Indicators of Loose Wheel Nuts

by William Zane

The lug nuts on a vehicle are important components that many car owners and drivers likely take for granted. The lug nuts are responsible for holding the wheels to the vehicle's hub; if they are loose, the wheel or wheels held by the loose lug nuts could literally come off of the hub while the vehicle is being driven. If you suspect that your vehicle's lug nuts are loose, stop driving immediately until you can secure them to avoid a potentially dangerous accident.

Wheel Shaking or Vibrating

Wheels are attached to the hub of a vehicle and are held on with lug nuts, or in the case of some vehicles (BMWs for instance), with lug bolts. If the lug nuts or bolts are loose, the wheel will not be held snugly against the hub of the vehicle. When the vehicle is driven, the wheels will shake. The shaking will be felt in the steering, and likely throughout the whole car.

Wheel Loose on the Hub

If the wheel is loose on the hub, the lug nuts may be loose. To test this, lift the vehicle with a floor jack on the side where you suspect the lug nuts are loose. Place your hands at the top and bottom of the wheel and try to rock it. If the wheel moves easily, the lug nuts may be loose. Keep in mind that bad wheel bearings can also cause excess wheel movement.

Incorrect Torque Setting on Lug Nuts

If the lug nuts on the wheels are not tightened properly, the lug nuts are likely loose. To test the tightness of the lug nuts, check the torque settings with a torque wrench. Place the torque wrench on the lug nut and then turn it clockwise to see how tight the lug nuts are. Tighten the lug nuts if they are too loose.

Tightening Lug Nuts

If you have determined that the lug nuts on your wheel are loose, tightening them is a simple process that requires the use of a lug wrench, torque wrench and a heavy duty floor jack. Slide the jack under the car at the appropriate jacking point (consult a manual for this information) at the corner where the wheel is loose and lift the vehicle with the jack. Firmly tighten the lug nuts with the lug wrench. Lower the vehicle to the ground. Tighten the lug nuts with a torque wrench to the manufacturer's recommended settings, which is usually around 90 foot-pounds. Tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern, alternating from any lug nut to one that is directly across from it. Recheck the tightness of the lug nuts after the vehicle has been driven 100 miles.

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