How to tighten wheels properly

Ever wonder why your tires wear unevenly.  Most of this is caused by uneven torque of your rims.   Doing these procedures correctly will save you some money when it comes down to rotating your tires. 
Prior to installing any wheels, first verify the conditions of the fastening system’s threads such as nuts, studs, bolts, and hub threads.   Also check the wheel to make sure it is clean before mounting it to the hub.  Once your satisfied with the checks, install the wheel to the vehicle’s hub.  Now check for clearance of the brake rotors.  Tightening at least three wheel fasteners.  (There’s no need to tighten to full torque value.) 
Many do not realize, but all threaded fasteners are intended to stretch slightly when fully tightened to specs.   If the wheel fasteners are under-tightened, they will eventually loosen, resulting in wheel damage or separation of the vehicle.  If the fasteners are tightened beyond their design limit, the wheel stud or bolt can permanently stretch or even break during installation.   Never use an impact gun to tighten the wheel fasteners.  Not only will you be able to accurately control the level of the tightness, but use of an impact tool can easily damage the fasteners or the wheel surface.   Use a socket that will that will fit the wheel.   When tightening the wheels, don’t make the mistake of finger-tightening, then lowering the vehicle to the ground to continue.  Instead of fighting vehicle weight, it’s best to perform your complete tightening procedure while the tire is off the ground. 
The best suggestion is to re-torque all wheel fasteners after the first 50-100 miles, especially after installing new wheels.   When re-torquing, raise the vehicle to lift the tires away from the ground.  Then re-tighten in the proper sequence to full specified torque values. 

Always tighten any wheel in the proper sequence pattern in order to evenly distribute the load between the wheel and the hub.   Use a torque wrench for the best result. 


With the hub/wheel positioned so that one fastener is at 12-o’clock position, tighten the 12-o’clock position first, followed by the 6 o’clock position, followed by the 3 o’clock position, then the 9 o’clock position. 


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4 Responses to How to tighten wheels properly

  1. Derek November 19, 2008 at 4:28 pm #

    You don’t mention anything about damaging the rotors from over tightening the lug nuts. If your lug nuts are over tightened can the rotors warp or could it happen from improper torque of each lug nut? Meaning if some are over tightened and some are not can the rotor warp? I have found that over tightening lug nuts can cause them to warp but that is only my inexperienced opinion. What do you guys say?

  2. Sam November 25, 2008 at 12:49 pm #

    Hi Derek, Yes, over tightening the lugs will cause the lugs to stretch. This will eventually lead to unbalancing, causing a pre-mature warp or shake on the wheels. A torque wrench will be the best tool to use when tightening the wheels.

  3. Robert December 2, 2008 at 3:05 pm #

    Re: the suggestion that one should not just finger-tight the lug nuts when the wheel is off the ground, but also use the torque wrench. How do you do this when turning the torque wrench simply causes the wheel to rotate? The reason that one hand-tightens the lug nuts and then lowers the vehicle to the ground, is that the friction between the tire and the ground allows the use of the torque wrench effectively.

    Can you explain how to torque-tighten the lug nuts while the wheel is off the ground?


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