This picture guide walks through the proper steps to follow when putting a tire back on. There are many wrong ways to do this, and really only one right way. These steps are key to making sure your tire is put back on safely and efficiently.
Why it’s Important
There are a number of reasons that you want to make sure that your lug nuts are properly tightened. A few of those are:
- You don’t want the lug nuts so tight that they break off the studs.
- You don’t want the lug nuts so loose that they work loose from vibrations.
- You don’t want to tighten the lug nuts to the point where they distort the brake rotor (this is one of the main causes of the dreaded “braking shimmy“).
- You don’t want the lug nuts so tight that you cannot get them off the next time you need to change a flat tire on the side of the freeway, with just the car’s spare tire wrench.
What Typically Goes Wrong
Even though there are lots of ways to screw this up, there are 2 ways that are by far the most common. The first is using an impact wrench to tighten the lug nuts. Anyone who uses an impact wrench to tighten lug nuts is almost guaranteed to over-tighten them.
Even tightening by hand, most people will naturally over-tighten, afterall, you don’t want the tire to fall off, do you? Wrong! Don’t think of it this way. Instead, think of it like this: every time you over-tighten the lug nuts, you are bending the threads on the studs. This actually damages the threads and makes them less effective!
The second most common mistake is not tightening the lug nuts in the correct order. In order to make sure that the tire is evenly tightened all the way around, tighten the nuts in a star pattern and a little bit at a time, then repeat the process.
In other words, you will ideally make several circuits of the star pattern, slightly tightening each nut, until by the last circuit, each nut is at the proper torque. Usually about 3 circuits of the star pattern is enough to ensure proper tightening.
The Proper Way to Tighten Lug Nuts
The proper way to tighten lug nuts is to first put the tire onto the studs with the vehicle jacked up. Then put on the lug nuts and tighten them finger tight. Do not put any sort of lubricant or anti-seize on the threads. The torque specification for your vehicle is based on clean dry threads. So make sure the threads of the studs are clean, dry, and free of sand or debris.
Then, perform one circuit of the star pattern of tightening using a torque wrench set to the torque spec of the lug nuts, without fully tightening the lug nuts to the full torque spec.
At this point, lower the vehicle so that the weight is on the tire. Then make another circuit of the star pattern of tightening the lug nuts. Again, do not feel the need to tighten all the way to the maximum torque.
Now, perform the final circuit of the star pattern of tightening. This time, go ahead and tighten the lug nuts to the full torque specification. I usually give the torque wrench 2 clicks to verify the torque has been reached.
The final tip is to make sure that you re-torque your lug nuts after you’ve driven the vehicle about 50-100 miles. This will make sure that they are properly seated and ensure that they remain at the proper tightness until the next time the wheel must be removed.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you found this helpful! Let me know if there is anything that was missed, in the comments section below!