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Lug Nut & Wheel Related

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Lug Nut & Wheel Related

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What are lug nuts and where are they located?

The lug nuts hold your wheel and tire assembly to the wheel hub. These metal nuts go over the wheel and thread onto the studs of the wheel hub. The lug nuts keep your wheels mounted firmly and evenly. Vehicles use a various number of lug nuts on each wheel depending on the car or truck.

Some automobiles use wheel bolts rather than lug nuts. The wheel hub has threaded holes that the bolts thread into. They still serve the same purpose of attaching the wheel to the hub.

Lug nut covers and wheel center caps help to protect the lug nuts from the elements. Lug nut covers are individual plastic caps that seal over each lug nut. A center cap is a plastic cap that covers all of the lug nuts. These help to prevent corrosion that leads to seized lug nuts. 

How do I know if my lug nuts need to be replaced?

Lug nuts can often last the lifetime of a vehicle. Sometimes, however, they may suffer damage. The most frequent cause of damaged lug nuts is improper installation. They can get cross-threaded, which leaves them loose. This most often happens if mechanics install them with air-powered tools without properly starting them by hand. It is also possible to over-tighten the lug nuts, which can cause them to become seized and hard to remove or, conversely, cracked and loose. Loose lug nuts, especially if you have more than one, put you at risk of losing a wheel, which will certainly lead to bigger problems.  

Lug nut covers and center caps can get cracked, especially if you’ve had a run in with a curb. Cracked or loose covers can let dirt and moisture through to the lug nuts, making them more susceptible to corrosion and seizing. 

Can I replace lug nuts myself?

Replacing lug nuts is quite easy and even a novice do-it-yourselfer will be able to do it. The key is to install them correctly to ensure the right fit and to avoid doing damage to the lug nuts or other parts. The following steps will help ensure a smooth installation. First, if your old lug nuts are seized, it will help to apply penetrating oil. You’ll probably need extra leverage to “break” the lug nuts free, so you can use a breaker bar, or slip a pipe over the handle of your ratchet. With seized lug nuts, it can help to alternate between loosening the lug nuts as much as you can, tightening them, and then loosening them some more to gradually break them free. Once the lug nuts are broken free, you’ll have to raise and secure the vehicle. Then you can remove the lug nuts the rest of the way. 

When you fasten on the new lug nuts, tighten them to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended torque specification with a torque wrench. Under-tightening them will result in loose wheels, which are dangerous. Over-tightening them can lead to seized or cracked lug nuts, a warped brake rotor, or damage to the wheel. You want to tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern to ensure you fit the wheel on evenly. Start with the top lug nut and after each one, tighten the loose lug nut farthest from it. The pattern you follow will trace a star shape. 

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