Do I really need to get my lug nuts tightened?

On my car, silly. :slight_smile:

I just changed the tire on my Corolla (put the regular tire back on, took off the full-sized spare that I had been using for a couple of months), and I cranked the lug nuts on good and tight (using my feet, since I have girly arm muscles). Do I really need to go through all the hassle of getting a tire shop to tighten them on for me? Should I tighten them again after running the car for a day or so, like the tire shops always recommend?

ETA: It was a good thing I used my stupid little jack to do the job, actually - I discovered that I lost the tire iron out of my car somewhere along the way. That would have been damned inconvenient some dark, rainy night.

I’d like to hear about this, too. I’ve been changing tires on my cars for 30 years using the old hand tightening method, and I’ve never heard of this – or lost any lug nuts.

I’m not a car expert, but I think you don’t want to have your lug nuts tighter than you can loosen by hand, in case you have to change a tire.

Yes, you really do. Not because you can’t do it yourself, but because you don’t know how.

When you say you used your feet to tighten them, that shows you don’t know how. They are very likely too tight. You could be damaging your wheels or brakes.

You’re not supposed to jam them down as hard as you can; you’re supposed to tighten them to a specific tightness specified by the factory. It’s in the owner’s manual, and you can easily use a torque wrench to do it yourself. If you don’t have a torque wrench, then you should have it done by a pro.

The way I learned - if it’s a five nut wheel, go around in a circle tightening every other nut; this way you are doing one side and then the other, so you don’t have the situation that you tighten one side too tight and the other side seems tight when it is loose. Do it gradually - tighten all nuts moderately tight, then all nuts as tight as you can by hand, then all nuts as tight as you can (provided you are not a 250lb guy jumping in the tire iron.)

Best if you check them once you’ve driven for a while in case the nuts were not properly seated when yo tightened them.

You do.
Your car and your rims require a specific torque value to keep the wheel on, and to tighten the rim evenly. Otherwise you could distort the wheel, or even a brake rotor.

That’s one reason we give our Snap-On guy scads of money for something like this.
A torque wrench works, but these are color-coded to specific cars and wheels, and you don’t have to set and unset them when you’re finished.

Ducati, mechanic extrordinaire

Yeah, it’s a little late now, but the best way to do this is to get them snug but not as tight as you can (maybe 1/4 - 1/2 turn after the nut seats) and then go directly to the tire place to get them tightened. If you live miles and miles away, you need to invest in a torque wrench if you’re going to fool around with your tires. The trouble is that you can damage the wheel and the brake rotor if you overtighten them, but doing anything less than as tight as possible just by feel is pretty darn near impossible.

Even if you already put them on super-tight, it’s still worth going and getting them set right. If you have them overtight, a few months down the line as rust and corrosion sets in, the stud may come off when you go to take them off.

Drat. Okay, guess I’m off to the tire shop. :slight_smile:

Tightening lug nuts with a torque wrench (to the proper spec, which varies with the make and model) is the textbook ideal. If it’s done properly*, retorquing is not necessary. Tire shops often have relatively unskilled personnel, so they have policies to minimize their exposure to lawsuits.

Tightening by hand without a torque wrench works fine on steel wheels when done by someone with sufficient strength and a decent feel for it. Alloy wheels are touchier. They can be properly hand-tightened by someone with a really good feel, normally developed through years of experience, but even so the careful professionals will use a torque wrench on them.

Tightening with an impact wrench is often problematic, mainly from overtightening because too many people adjust the wrench to maximum power and wale away. A properly adjusted impact wrench, used intelligently, works fine on steel wheels. Not so on alloy wheels, even when using torque-limiting sockets. Using an impact wrench to tighten alloy wheels is taking a significant risk, and careful professionals will use a torque wrench instead.

If you have steel wheels, I’d suggest having a friend with sufficient strength and experience check it for you. I don’t see a compelling reason to have it done by a pro and/or with a torque wrench. If, however, you have alloy wheels, I’d have them retightened** by a pro with a torque wrench.

*Turning the wrench too quickly or too slowly will give a false torque reading.
**By which I mean loosen at least 1/4 turn (so they’re clearly too loose) and then tighten with the torque wrench. The torque wrench is only accurate in indicating the torque for a fastener that is turning at the time. If someone puts a torque wrench on it and proceeds to tighten it without loosening it first, or claims the wrench will measure how tight it is, LEAVE and find someone who knows how to use a torque wrench properly.

Agreed, and “careful professionals” and “tire shop employees” are exclusive sets, in my experience. I’ve almost never seen a torque wrench used on wheels outside of a “serious” independent shop (such as where I used to take my BMW). I finally told the Toyota dealer to stop doing the “multipoint inspection” during for oil changes because they were so obviously over tightening the wheels on my Prius (bastards).

When I was growing up, we had plenty of flats, got them fixed, and put the tires on ourselves with no torque wrenches with no obvious long-term problems.

I’ll agree there is a benefit to the tire being put on with proper torque by a professional, I’m just asking is it cost effective (“eyes Cat Whisperer’s pocketbook for expected yield on purloining”:))

To any respondents, if you’re going to quote the cost of tire/wheel damage vs. taking it to a mechanic to put the tire on, please also address the probablilty that said damage will occur prior to the tires being rotated by a professional through normal maintenance. (e.g. cost of damage of $1,000 with probability of damage before tire rotation 1%, expected value $10, minus cost of mechanic putting it on of $20 equals value of mechanic negative $10)

Not trying to be overly ornery, I just want to see some more data beyond “yes, you should always have everything done to perfection, otherwise your car will blow up.”

