A car’s performance and style are both important, but they pale in comparison to safety features. We rarely think about every small detail of our cars and yet each tiny gear has its purpose and can become a potential source of problems. Like lug nuts, for instance, that hold your wheels secured to the car at all times.
Lug nuts are often overlooked when car owners change wheels or do a routine check-up. And that’s a shame, there are many things that can go awry with badly installed lug nuts. Most of the troubles associated with them happen because not all car enthusiasts take them seriously and do enough research. In this guide, you will learn that there is much more to it than determining the correct size of wheel lug nuts.
What are lug nuts?
Wheel fasteners can be different, not all cars use lug nuts. BMW, for example, chose to use lug bolts instead. These two should not be confused, lug nuts are screwed on top of the threaded studs to ensure that the wheel stays on the axle. While lug bolts (or wheel bolts) are screwed into a threaded hole inside the wheel hub. They look like a stud with a lug nut welded to the top.
This design has its benefits for engineering, but also creates difficulties. Replacing lug bolts requires special tools and skills to align them properly and avoid damaging the thread or the hub itself. And changing wheels with lug nuts is much easier.
Lug nuts come in different types
There is a wide variety of lug nuts by their shape and purpose. It is best to check what type works with your wheels. Each of them has its own benefits, but there are also downsides to each type that you should consider before purchasing. So here is a brief rundown on the 8 types of wheel nuts you can find.
Conical Lug Nuts are often called acorn nuts because of their shape. This type is considered to be the easiest one to deal with. They are also rather common among many vehicles and differ only in size.
Spherical Lug Nuts look very similar to conical lug nuts, but their seats are round. Their alternative name is ball seat lug nuts. They can be found on Honda and some European cars like Audi and VW.
Flat Seat Lug Nuts are easier to spot, they don’t have a visible sit and just stay flush with the surface when tightened. This type can be tricky to install and center. They also get stuck more often than other types because of this large contact area with the surface.
Extended Thread Lug Nuts, as the name suggests, have more thread length that helps accommodate longer studs. Ordinary lug nuts will be unable to secure such studs due to a lack of thread length. So extended thread nuts are indispensable when you need more thread engagement to secure your wheels.
Mag Seat Lug Nuts have the most confusing name. Rumor has it, they are named after magnesium, a metal used for alloy wheels and lug nuts. This metal can significantly reduce weight while maintaining the same durability as aluminum.
Hex Lug Nuts are just as common. This type has a hexagonal head, hence the name. They do not require any special equipment to fasten. Together with conical nuts, they are more “user friendly” and forgiving.
Tuner Style Lug Nuts are not very common, but you can mostly find them on Asian cars. They are smaller than regular nuts and have a conical seat. To “tune” them, you will need a special tunning key that goes on top of the lug nut to make it possible to tighten it with other common tools. Their build makes them more likely to get stuck and rust away, so you can find them less and less on modern cars.
Spline Drive Lug Nuts are supposed to fix the tuner style problems. They are similar with one key difference. Tuner lug nuts have an opening on top and spline drive nuts have groves on the sides and on top that prevent moisture and dirt from getting inside and provoking oxidation.
Left-Hand Threaded Lug Nuts are your go-to option if you were lucky enough to be born into the rare 10% of the world population who are left-handed. The automotive industry has you covered. It might take some time to find the appropriate option but it is definitely worth it.
What are lug nuts made of?
The most common materials are forged aluminum and chrome-plated steel. They are easy to find and work just fine. However, for people who chase after top performance, there are more lightweight options like titanium and magnesium alloys out there. They are harder to come by and usually cost more.
Common issues with lug nuts
Almost all the problems stem from disregarding specifications. Aftermarket nuts are meant mostly for aftermarket wheels, and they require very meticulous attention to sizes to fit perfectly. So matching the lug nut size to studs is one such problem.
Another common issue is torque application. This specification can be found in the manuals and charts, yet it is hard to torque the nuts accordingly without good training and a torque wrench. Too little torque causes a bad connection. Too much will result in stripped threads and damaged holes.
And the third issue is corrosion. It can be caused by many factors, so buy reliable nuts made of durable materials. They usually come with special coatings, so never apply products on the lug nuts or studs. This will influence torque in a bad way and compromise the wheels.
Hopefully, these tips will help you make a good choice and avoid rookie lug nut mistakes. Drive safely!