Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Wheel Stud

wheel stud

Wheel studs are designed to keep your tire/wheel combination safely secured to your car, truck or SUV. Most people never assume that these hard steel components can go bad or wear out and in most cases, they would be correct. The most common cause of a bad or failing wheel stud is due to improper installation by tire service technicians, over torquing of lug nuts, or lug nuts that are not tight enough. However, because the wheel stud is often exposed to the elements, and takes a tremendous amount of abuse daily, there are other issues that can cause these parts to wear out or break.

Most cars, trucks, and SUVs sold in the United States are equipped with four to six wheel studs on each hub. The wheels are inserted onto the hub and are attached with lug nuts or screw-in wheel studs to safely attach the wheels to the vehicle. They are supposed to be tightened to a precise recommended torque pressure by a certified mechanic. When a stud goes bad, it snaps off the hub and creates a serious safety situation.

There are many warning signs that you should be aware of that will reduce the potential of a broken wheel stud and will keep you safe as you drive down the road. Listed below are a few symptoms or warning signs that will indicate that the wheel studs should be replaced.

Damaged threads on the wheel stud

Tires and wheels are attached to the vehicle by lug nuts that have a similar thread pattern as the wheel studs. Occasionally the threads of the wheel studs can be damaged due to multiple reasons including:

  • Improper installation of the wheel's lug nuts onto the stud: the lug nuts are supposed to be hand-threaded a minimum of four rotations to ensure they are properly attached to the wheel studs. Many mechanics and car owners that change a tire on the side of the road often forget this fact before they start to quickly tighten the lug nuts. They should also be tightened in a star pattern and securely fastened to the vehicle’s hub before being placed back on the ground.
  • Cross threading the lug nut onto the stud: this happens frequently in several oil service or tire service shops, especially when technicians get in a hurry or use impact wrenches that are set too high. To avoid a cross threading situation, make sure the lug nuts are installed correctly and slowly guide the lug nut onto the wheel stud until it touches the hub. The wheel stud hitting against curbs, potholes or other objects: many of today's cars, trucks and SUV's have protective "hub caps" or wheel covers that protect the wheel stud from impact. However, they don't have to be hit directly in order to be damaged. Sometimes the impact will bend the wheel stud.
  • When the wheel stud shows signs of damage, it should be replaced immediately in order to reduce the potential of shearing off the hub while the vehicle is in motion. If you notice that your wheel studs are damaged or if a tire center or service mechanic tells you they are damaged, make sure to have them replaced as soon as possible and that they are properly torqued to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure.

Rust on the wheel stud

This situation commonly occurs in areas where the car, truck, or SUV is exposed to salt water or sodium chloride used to melt ice on roads in winter. Although many wheel studs are made from stainless steel and are highly resistant to rust, it happens more often than you'd think. When the wheel stud rusts, it becomes very difficult to remove lug nuts or properly place them on the wheel studs without damage occurring as listed above.

It's recommended that if you live in areas where the vehicle is exposed to salt frequently, have your wheel studs examined for signs of rust once per year. If you have rusted studs, have them replaced by a certified mechanic.

In many cases, the damage will be done by careless mechanics who believe they are professional pit crew members of a NASCAR team and treat your wheel studs with the same abuse as these professional racers. However, professional NASCAR teams replace their wheel studs after every single race. If a problem is recognized, don't argue with the mechanic who completed the tire service and may have damaged the wheel stud about who is going to pay for the replacement, contact an independent ASE certified mechanic to do the job correctly.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


Post a question and get free advice from our certified mechanics.


More related articles

P0121 OBD-II Trouble Code: TPS "A" Circuit Range Performance Problem
P0121 code definition Throttle Pedal Position Sensor/Switch (TPS) A Circuit Range Performance Problem What the P0121 code means P0121 is a generic OBD-II code which indicates that the Engine Control...
P0222 OBD-II Trouble Code: Throttle/Pedal Position Switch/Sensor B Circuit Low Input
P0222 code definition Throttle/Pedal Position Switch/Sensor B Circuit Low Input What the P0222 code means The manufacturer specifies a range of acceptable voltage to be produced from the throttle position...
P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...

Related questions

Q: Is It Unsafe to Continue Driving a Vehicle with Broken Wheel Speed Sensors?

The wheel speed sensors are the vehicle’s sensors which are used to collect data for the vehicle’s safety systems. These systems include such safety features as the anti-lock braking system (ABS) and the electronic stability control system (ESC), and both...

Q: ABS/brake lights on

Typically when a vehicle has the ABS light appear on, the brake light will appear right along with it. When this happens, the next step would be to use a automotive scanner to communicate with the ABS module. This will...

Q: Replacing a hub bearing

Each front wheel has a unitized hub/bearing assembly that is bolted onto the steering knuckle. To get to it you have to remove the brake caliper, torque plate, and drive axle. Unless you have a high capacity (250 foot pounds)...