The winter season is coming to an end, and for many, that means their warm weather tires and wheels are being installed. It's also the start of race season where tire and wheel changes are frequent. Making sure your car's wheels are properly torqued to the vehicle's specifications and pattern are critical. These torque specifications can be found in your vehicle's owner's manual, shop repair manual or obtained from the dealership.
It is important to make sure your threads are free of dirt, grit and other materials in order to achieve a proper torque. Do not apply anti-seize compound to the lug hardware or studs. This can result in inaccurate torque readings and/or over torquing of the hardware.
Once the lugs are snugged down by hand, finish tightening them with an accurate torque wrench. Use the appropriate crisscross sequence (shown below) for the number of wheel lugs on your vehicle until all have reached their proper torque value. If you over torque a wheel, you can strip a lug nut or hub, stretch or break a stud or bolt and cause the wheel, brake rotor and/or brake drum to distort.
When installing new wheels, you should re-torque the wheel lugs after driving the first 50 to 100 miles in case the clamping loads have changed following the initial installation. This is necessary due to the possibility of metal compression/elongation or thermal stresses affecting the wheels as they are breaking in, as well as to verify the accuracy of the original installation. When rechecking torque value, wait for the wheels to cool to ambient temperature (never torque a hot wheel). Loosen and retighten to value, in sequence. Simply repeat the same torque procedure listed above.
To learn more about tightening and loosening patterns, read "Wheel Lug Torquing."