nothing more reliable than the old lug nuts that you are using! Good idea! 👍
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,337
Northern NH
Thankfully my Rav 4 has good old one piece lug nuts (I checked).
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
1,271
MA
Folks on Ford forums talk an having to buy a 19.5-mm socket to get rusty, swollen lugs off. Didn't know there were half-mm sockets.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
4,170
SW Virginia
Overtightened lug nuts are a major pet peeve for me and one by which I tend to judge a shop's quality of work.
When I worked as a mechanic, at least later in my that career when I knew better, I always installed lugs loosely and then torqued them in a star pattern.
Nowadays, I've gone so far as removing the wheels/tires myself and taking them to the shop in the bed of my truck so I don't have to deal with it.
If I don't do that I carry a torque wrench with me when I pick up the car so I can loosen and retorque before driving.
While I've seen mixed recommendations about lubricating the stud threads I think that applying some anti-seize to the mating surfaces is a good idea. Steel nuts in contact with aluminum wheels in a salt and moisture-rich environment is likely to result in corrosion. In fact, it looks like it occurred for the OP.

Edit: This thread jogged my memory about something amusing -- I remember when one OEM had hub caps that had fake lug nuts on them that were convincing enough that novice techs would take an impact gun to them for removal, damaging the hub cap.

1654031893155.png
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
16,563
Philadelphia
Overtightened lug nuts are a major pet peeve for me and one by which I tend to judge a shop's quality of work.
...I think that applying some anti-seize to the mating surfaces is a good idea. Steel nuts in contact with aluminum wheels in a salt and moisture-rich environment is likely to result in corrosion. In fact, it looks like it occurred for the OP.
Anti-seize is always a good idea for anything in the weather, but do keep in mind that lubing a thread reduces friction, and thus higher tension for a given torque. This is all wrapped up in peakbagger's discussion on stiction, and you'll often see a lower torque spec'd for the same fastener, when lubed.

I also apply anti-seize to the studs of every vehicle and tractor, upon initial purchase, and re-torque my lug nuts after a tire rotation at the dealership. If I ever found a shop that severely over-torqued my nuts, it'd be the end of my patronage. My local dealer enforces the use of torque sticks, meaning their mechanics actually hold pretty well to an 80 - 100 lb-ft target.

Honestly, the worst over-torqueing I ever see is from the manufacturer. I don't know why, but manufacturers seem to over-torque the hell out of both lug nuts and oil pan drain bolts.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,781
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
Of course all bets are off if the owner has a Ford or Lincoln with those darn two piece lug nuts
It took a few years but there are now one piece lug nuts made to replace them. I must have thrown away a full set of them for my Fiesta. Ford was still using them in 2021. I lucked out and caught swelled up at home so I could drive a odd sized socket onto them to get them loose. Someone on the road would be screwed into expensive tow and repair. The Ford version in the nice plastic bag were around $9 a piece. If you have a Ford with two piece lug nuts do yourself a favor and swap them out before you get caught.

My 2000 F350 has the OEM black lug nuts that seem to have an washer with teeth and then a seperate attached nut that you torque but spins over the washer. Are these the ones that swell? I've never had a problem with them, they are over 22 years old.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,337
Northern NH
My 2000 F350 has the OEM black lug nuts that seem to have an washer with teeth and then a seperate attached nut that you torque but spins over the washer. Are these the ones that swell? I've never had a problem with them, they are over 22 years old.
Here is link to a photo. https://fordauthority.com/2019/08/ford-lug-nuts-from-dismissed-lawsuit-still-pose-problems/. Its just a rough lug nit with thing shiny cap over the nut part. When they start to go, there is line of corrosion that forms at the seam of the shiny cover and the base lug nut. The rot then works its way in between the cap and the underlying nut. I had hub caps on my Ford Fiesta that were held in place by the conical seat on the lug nut. I think some did not have the cone.
 
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Don2222

Minister of Fire
Feb 1, 2010
8,898
Salem NH
My 2000 F350 has the OEM black lug nuts that seem to have an washer with teeth and then a seperate attached nut that you torque but spins over the washer. Are these the ones that swell? I've never had a problem with them, they are over 22 years old.
My Toyota Service manager said the lug nuts that enclose the top of the stud are the ones that swell.
 

Don2222

Minister of Fire
Feb 1, 2010
8,898
Salem NH
My 2000 F350 has the OEM black lug nuts that seem to have an washer with teeth and then a seperate attached nut that you torque but spins over the washer. Are these the ones that swell? I've never had a problem with them, they are over 22 years old.
My Toyota Service manager said the lug nuts that enclose the top of the stud are the ones that swell
He also said they do last for many years and keep dirt and water from getting on the studs to protect them. :)
Like this below.

1411D217-0774-4DEF-B148-2E07D61A1469.png
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,924
Downeast Maine
Make sure you have the correct lug nuts if you are going to autocross.


I've met people that saw that first hand. This particular car is like an "urban legend" in the autocross community.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,924
Downeast Maine
My wife's Abarth has wheel bolts instead of lug nuts, but the OEM bolts had the stupid caps and some security bolts as well. I never felt so stupid as I did having to call a tow truck to take the car to a shop to deal with the wheel bolts because I got one off but couldn't put it back on or get the rest off. Now it has aftermarket one piece wheel bolts.