The easiest way to make your vehicle flashier and more attractive is by installing aftermarket wheels. These are wheels that did not come as original equipment (OE). Some vehicle owners replace factory wheels with aftermarket ones for the aesthetic value, while others change them for more performance-oriented reasons.
Whatever your reason might be, it is always important to do things correctly, because most OE lug nuts are not designed to be compatible with aftermarket wheels. In this case, the new wheel should always be fastened in the proper manner using the proper parts (lug nut) and tools (a tire iron or tire wrench and a torque wrench with the proper-sized socket).
By definition, a lug nut is a nut used to fasten steel or aluminum wheels to the hubs of a vehicle. They are tightened onto threaded wheel studs onto the hub of a vehicle’s axle. In some cases, like in vehicles manufactured by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Volkswagen, lug or wheel bolts are used instead of nuts. These are screwed into a threaded hole in the wheel hub or drum/disc brake assembly. This is known among automotive technicians as a bolted joint. Whether your car uses nuts or bolts is actually not very important; their function is the same, as well as the process of installation.
Here are some tips you might be able to use in buying new lug nuts and installing them:
1. Before installing your new wheels, you should always check if you have the correct nuts or bolts. First, check out whether your vehicle needs nuts or bolts, then purchase the suitable wheel fastener. Finding them should be no problem, as aftermarket wheels usually come with the appropriate fasteners, so you don’t have to worry whether your nuts or bolts have the correct lug seat. Nuts or bolts with improper seating will cause a lot of vibration that may cause damage to the wheel itself and even to your vehicle’s steering and suspension systems.
There are several kinds of nut or bolt seating: tapered, ball, shank with washer, and flange. Remember, it is absolutely important that the lug seats match! If the lug nut and wheel seat types do not match, the wheel could be damaged and even cause the wheel to loosen!
Generally, if you buy the wheels from a reputable aftermarket accessory store, they will provide you, usually at no cost, the wheel nuts or bolts free of charge. They might even throw in free wheel balancing while they’re at it.
2. If you’re installing the wheels yourself, and already have the correct lug nuts or bolts for your specific wheels, you have to make sure that you have fasteners that achieve proper lug nut thread engagement. This is the way the threads engage with each other, and is important for your safety. Improperly secured nuts or bolts may become loose, especially during hard-driving, and cause the wheel to become detached from the hub, thus causing an accident.
3. If the nut or bolt does not engage properly because it is too short, you might have to use an extended thread (ET) lug nut. It is important that you make sure the lug holes in the aftermarket wheel are wide enough for the ET lug nut to go through. If the lug nut isn’t long enough, you will still have the same problem. When this happens, take your new wheels to the vendor and ask for their advice. You might need to change to a wheel that actually fits your vehicle.
4. Always be aware of the lug head diameter. This will determine the kind of socket you will need, as well as its dimensions or size. Most lug nuts and bolts are hexagonally shaped, but in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, wrench or socket sizes come in inches and their fractions thereof, while most other countries use the metric system for tool sizes (millimeters). You have to use a socket that fits the lug head perfectly. While some American or UK tools may have approximately the same sizing as metric-based ones, it is more advisable to find the correct-sized tool for mechanical applications like this. If you tighten something with a socket or spanner that does not fit correctly, you will most likely not be able to tighten the part properly and damage the lug head as well, to the point that it will no longer be usable.
There are also several kinds of lug nuts for aftermarket wheels. They may need an adaptor for installation and removal. There are also locking nuts for theft prevention. This kind has a uniquely shaped spline that needs a special key or adaptor.
5. When tightening lug nuts or bolts, it is not enough that you tighten them by hand. If you do not tighten it properly, the wheel may come loose, especially when the car is being driven hard and fast, or under rough conditions. If you tighten the nuts or bolts too much, they can be stressed to the point that they or the wheel seat itself cracks. Since this area is well-hidden and cannot be seen without taking the wheel off, it may lead to major problems later on, such as an accident resulting from the wheel breaking apart under harsh driving conditions.
To tighten your wheels properly, you should use a torque wrench. Check the owner’s manual of your car for the correct torque settings. If your owner’s manual cannot be found, ask advice from people who have the same car as yours, or ask car clubs or automotive forums for the settings to your car. These people can not only help you with this, but also with other problems you may have with your car in the future. It is also a great way to meet new people with the same interests as yours.
So there you have it! Congratulations on your new aftermarket wheels and enjoy the admiration you will get from the people who will see how great your car looks!