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Wheel lug nuts coming loose

wheel lug nut loose

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14 replies to this topic

#1 craigmcd

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Posted 16 August 2017 - 03:42 PM

My daughter is driving a 2002 Outback (277k), and lives in a small Colorado mountain town with dirt roads. On a trip to Denver in July they noticed noise and thumping, and discovered 2 lug nuts gone from one wheel, and a couple loose on another wheel. Today she called because on one rear wheel she found loose lug nuts twice in 3 days - 2 to 3 lug nuts each time. It is obviously dangerous.

 

First question - anybody run into this before? This is our 6th Subaru (I bought it before our daughter got it) and I have not seen this as a recurring problem.

 

Second question - what is the proper way to tighten the lug nuts? She has a T shaped lug wrench, but not a torque wrench.

 

Can the car be sitting full weight on the ground while tightening ? When working on cars, I usually tighten them with just enough weight on the tire to keep it from spinning around (using a jack or hoist).

 

It is possible some vandal is doing this, but that is unlikely for a small town school teacher -- but you never know.

 

Thanks people, look forward to your ideas.

 

Craig



#2 01 Outback

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Posted 16 August 2017 - 07:46 PM

I have done the sprint of shame down the interstate after hearing a thump and watching the wheel outrun the car. Since then I always retorque aluminium wheels after 50 miles or so. I carry my torque wrench and 19 MM socket in the car and usually get about 1/8 of a turn on some or all of the lug nuts after my 5000 mile oil change and tire rotation. For some reason the wheels don't hold the torque until the 2nd or 3rd retorque. Luckily in my case none of the studs were buggered up and I took one nut off of each of the other wheels and managed to jack it up on the shoulder of the highway and reinstall the wheel.

#3 Fairtax4me

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Posted 16 August 2017 - 08:57 PM

I noticed some time ago that the lugs on my 95 would get loose by about 1/4-1/2 turn after 1,000 miles or so after a rotation. I started torquing to 80 ft-lbs and that has never happened since.

If they've been loose on the same wheel more than once it's possible the lug studs are compromised due to the wheel wobbling around. They need to be inspected very carefully for any evidence of stretching, bending, or damage to the threads. If even ONE is damaged, you should replace all 5 studs on that hub. Replace the lug nuts for that wheel also.

#4 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 16 August 2017 - 09:22 PM

if the car has replacement...; lug studs, lug nuts or wheels - there's the possibility the nuts are 'bottoming out' before proper clamping force is achieved.

I'd consider having her stop by a Discount Tire and have them inspect everything.

#5 idosubaru

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 06:35 AM

My daughter is driving a 2002 Outback (277k), and lives in a small Colorado mountain town with dirt roads. On a trip to Denver in July they noticed noise and thumping, and discovered 2 lug nuts gone from one wheel, and a couple loose on another wheel. Today she called because on one rear wheel she found loose lug nuts twice in 3 days - 2 to 3 lug nuts each time. It is obviously dangerous.


It's always the rear lugs right? If it is the fronts then ignore what I'm about to say, because this is a very specific and rare failure mode.

Replace the rear rotor, this is a very rare 00-04 rear rotor issue only. This is very rare and only happens on 00-04 rears so not many people see it or know about it, there are dealers/techs that don't know this. I've had people completely ignore me - go to dealers multiple times with various lug and stud replacements, ignore me again, replace bearings...silly rabbits.

Of course - verify you're tightening properly and the lugs/nuts aren't aftermarket junk - those are excellent suggestions. I don't even use a torque wrench on subaru lug nuts, they're not that delicate and are forgiving.

Edited by idosubaru, 17 August 2017 - 06:36 AM.


#6 Silent Bob

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 07:30 AM

Assuming alloy wheels:  Remove the wheels and look at the center of the hub on the car, you will likely see a ring of corroded aluminum built up around the hub center.  Remove this- it will probably require a hammer and chisel,  then thoroughly clean up the wheel centers with a wire brush.  Then buy daughter an inexpensive 1/2" torque wrench, torque to 80-85lb and it will likely be fine.  Check for damaged  studs& nuts also, but I've frequently found the corrosion to be the root of the problem.



#7 craigmcd

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 08:14 AM

Thank you for your comments. I will pass this information to Audrey this morning. I'll check back a little later in case any one weighs in on this matter.  C



#8 Numbchux

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 08:48 AM

There are a lot of things that can cause loose lug nuts. There isn't NEARLY enough information here to make an accurate diagnosis. A few ideas have been posted here, but there are probably a thousand other possibilities.

