Care and attention to detail are key concerns whenever dealing with the installation of custom wheels, especially alloy wheels. Taking the time to do the job correctly will greatly reduce the potential for customer complaints.
Preparing for wheel installation
NOTE: Prior to installing any wheel (steel or alloy), verify the condition of the fastening system’s threads (nuts and studs or bolts and hub threads). All threads should be clean and free of dirt, grease, grit, etc. If burrs or flat spots are found, replace the offending Lug Nut.
Before attempting to install the wheel to the vehicle hub, first verify that you have the correct size Lug Nut, and check thread condition. Finger-install all Lug Nuts. Each Lug Nut should be able to be easily threaded into place without the use of a tool. If not, the thread size (diameter or thread pitch) may be incorrect, or thread damage may exist on either the stud and/or nut; or the wheel bolt and/or hub’s threaded hole. Resolve any Lug Nut issues before attempting to install the wheel(s).
Please be aware and to see if you have Asymmetrical or Directional tires. It is very important that they are going in the correct rotation. Asymmetrical or Directional tires will always have some type of indication to show which way the tire should rotate, this indication will be on the sidewall of the tire. Here are some samples that show the different types of indicators that tire manufactures use.
Once you’re satisfied with regard to the Lug Nuts, if this is a first-time installation (new aftermarket wheels), it’s a good idea to first test-fit the wheels before mounting the tires to the wheels.Make sure that no obstructions exist on the hub face that would prevent the wheel from flush-mating to the hub (check for OE stud clips, etc.).
Install the wheel to the vehicle hub, tightening at least three wheel Lug Nuts. There’s no need to tighten to full torque value, just make sure the wheel fits flush against the hub face. Check for disc brake clearance and for clearance between the wheel rim and any steering/suspension components.
Also check hub fit. Some wheels are designed to be centered to the hub by means of the bolt holes (lug-centric), while others are designed to center to the hub via the hub center-to-wheelhub center hole (hub-centric).
If the wheel’s center hole is larger than the outer diameter of the hub’s centering housing, a hub-centric ring may be needed to properly center the wheel to the hub. If you don’t see any hub-centric rings with your shipment call your PerformancePlusTire/HotRodHanks.com salesperson and they will send them to you. Hub-centric rings are not always available for some of the older vehicles.
There’s nothing wrong with using a hub-centric ring. Some wheel makers may use the same center hole diameter to accommodate a variety of hub sizes. Using a centering ring allows a single center hole size to function on smaller hub diameters. Simply check this first to save time and aggravation. The rings, if needed, must be installed to the hub before the wheel is installed.
Wheel Lug Nut torque
Many folks don’t realize it, but all threaded Lug Nuts are intended to stretch slightly when fully tightened to specification. In the case of wheel studs and nuts (or wheel bolts), this creates the correct preload required to properly secure the wheel to the hub. If the wheel Lug Nuts are under-tightened, they will eventually loosen, resulting in wheel damage or separation from the vehicle. If the Lug Nuts are tightened beyond their design limit, the wheel stud or bolt can permanently stretch (fatiguing beyond its designed elastic range) or even break during installation. While the use of an impact gun (or the use of an impact gun equipped with a torsional wrench) may be tempting in terms of saving time, let’s face it: the only way to ensure correct clamping loads is by taking the time to tighten wheel Lug Nuts with the use of a quality and properly-calibrated torque wrench.
Never use an impact gun to tighten custom wheel Lug Nuts. Not only will you not be able to accurately control the level of Lug Nut tightness, but use of an impact tool can easily damage the Lug Nuts or the adjacent wheel surface.
And when we’re dealing with attractive (and expensive) alloy wheels, such damage, even if only cosmetic, is simply unacceptable. Use sockets that fit the wheel!
Before attempting to engage a socket to the Lug Nuts, first check to make sure that the socket is clean to prevent damaging the Lug Nut finish. Also, verify that the socket of choice will comfortably fit into the wheel’s Lug Nut hole (in those cases where the Lug Nut sinks into a recess at the wheel’s bolt holes).
Using a socket that is too thick will cause the socket to jam and gall inside the recess, damaging the wheel finish (flaking off chrome, galling a powder coat finish, etc.). My preference is to set aside a dedicated set of thin-wall sockets specifically for use on custom wheels. This provides a set of sockets that are kept clean, and that you know will not provide a too-tight fit into bolt hole recesses. The use of a pneumatic (or electric) impact gun offers the potential of damaging the Lug Nut’s exterior surfaces and/or the wheel’s Lug Nut hole area, in both removal and installation procedures. In a nutshell: If you’re dealing with alloy wheels, leave the impact gun on the bench.
