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How To Tighten Your Lug Nuts

how to tighten lug nuts

There are quite a few drivers out there that really do not know how take a wheel off of a car. With that said, it is a given they do not know how to tighten lug nuts. There is nothing wrong about not having the experience. Most people take their cars into a shop and have the tires rotated and balanced, or they have roadside service. However, there will come a day a person is going to be in the middle of nowhere and have a flat, then what do you do?

It is important that all drivers have some understanding on how to change a tire on a car or truck. There are many theories on how to tighten lug nuts, you would be surprised how many of them are wrong. You may hear that you have to tighten a lug nut with all your might and another idea is that you just snug them up. Both of those theories are wrong, you kind of need to be in the middle.

Maybe you are just starting out and have some mechanical experience with changing a tire or two. However, you may not know the correct procedure of tightening lug nuts and the importance of doing it correctly. 

If lug nuts are not tightened properly, there are a few things that can happen. The obvious is that the wheel can come off going down the road. Although there are things like warping your brake rotors, loosing lug nuts or not getting the wheel off due to over tightened nuts. Plus there is a correct sequence to know for each kind of lug pattern. You may be surprised to know that on some aluminum wheels the lug nuts have to be tighter that a steel wheels. 

How To Take A Tire Off A Vehicle

If you want to remove your tire, no matter out of necessity or just because, there is a way to make it easier on yourself. With the vehicle still on the ground, you will want to loosen all the lug nuts first. DO NOT REMOVE THEM, just break them loose a little. You may find that they are very hard to break free. Remember, turn the nuts counterclockwise to loosen. You may have to put the lug wrench on the nut and the step on it to break it free. Caution: Some designs of lug wrenches are at such an angle, they may slip off the nut when standing on them.

Once you have the lug nuts loosened a little, slide your jack in the proper place. (Please refer to your owners or shop manual for jack location). You want to raise the tire where it is still slightly toughing the ground. Where the tire looks fully round, where there is no weight on the tire but it is just touching. Now you can remove the lug nuts, (remember, "righty-tighty-lefty-loosey"). Turn the lug nuts counterclockwise to loosen.

No Lifting To Remove

With the lug nuts removed and the tire just touching the ground, you can wiggle the tire toward you. If it feels it still has some of the vehicle weight on it, just raise the jack a little. The goal is so that you do not have to lift the weight of the tire and wheel. Not everyone can lift a tire off a car due to some tires and wheel, especially on a truck, are somewhat heavy. Crouching down puts many people in a bad position to lift. This also makes sliding the spare tire on easier. If your spare tire is smaller in diameter, just set the tire up again where the lug nuts go and lower the jack until the stud height and holes in wheel are close to the same height. Now you can slide the spare onto the studs.

Properly Tighten The Lug Nuts

Knowing how to tighten lug nuts is knowing the correct procedure. When tightening the lug nuts on your wheel, you do not want to super tighten the first nut you put on. Then follow super tight on the next and then the next and so on. You want to put all the lug nuts on, then make them all evenly snug. Its best to go around them all, in the correct sequential pattern about 3 times, making them tighter on each pass. (See Lug Nut Pattern Image - Click For Larger View)

how to tighten lug nuts

More than likely, you are not going to have a torque wrench out on the road. So in this case you will want to put yourself into a position where you are pulling up on your lug wrench to tighten them. Remember: "righty-tighty-lefty-loosey". Pull up to where you can't feel the nut turning anymore but at a point that you are not giving it your all. You don't want to be pulling up like you are trying to lift the car, just enough that you are at a point you could go more but you don't. Go around in the sequential pattern like this about three times. That should put you around 60 to 75ft lbs.

This should have your lug nuts tight enough to get you to a garage. Have them fix your flat or put a new tire on, but have them correctly tighten your lug nuts with a torque wrench. You can buy your own torque wrench if you do not already have one. They can come in handy for things just like this situation.

Properly Tighten Explanation

There are 4 main reasons you want to get the lug nuts properly and evenly tightened...

  • To prevent the wheel from coming off while driving
  • To prevent the wheel from becoming warped
  • To prevent the brake rotors from becoming warped
  • To prevent the lug nuts from being over tightened

The most common wheels for passenger cars have 4, 5 and 6, lug nuts. Common for passenger and some commercial trucks are 5, 6, 8 and 10 lug nuts. Again, there is a specific tightening pattern you should tighten your lug nuts. Click the link below to see your lug nut torque specification. As important as it is to tighten them in the correct pattern, it is also very important to tighten the lug nuts to the correct torque.

How To Video


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