Do you know what the torque specifications are for the wheels on your car? Odds are probably not, or maybe you go with the German spec of “Gutentite”, which I have seen is quite common. But have you ever experienced a true wheel off? Like, driving down the road and your own tire passes you, wheel off? They’re terrifying and very, very dangerous.
In this blog post, I’m going to try to explain how torque specs work, and what happens when you under or over torque your wheels. To start, there are three categories of torque specifications; Gutentite, ugga dugga, and with a torque wrench. Unfortunately, only one of these is correct, and it is the torque wrench.
With the Gutentite (abv. ‘Good and tight’) method, it’s very likely you will under-torque the wheel lugs, leading to a possible wheel off, or at the very least a very aggressive wobble. When you under torque your wheels, there is a very good chance that the natural vibrations of driving will slowly loosen the lug nuts on your wheels, and they may fall off. It doesn’t happen immediately, and may even take 100 miles. This is very dangerous, and the farthest from recommended.
Then you have the “Ugga Dugga” (onomatopoeia for an impact wrench) method, where you just hammer the lug nuts into the rim seat with an air or electric impact wrench. While this does guarantee a tightened lug nut, there’s the obvious chance that you may break a wheel stud. Easy fix sure, but a completely avoidable instance. What few people do know, is how over-torquing, especially in this way, really affects the wheel.
Wheel studs are essentially springs, and when torqued right, they pull out enough, and then back in for a tight, snug fit. Imagine a Slinky. What happens when you over-extend a slinky? It loses its return and doesn’t spring back as it should. When you over-torque your studs, you’re essentially pulling that Slinky too far and it loses its pullback, which is what guarantees your tight, to spec fit. When you torque to specifications, the stud extends to its optimal distance, and the natural return of the spring keeps it tight.
That is why we recommend everyone that will ever take the wheels off of their car, get a torque wrench. Here is one option from our sister site, Toolsquik. The specific specifications are available to you in your owner’s manual or with the good ole internet, and will generally always be between 80-120 ft/lbs of torque. You will need, generally, either a 19mm or 21mm socket for the lug nuts. Don’t mess around with your safety. The terms are fun, but they are jokes, don’t take them seriously.