4 Wheel & Off Road - - TIME CAPSULE - Harry Wag­ner BY EDI­[email protected] PHO­TOG­RA­PHY HARRY WAG­NER

WHEN YOU BUY NEW tires and wheels, lug nuts are prob­a­bly the last thing you think about. Hon­estly, they aren’t very ex­cit­ing. You know what is ex­cit­ing though? Hav­ing one of your wheels pass you as you drive down the road! Lug nuts and the cor­re­spond­ing lug studs are the critical link be­tween your ve­hi­cle and those big, heavy tires and wheels that we love so much.

The ba­sic fac­tors re­lated to wheel fas­ten­ers are:

• Thread di­am­e­ter

• Thread pitch

• Thread length/thread en­gage­ment

• Seat type

• Proper torque

In­creas­ing the num­ber of lug studs gen­er­ally re­quires an axle swap, but in­stalling larger studs is one way to in­crease the clamp­ing force and strength of the con­nec­tion be­tween your axles and your wheels. Ad­di­tion­ally, hav­ing the right lug nuts for your wheels is ab­so­lutely critical. Most (but not all) af­ter­mar­ket wheels use a con­i­cal seat, but many fac­tory wheels (such as those found on Ford Super Duty) use a flat seat. When switch­ing from an OEM wheel to an af­ter­mar­ket wheel, al­ways pur­chase the lug nuts that match your new wheel type. Oth­er­wise you might be in for more ex­cite­ment than you bar­gained for.

1 We pre­fer to run lug nuts that are open on the top, al­low­ing us to see ex­actly how far the studs are en­gaged. While you might not con­sider these as vis­ually ap­peal­ing, they make it easy to per­form a quick vis­ual in­spec­tion and see if any­thing is amiss.

2 Typ­i­cally, you want the thread en­gage­ment of a lug nut to be at least equal to the di­am­e­ter

of the stud. So if you have a 1⁄2-inch stud, you want at least half an inch of thread en­gage­ment. This is one sit­u­a­tion, though, where more is bet­ter.

3 The “seat” refers to the shape at the base of the lug nut where it con­tacts the wheel. The most com­mon seats for af­ter­mar­ket wheels are con­i­cal, al­though there are some ra­dius seats. Flat seats are com­mon on fac­tory wheel offerings and can some­times be found on af­ter­mar­ket wheels as well. The rea­son con­i­cal seats are the most com­mon is be­cause they are less de­pen­dent on hub regis­ter and lug stud size, al­low­ing one wheel to fit a larger num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions.

4 Lug studs and the cor­re­spond­ing nuts can be found in SAE and met­ric siz­ing, with met­ric gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity and not just lim­ited to for­eign brands. In SAE siz­ing, a 1⁄2x20 size has a

1⁄2-inch di­am­e­ter and 20 thread­ers per inch. In met­ric siz­ing, a 14x1.5 has a 14mm di­am­e­ter with

1.5mm be­tween the threads. So a larger num­ber for thread pitch means a finer thread with SAE siz­ing but a courser thread pitch for met­ric siz­ing.

5 We are guilty of us­ing an im­pact gun on our wheels. We al­ways turn the gun down though and just run the lug nuts on un­til they’re barely tight, then we per­form the fi­nal tight­en­ing with a torque wrench. Proper torque is a func­tion of the lug size, as shown in the chart.

6 Splined lugs are pop­u­lar with the tuner crowd, and they are show­ing up on more truck wheels as well. Many new wheel styles have small open­ings for the lug holes. This is done for aes­thetic rea­sons, but it makes it dif­fi­cult to fit a normal lug nut and socket on the wheel.

7 The wheel must be cen­tered to the axle hub in or­der to run true. This can be done via the lugs or the hub. If the wheel reg­is­ters via the cen­ter bore, it is con­sid­ered “hub­cen­tric.” Hub­cen­tric wheels are more com­mon in OEM wheels than af­ter­mar­ket wheels de­signed to fit a va­ri­ety of ap­pli­ca­tions. Lug­cen­tric wheels, where the studs are used to cen­ter the wheel, are far more com­mon in the af­ter­mar­ket. With lug­cen­tric wheels, the size of the lug holes in the wheel should closely match the lug size on the ve­hi­cle to en­sure the best fit.

8 Lug nuts with a ta­pered or stepped siz­ing al­low you to run a smaller socket. This is beneficial be­cause you can run a thicker socket (such as an im­pact socket) be­fore con­cerns about the socket fit­ting in­side the lug open­ing of the wheel.


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