Although proper technique is always important, you’ll want to be extra careful when working on high-end vehicles with high-end wheels and tires.
Shop time is valuable, but when dealing with high-end performance wheels and tire packages, you need to take the time to attend to the details. Installing a set of wheels and tires to any vehicle requires proper technique, but it’s even more important when dealing with expensive alloy wheels and performance tires.
Here are five tips to ensure the job goes smoothly:
Cleanliness – Take the time to ensure all contact surfaces are clean and free of dirt, grit or other contaminants. Be sure to check both the mating surfaces of the hub and wheel as well as the studs and nuts. Heavy contaminant or rust buildup between the hub and wheel will prevent a flush mounting surface, which can result in lateral runout. Dirty or rusted threads can lead to inadequate torque value. Any damaged threads should be replaced.
Appearance – Now that the calipers and rotors are highly visible in most wheel designs, check for rust on the rotor hats and calipers and recommend cleaning and painting the areas with high-temperature paint. You could also recommend replacing worn rotors with units that feature a rust-resistant coating.
Wheel fastener designs – Inspect the wheels to see if they require a conical or radiused “ball” style fastener and make sure that the matching style of fastener is installed. Mismatching fastener seat style can cause inadequate clamping and will result in loosening during operation. When closed nuts are being installed, make sure that the studs do not bottom out inside the nuts. Measure the exposed stud thread length and verify that the nut provides sufficient thread engagement.
Checking wheel clearance – Keep an eye out for non-OE modifications such as wheel offset or backspacing, and/or larger tire section width. Always test-fit prior to completing the job to verify that the wheels clear struts, springs, calipers, etc. When checking front wheel positions, turn the steering wheel throughout its full lock-to-lock travel while checking clearance. Never assume that an upgrade package will provide needed clearance.
Proper torque – To prevent over-tightening avoid power tools and torque sticks. Use a properly calibrated torque wrench. Improperly tightening wheel fasteners, whether under or over torqued, can lead to fastener failure and/or distortion of the hub. A distorted hub will result in lateral runout and vibration.
Always check that the socket is clean and free of dirt and grit. If the socket must enter a recess in the wheel in order to make full engagement of the fastener head, make sure that the socket fits into the recess without contacting the wheel. In many cases, a thin-wall socket will be required. Carefully verify the socket wrench size to make sure that it’s correct for the wheel nut or bolt.
Wheel fastener torque specifications are based on dry threads. Do not apply a low-friction lubricant to the threads such as anti-seize, etc., as this can easily result in over-torquing, which can compromise the strength of the stud. However, when installing an alloy wheel onto a steel hub, it’s a good idea to apply a thin coat of anti-seize lubricant onto the hub face to eliminate potential electrolysis between dissimilar metals, which can make future wheel removal difficult.