Tire Rotation? Car says no

2023-10-05 11:57 - General

My last post was about some scheduled maintenance I did to my car. Slightly ahead of schedule, because I don't know its history from before I bought it. Better to waste a tiny bit of money doing maintenance early than a big amount when something goes wrong thanks to poor maintenance. One of the items on the list was a tire rotation. This should be a pretty easy job.

I got my "childhood" (late teenage of course, if true, but there appears to be a sticker on the box from a few years too late for that) car tool kit from Mom's house last month. It's got a pair of jack stands and a hydraulic jack which are perfect for this. I actually jacked the car up first, forgetting my order of operations. Put it back down and proceeded to loosen the wheel nuts with the wheels on the ground. I had a little trouble at first (we'll get back to this, later), on one of the rear wheels. Front wheels I've gotten all the nuts off "no problem", and re-installed them to torque spec.

Well, actually: I did have some problems with the nuts. I got lucky that I found a breaker bar around Opa's workbench which was long enough to give me enough leverage to budge some of the nuts which the four-way tire iron couldn't. But in ½" drive, I only had 12 point sockets of this size, which probably did not help! But after this point I got everything off that I tried to get off, though I had to put so much force that I shook the whole car.

Why did I have problems? First, an almost-definite contributing factor: auto shops with huge air impact guns over tighten lug nuts, making them extra difficult to remove. But apparently also: Ford's swollen lug nuts is not only a known problem but there's been a lawsuit about it. (Which was dismissed, but still evidence that this isn't a rare issue.) They've got a structural nut, plus a softer (and prettier?) metal layer wrapped around that. The second layer can shift and swell, making it hard to get a socket on and hard to remove the lug nuts. (For more, see the YouTube video Easily remove swollen lug nuts on Fords — that method is just cutting the softer outer layer off! The video clearly shows both the before and after view of this.) I didn't know this when I started. At least one nut, I stripped/rounded it a bit. Since then, I got a bolt extractor kit. This morning, I forced that extractor on the worst bolt.

And I heaved, and I huffed and I puffed, and I could not get it off. I put my impact driver on it. Nothing. So finally I found a pipe to act as a cheater bar. Unfortunately the extractor I could get locally has only a ⅜" drive, so I didn't have a very big wrench attached. (The extractor kit has online reviews, one of which mentions removing a 135-lb-ft spec nut. My lug nuts' spec is 100-lb-ft, so the extractor should handle this! But who knows how overly-tight some shop might have made this in the past?) The wrench bent before the nut came loose. At this point I was worried: I hammered that extractor on the nut (which as I understand is typical use for an extractor). But the nut didn't come off, so how will I get the extractor loose? I certainly don't want to drive around with it on.

The carnage after I failed to remove a lug nut.

Well, remember how the nut actually has a weak (very probably aluminum) outer layer? What I managed to do was not loosen the nut, but to rip holes in that outer layer. Then the extractor was loose enough to pull off by hand. As best I can tell, what it was gripping on is now gone. So it's off. And that nut is surely still on there. Hard to get a good picture, but you can just see the outer and inner layer of the damaged nut.

So I guess I'm fine for now, but I'll pretty definitely need to hire someone to get all the lug nuts off, at which point they can probably do the tire rotation for me too!


2023-11-18 10:38 - arantius

It took about all the force I could push through a (½") breaker bar, and at this point an extractor socket set, and a ⅜" socket adapter ... but these did get taken off. And all the lug nuts were replaced.

Curiously, there were exactly four replacement lug nuts, sold strong metal without this soft extra layer. Previous damage to lug nuts? Or perhaps a previous owner put locking nuts on, then someone later replaced those four — one per wheel.

Post a comment:

  If you do not have an account to log in to yet, register your own account. You will not enter any personal info and need not supply an email address.

You may use Markdown syntax in the comment, but no HTML. Hints:

If you are attempting to contact me, ask me a question, etc, please send me a message through the contact form rather than posting a comment here. Thank you. (If you post a comment anyway when it should be a message to me, I'll probably just delete your comment. I don't like clutter.)