What You Need to Know About Wheels and Rims
How much do you know about wheels, rims, and lug nuts? What you don’t know could negatively impact your vehicle’s performance. From the experts at Action Gator Tire in Florida, here’s everything you need to know about rims and wheels.
Do you want to know which lug nuts are best for your aftermarket wheels? Do you want to replace your current lug nuts? Either way, there’s a lot you should know about lug nuts before you make your purchase. Here are some lug nut basics to get you started.
What Are Tire Lug Nuts?
Also called lug bolts, lug nuts are the hardware that secures your wheel and tire assembly to your vehicle. Even though they’re small, lug nuts have the critically important task of ensuring your wheel is installed safely and securely.
Lug nuts vary in thread pitch and size, but one of the most crucial differences between lug nut types is the lug nut seat, the contact point where the lug nut meets the wheel. The wheel lug seat and lug nut seat must match, or the lug nuts won’t safely secure your tire and wheel assembly to your vehicle.
Types of Lug Nuts
There are a wide variety of lug nuts available. Some of the most common lug nut types include:
- Conical or tapered seat lugs have a cone-shaped lug seat.
- Extended thread (ET) lugs have a conical seat and require a special key for the spline grooves.
- Flat seat lugs have a flat, washer-like seat.
- Lug bolts have the stud attached and bolt onto the rotor rather than onto a stud. They’re mostly seen on European vehicles such as Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi.
- Mag seat lugs feature a flat washer seat with a longer thread area than flat seat lugs.
- Small diameter spline drive lugs have a conical seat, are small in diameter, and need a special key to remove them.
- Spherical or ball seat lugs have a rounded lug seat.
- Turner style lugs have a conical seat, are very small in diameter, and need a special key inserted into the face of the lug nut to remove them.
Lug nuts must be the correct length for your vehicle because lug bolts that are too long can cause movement issues.
Lug Nut Sizes
In addition to the length, lug nuts must be the correct size to match your vehicle’s requirements. Lug nut sizes are given in two numbers. The first number is the stud’s diameter, and the second is the thread pitch. On standard lug nuts, the thread pitch is the number of threads per inch, while on metric studs, the thread pitch is the distance (in millimeters) between each thread.
For example, a 10mm X 1.25 lug nut has a 10mm diameter with a thread pitch of 1.25 mm. The most common lug nut sizes include:
- 10mm X 1.25
- 12mm X 1.25
- 12mm X 1.50
- 12mm X 1.75
- 14mm X 1.25
- 14mm X 1.5
- 14mm X 2.0
- 7/16″ X 20
- 1/2″ X 20
- 9/16″ X 18
Most lug nuts are right-handed threaded and follow the “righty tighty, lefty loosey” rule. Left-hand threaded lug nuts are rare and are usually marked with an “L” or “LHT” on the side of the lug nut.
What Is Lug Nut Thread Engagement?
Thread engagement refers to how many complete turns a lug nut makes before it’s tight or how much contact a lug nut has with the stud. If regular lug nuts don’t have enough thread engagement, you may need extended thread (ET) lug nuts – make sure the lug holes in the wheel are wide enough for the extended thread area.
What Is Lug Nut Torque?
Lug nut torque refers to the amount of force required to tighten lug nuts. Each vehicle has specific torque requirements. Correct lug nut torque, measured in foot-pounds (ft-lbs), ensures a safe, secure fit. Under- or overtightened lug nuts can both cause safety issues.
Why Is the Outer Diameter of Lug Nuts Important?
While most lug nuts have a hex nut shape that fits regular sockets, others require special keys to install or remove them. Whatever type of lug nuts you have, make sure you have the proper tool to remove them so you can change your tire if you get a flat.
What Lug Nuts Do I Need for Aftermarket Wheels?
Aftermarket wheels can add style and performance to your vehicle, but most OE (original equipment) lug nuts won’t fit aftermarket wheels, so make sure that you also upgrade to lug nuts that will fit your wheels’ new rims.
How to Measure Rim Width
If you’re replacing your tires or wheels, you need to know your wheel dimensions and how they affect your vehicle and the way it rides. Also called wheel width, rim width is measured from bead seat to bead seat – the points of contact between your wheels and tires.
Your tire size and rim width must be compatible because the rim width directly impacts your tire’s contact patch. That can alter how your vehicle handles and the tire interacts with the road.
What Is the Max Tire Size for Rim Width?
Because of their flexible construction, most tire sizes work on a small range of rim widths (usually within an inch or two). However, you should stay within the range of approved rim width/tire size combinations determined by the Tire and Rim Association and the European Tire and Rim Technical Organization.
How Does Rim Width Change Performance?
If you keep the same tire size but increase your rim width, the tire will be slightly wider and the sidewall will be tighter. This will provide a faster steering response – but at the expense of a smooth ride. On the other hand, putting the same tire size on a narrower rim will soften up the handling but provide a smoother ride.
You need to understand wheel torque because it’s critical to install wheels safely. What is wheel torque, and how do you check it?
What Is Wheel Torque?
Wheel torque is a rotational force that measures lug nut tightness in foot-pounds (ft-lbs). Each vehicle has its torque requirements.
How Do You Check Wheel Torque?
A torque wrench is a tool designed to measure rotational force. It would be best if you used it to tighten your lug nuts to your vehicle’s torque specs after you hand-install them. Always loosen and tighten lug nuts in a star-shaped pattern.
Why Do We Follow a Specific Pattern?
Using the star pattern to loosen and tighten lug nuts helps apply torque evenly across the wheel, evading the stress shared by all studs and lug nuts and promoting wheel centering.
Why Are Manufacturer Specifications Important?
Incorrectly tightened lug nuts may cause a wheel to become loose or even come off entirely.
If your steering wheel is off-center when you drive straight, your vehicle pulls to one side, or you notice irregular tire wear, you may need a wheel alignment. But what is a wheel alignment service?
What Is a Wheel Alignment?
Many things can cause your alignment to get out of whack, but the most common causes are impacts with curbs, potholes, or other objects. Over time, normal wear and tear on your vehicle can also affect your alignment. A few examples include:
- Worn tire rods
- Weak or worn springs
- Worn ball joints
A wheel alignment service adjusts four settings to get a vehicle back into proper alignment: camber, caster, toe, and ride height.
Camber is a tire’s outward or inward tilt when viewed from the front of a vehicle. Positive camber refers to a tire tilted out, and negative camber refers to a tire tilted in. Camber has the most extensive range of recommended settings to accommodate various vehicle handling characteristics. The more aggressively a driver takes corners, the higher the negative camber their vehicle should have.
Caster refers to the angle of the steering axis – the suspension component that supports the wheel and tire assembly. A properly aligned caster contributes to high-speed stability and steering feel.
Toe is a tire’s inward or outward tilt when viewed from above. Front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicles need a compensating toe-out setting on the front axle because the front wheels pull toward each other while the vehicle moves. Rear-wheel drive (RWD) vehicles may have a toe-in setting on the front axle because those wheels pull away from each other while accelerating.
Ride height refers to the distance between the vehicle frame and the road and provides reference points for the rest of the alignment measurements. If you lift or lower your vehicle, you will need a wheel alignment after the customization is finished.
Schedule an Appointment for Wheel or Tire Services Today
Whether you need wheels, tires, or an alignment, Action Gator Tire can help. We have 24 locations across Central Florida. In addition to many locations around the Orlando area, we have retail locations as far northwest as Oxford and as far southwest as Lakeland.
We have been locally owned and operated since 1964, and we offer a nationwide warranty, so you know you can trust us. Find your nearest location to schedule an appointment today.