A million years ago (okay maybe 30+) I DID have a loose lug nut in a decrepit Dodge Coronet 440. It was after a flat tire change on the road a couple of weeks earlier. There was this weird rattling noise coming from that wheel, which turned out to be the loose nut rolling around inside the hub cap. The wheel never seemed to suffer for it, and we drove that car for another couple of years.

I actually bought my own torque wrench when I bought a new set of rims and snow tires online (Blizzaks, which I love love love). I knew I would end up changing over the tires myself twice a year, and the savings on just one tire way more than paid for the wrench. I’ve done it enough times now that I bet I could get within 10% of 72 foot-pounds just by feel.

A good tire shop should do this for free. Just retorquing the lugnuts should take less than a minute per wheel and it’s worth more in customer relations than charging some fraction of an hour in labor.

Ditto with the rotations-- it’s questionable if getting tire rotations makes financial sense if you’re paying $10+ a rotation, but every set of tires I’ve bought in at least the last 15 years has come with free rotations.

And for the cheapos who have posted “Should I tip the guy that saved my life?” in “Should I tip” type threads: TIP THE DAMN PERSON. More than five, but less that 50. Haha. Have fun, cheapos.

FWIW, I got a flat about 5 years ago and had to change to my spare. It was a full sized normal tire, not one of those smaller spares. So I assumed it was fine, and didn’t think anything more of it…until my car started wobbling at random a few days later. This went on for a few more days, until it got to the point where it felt like the front of the car was trying to go in two different directions. I took it to a shop and they had to replace the wheel studs (the bolts that attach your wheel to the car). They gave me the old studs, 2 of which were sheared almost in half, and 2 of which were more than halfway sheared through. The shop guy told me I was lucky to make it to the shop.

So, if you don’t know what you’re doing (you don’t have mechanic experience), at least drive to the shop as soon as you can after you’ve put the spare on and have them check to make sure you put the bolts back on correctly. If there is a fee, it will be minimal, and definitely much less than it will take to get your wheel studs replaced. :frowning:

Like everything else, brake drums and rotors aren’t what they used to be. They are cheap and flimsy. If not tightened up evenly or over tightened, they will distort and may need to be turned or replaced.

I have hung out on an automotive site a lot. There are endless arguments there on the subject. Many there disdain torque sticks. I wouldn’t invest in them for DIY use. In 1966, I bought a beam type torque wrench. It has served me well for many projects beyond where many DIY’s go. It isn’t as precise as a recently calibrated clicker wrench or as easy to use as one or a clicker. Anybody that can watch a pointer and stop when it gets to the reading you want, can do good work with one. You can pick one up at any auto parts store cheap.

Now putting on my flame suit, what I have been doing for a long time, note my reference to 1966, is put a dab of antiseize on each stud. I then tighten each lug nut to 80% of spec. Doing so will be easier for your girly arms to both tighten and even more so untightening nuts. I started doing that long before there was an internet not to accommodate girly arms, but because wheel studs will only take so much. They twist off. They can be replaced, but it is a pain. So if you are independent and plan to be for a while, buy a cheap beam wrench and a tube of antiseize. Tighten your own lug nuts. I seldom recheck mine, and have never had one come loose.

Financial sense? The reason to rotate is to keep tire wear even front to rear, which in turn keeps traction/handling balanced. Not rotating increases the chance of a skid. It’s a safety issue. I’m not sure financial sense should be the concern.

OTOH, my wife’s cusin had to call the tow truck last month because her wheel fell off on the minivan - about 2 months after Wal-Mart put on the winter tires. She never checked the nuts Of course, Walmart has the “please check after…” disclaimer. But presumably(?) they used the air-hammer torque wrench at what should have been a correct setting, and still… scrrrraaaaape-thump. OTOH, just because the tool is set correctly does not mean the tool using it handled it correctly.

Many of the car jack wrenches lack the length needed to apply enough torque. If the nuts were tightened again then they should be fine.

FYI, you could buy a cheap 1/2 inch torque wrench with the correct size socket (and short extension if needed) for future use and just leave it in the car. And as a hijack I would add a 12 volt compressor to the list.

I won’t disagree that rotating is usually preferable, but it’s debatable whether it’s really a safety issue.

Depending on the car and what kind of driving you do, it can be perfectly safe not to rotate. If you’re doing mostly highway driving and your car is properly aligned, you don’t get a lot of edge wear and so the only effect of not rotating is that the fronts wear out faster than the backs. Having more tread on the backs is not a problem, so as long as you move the backs forward when you buy two new tires, not rotating is perfectly safe. The overall improvement in tread life is also debatable, but it’s clearly not much and so if you have to pay for your rotations, you will usually pay more than you’ll save on rubber.

BMW recommends against rotating on all their cars, including their less fancy cars with non-staggered, non-directional tires and even including the Mini Cooper which isn’t all that different from any other front wheel drive car. I’m not sure I follow their reasoning that the tires “get used to” where they are, but BMW’s generally well thought of engineers think leaving the tires where they are is not only safe but better for performance. At any rate I certainly haven’t heard of any epidemics of BMW and Mini crashes caused by uneven tire wear.

But like I said earlier, it’s a moot debate since practically every reputable tire dealer does free rotations these days.