Aluminum Wheel Torque Specsby Mike Caruso
Using the appropriate torque to mount aluminum wheels to a vehicle is critical to maintaining safety and performance. This is a fundamental, yet frequently overlooked, issue for both do-it-yourselfers and mechanics. Improperly torquing aluminum wheels can result in damage to the wheels, improper wheel alignment, distortion, unsafe operating conditions and damage to other aspects of the vehicle (if a wheel falls off or fails). Before installing aluminum wheels, it is important to research the proper torque specifications for the wheel type and the vehicle by manufacturer to ensure safe, reliable mounting and operation.
Torque specifications for aluminum wheels vary based on the size and diameter of the wheel, application and vehicle. A listed or recommended torque specification for the same wheel may vary per application and vehicle. As such, there is no universal torque specification for aluminum wheels that a vehicle owner should follow. When purchasing aluminum wheels, the manufacturer is the best place to start when searching for the proper specifications and torque procedures. If the manufacturer does not list this information, then car dealerships or trusted aftermarket parts manufacturers are good places to start looking.
Tightening Lug Nuts
Tightening lug nuts in the proper sequence is just as important as torque specifications. Aluminum wheels are no exception. Although the sequence for tightening lug nuts varies depending on the number of lug nuts per wheel, the lug nuts should generally be tightened using a crisscross pattern. This ensures that the wheel mounts firmly and evenly to the rotor surface. On a five-lug wheel, the crisscross pattern will resemble a star if the pattern is traced out on paper. For wheels with different lug patterns, the lugs should be torqued one-quarter turn at a time while rotating from lug to lug through the torque sequence. Generally, the crisscross pattern applies incremental force to opposition sides of the wheel to evenly mount any wheel, albeit aluminum or otherwise. The best place for advice would be a local tire shop or the wheel manufacturer to determine the appropriate torque sequence.
Using breaker bars, pneumatic impact guns, air wrenches and other power-assist devices can result in over-tightening and can cause threads on lug nuts or studs to easily become stripped or damaged. Avoid tightening lug nuts according to what feels to be a "snug" fit, or any other tightness subject to even small variation. Without the help of a tools like a torque wrench, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to measure torque by feel.
Mike Caruso is an attorney in New York and practices in civil litigation, land use and environmental law. He began writing in 2009 and his articles have appeared in online publications such as eHow. Mike received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from Colgate University.