Here’s another tip: When tightening the wheel’s Lug Nuts, don’t make the mistake of finger-tightening, then lowering the vehicle to the ground to continue tightening. Instead of fighting vehicle weight, it’s best to perform your complete tightening procedure while the tire is off of the ground. If the mating surfaces (wheel to hub) aren’t fully compacted together, placing the weight of the vehicle against the tire results in then overcoming the resistance of the sidewall deflection (due to vehicle weight), which could possibly result in inaccurate torquing.
INSTALLATION TIP: In order to prevent the wheel from sticking to the hub in the future (when an aluminum wheel is mated against a steel hub, this can result in electrolysis), it’s a good idea to apply a thin coating of an anti-seize paste to the hub face where the wheel makes contact.
A thin application of this compound will make it easy to remove the wheels in the future.
While opinions on re-torquing vary, the best suggestion is to re-torque all wheel Lug Nuts after the first 50 to 100 miles, specifically after installing new wheels.
This is especially true of alloy wheels, since the initial Lug Nut tightening may result in a slight compression of the wheel material (at the hub mating face).
If a bit of material compression occurs, this will directly result in a lower torque value at the Lug Nuts, decreasing the clamping load.
The best approach is to initially tighten all wheel Lug Nuts to specified value, drive the vehicle for 50 to 100 miles, and then re-torque the Lug Nuts.
When re-torquing, raise the vehicle to lift the tires away from the ground (removing vehicle weight). Loosen all of the wheel’s Lug Nuts (in a crisscross pattern), then re-tighten in the proper sequence to full specified torque value.
Wheel Lug Nut torque values
Always follow the vehicle maker or wheel maker torque specifications. Just remember that tighter is not necessarily better.
While you should always adhere to the torque specifications listed by either the vehicle make or the wheel maker, the box below offers a broad guideline of torque values for common wheel Lug Nut sizes.
Always tighten any wheel in the proper sequence pattern in order to evenly distribute the clamping load between the wheel and the hub. Especially considering today’s comparatively lightweight hubs and brake rotors, if the wheel Lug Nuts are tightened improperly (in terms of torque value and tightening pattern), the risk of creating a hub/rotor warpage increases, resulting in a brake pulsation. The goal in using the proper tightening pattern is to avoid concentrated areas of clamping force. You want to evenly distribute the clamping load across the hub surface.
With the hub/wheel positioned so that one Lug Nut is at the 12-o’clock position, tighten the 12-o’clock position first, followed by the 6 o’clock position, followed by the 3 o’clock position, followed by the 9 o’clock position.
With the hub/wheel positioned with one Lug Nut at 12 o’clock, tighten the 12 o’clock position first, followed by the 7 o’clock position, followed by the 2 o’clock position, followed by the 10 o’clock position, followed by the 5 o’clock position.
Basically, from the first Lug Nut, move to a Lug Nut that is furthest away from the first Lug Nut. Then move to a Lug Nut furthest away from that second Lug Nut, etc. Always move to the Lug Nut that is furthest away from the previous Lug Nut.
The same rule applies. After tightening the first Lug Nut, move to a Lug Nut that is furthest away from that first Lug Nut, and so-on. Always move to the Lug Nut that is furthest away from the previously-tightened Lug Nut.
An example of a six-bolt pattern would be: With the hub/wheel positioned to place one Lug Nut at 12- o’clock, tighten the 12 o’clock position first, followed by the 6 o’clock position, followed by the 2 o’clock position, followed by the 7 o’clock position, followed by the 5 o’clock position, followed by the 10 o’clock position.
NOTE: For ideal clamping results, it’s best not to fully tighten the Lug Nuts in one step. Instead, tighten in at least two steps. For instance, if the specified torque value is 100 ft.-lb., tighten all Lug Nuts (in the proper sequence pattern) to an initial value of 25 ft.-lb. Then perform a second tightening to full value (using 100 ft.-lb. as our example). By tightening in multiple steps, you greatly reduce the chance of initiating excessive clamping force in isolated areas. Taking this extra care is but another way of increasing your chances of achieving an optimum wheel-to-hub clamping load.
PerformancePlusTire.com and HotRodHanks.co would like to thank Modern Tire Dealer for providing most of the information for the “Wheel and Tire Installation Instructions”