 

What's the maintenance history? Have the wheels been off the car recently for any maintenance? Are they original brakes? lug nuts? studs? wheels? How are the tires?

 

Yes, wheels can be on the ground when tightening lug nuts. She may want to get a breaker bar or torque wrench. My wife is not physically able to put adequate torque on the lug nuts (therefore not able to take them off, either) with the included wrench. She is tough and knowledgeable enough that she could replace a flat tire herself, but we had to put a breaker bar and socket in her car to make it possible.



#9 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 09:16 AM

If vandalism is suspect, there are aftermarket security lugnut sets available (with a keyed or spline nut requiring a special tool). No, they don't guarantee the nuts can't be removed by a determined thief/knucklehead - just presents a deterrent that may send them to their next , easier, target.

 

she could discuss those at a retailer like Discount Tire or maybe NTB as well.


Edited by 1 Lucky Texan, 17 August 2017 - 09:19 AM.


#10 craigmcd

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 09:29 AM

The maintenance history over the lifetime of this vehicle is exceptional. The original owner put on 250k with full annual services, kept good tires on it, etc. One of the cleanest cars I have purchased. Audrey has had it in Colorado for about 2 years, but has kept it up pretty well. The tires are in good shape right now.

 

This first time this problem came up was on a drive to Denver in July, and they had to stop and buy lug nuts. She had the tires rotated on August 3, and has had loose lug nuts since then. They have been loose on the front right and back left. I would think the garage would have torqued them correctly, but others have noted that it is wise to check them after some driving. The garage is 50-60 mile drive, plus other driving since.

 

Thanks for the input.



#11 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 10:26 AM

the original problem may have been due to vandalism or poor practice at a tire shop - the present problem 'could' be from the emergency purchase of lugnuts and those are now part of the problem.

 

being remote from her, I think you will need to send her to a shop and have them THOROUGHLY examine everything on the car. And, a typical woman may have to tighten and loosen lugnuts with half their body weight pressing down on a typical jack-tool wrench. It's tricky. Add to that using a 'star' pattern and not tightening in a circle, and it's easy for some folks to get a wheel 'on' but it be improperly torqued-down. And that is with new/known good parts.


Edited by 1 Lucky Texan, 17 August 2017 - 10:31 AM.


#12 craigmcd

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 10:34 AM

Yea Lucky, I think those are part of the problem. C



#13 matt167

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 10:55 AM

If the wheel being loose ovaled the lug holes, the conical seat will not seat correctly and they will loosen.

 

Dealt with that on an older Chrysler Concorde where the wheels loosened up from never being tightened. Destroyed the seats and then the wheels would not stay tight until the rims were replaced



#14 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 10:57 AM

if she is near RetroRoo in Henderson, our own site-owner could take a look, or, contact user @traildogck over at http://www.subaruout...ses-denver.html

 

he has a mobile repair biz in Colorado, he'd be able to investigate for any problem and likely spend some time to make sure your daughter knows enough about wheels to at least get one on safely enough to take to a shop for final torqueing.

 

If she has a Discount Tire in near her city, they have a superb reputation for customer service, they've helped my wife. MIL and all 3 daughters several times with free flat repairs and new tires and other issues. Might be best to schedule a time on a tues, wed or thurs as they can be very busy on/near weekends.



#15 Numbchux

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 10:58 AM

When was the last time the wheels were off before the first issue?

 

When the issue came back after the wheels were rotated, was it the same wheel as before?

 

As has been mentioned, lug nuts need to be retorqued 50-100 miles after the wheels have been removed, especially important with alloy wheels.

 

Off the top of my head:

Cheap lug nuts (I've seen 20 generic ones seize on to the point that we had to break off ARP studs to get the wheels off after 2 days of rallying, and less than 10 removal/install sequences, always using a torque wrench to 75 ft/lbs)

Cheap lug studs

OE studs damaged from loose lug nuts

aftermarket wheels

OE wheel damaged from loose lug nuts

Corrosion on the backside of the wheel causing it to not seat correctly on the hub

Snow/ice/sand/dirt/grease on the backside of the wheel       "    "    "

Corrosion/snow/etc. on the lug nut seating surfaces

wheel/tire assembly out of balance/round

wheel bearing/brake problem causing excessive heat/vibration

 

 

None of these things are specific to Subarus.







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