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Broken wheel bolts on Dodge Caravan

The last 2 times I have taken my 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan in for tire rotation, the service guy informed me that I had a broken bolt (one of the five) that holds the front wheel on. One time it was a left front wheel, next the right front wheel. They replaced the bolts and lug nuts . . . for a fee. I told this to lots of people and no one has ever heard of wheel bolts breaking - on any car! I have rotated the tires regularly at other extablshments and have never had this problem. My question: Is this unusual? A known problem with Dodges. Am I being “taken for a ride” by the dealer?

It’s hard to be “taken for a ride” by the dealership if they are fixing the lugs for free. I’ve seen many stripped lug nuts but never a broken one. The dealership is using an air impact wrench to remove and replace the wheels during tire rotation. This job usually falls to the technician with the least training. The impact wrench will break a lug quite easily if the lug nut was stripped to begin with or the impact wrench setting is too high.

I would find a good independent mechanic that uses the impact wrench along with a torque wrench when putting the wheels back on. Using an impact wrench improperly will also warp your rotors and weaken the lugs along with stripping your lug nuts.

I wish they were doing it for FREE. They charge me an extra $40 each time it happens. I, too, have wondered about those power wrenches . . . If they are too strong? Does any place just do it by hand any more??? Thanks for your advise.

I have experienced a few broken bolts. The usual cause is the lug-nut is so rusted on it happens. I imagine another scenario is they have been over tightened causing weakness to the bolt, or a combo thereof. My brake guys re-torque nuts for free after anyone else does tire rotations etc, to prevent damage to rotors which would fall under their warranty. I think only a person with a flat tire on the side of the road does it by hand any more, but there are power tools that if used correctly do a fine job.

AZGram…my bad. I read too fast and picked up “fee” as free. The air impact wrenches can be very strong as they are many different models and sizes. An air wrench in the proper hands can be used with finesse but those people are few and far between.

So, educateme some more. How does overtightening damage the rotors? Someting else I should be aware of???

Overtightening lug nuts is one of the major causes of warped brake rotors.
If you have the tires rotated by a shop that doesn’t use a torque wrench, I strongly suggest that you stop using that shop.

And, the next time that you buy tires, ask beforehand…Do you use a torque wrench to tighten lug nuts?
For example, Costco’s tire shops do this, as do some independent tire shops, but–unfortunately–most shops rely on the “one size fits all” air wrench approach that is not likely to stop at the correct torque for many cars’ lug nuts.

Impact wrenches are a wonderful time saving tool. I use one when I need to pull my wheels. The trouble is, they have to be used with a little finesse, or they can do damage. I personally think that breaking a wheel stud is inexcusable. My impact wrench is a particularly strong model, and I have no problem installing wheel nuts properly with it. I think some techs are just careless. The job should be finished with a torque wrench. Over tightened and unevenly tightened wheel nuts put improper/uneven stress on the rotor which, coupled with the thermal cycling during braking, causes the rotors to warp.

Well, I suppose my question would be, did you know whether or not you had a broken lug before you drove in there? Because if you drove in there with 5 good lugs, and suddenly one turned up broken, it most likely means their tire monkey decided to play NASCAR pit crew with the air gun, screwed up, and twisted your lug off, after which the dealership charged you $40 to replace what they broke.

If, however, you don’t know whether or not one of your lugs was broken before you went in, then you need to start inspecting your car better.

You can break the studs and sometimes you don’t even have to try. At 140 foot pounds as my specified torque on my truck, I don’t see them breaking any time soon. Big lugs too.

On one of my cars I have written “install at - no impact” in permanent marker on the wheels underneath where the hub cover is installed. I get tired of carelessness. I don’t know whether it annoys anyone or not, but I don’t know what to do about that.

Its also not necessarily the case that the impact alone is bad if torque sticks are used. I just didn’t have room to write a paragraph.

It is somewhat certain that lug studs are broken because they are over tightened. And because a mechanic(?) who would over tighten a lug nuts would likely also fail to properly sequence tightening the nuts and warp the rotor. But over tightening should not warp the rotor.

In my experience, broken wheel studs are rare. My car with 250,000 miles on it has had four, and they’re the only 4 I’ve ever seen. For some reason, they broke two at time. I broke them, when removing a wheel. I got each nut broken loose, but then it got stuck and wouldn’t turn. I knew I was going to have to force it and probably break the stud, but the parts are cheap and replacement is easy, so it wasn’t a big deal. I’ve also had a few lug nuts with messed up threads that didn’t want to go on, so I replaced them.

For most of the car’s life, I wasn’t concerned with who installed the wheels and don’t know how well they did it. I now am more selective about where I buy tires and carry a torque wrench and socket as part of my tire change tool set.

It can happen. In your case, I’d be more suspicious of those who’ve installed the wheels in the past than the dealer. In the future you should be more careful about who works on your car.

Last year I experienced my first broken wheel stud. A week after having my wheels rotated, I noticed a stud had broken off. Can’t prove it, but I suspect it was due to overtightening with the impact wrench. Now I ask the mechanic to go easy with the impact wrench. I’d prefer a torque wrench, but I doubt anyone would torque it by hand even if I asked, so I don’t bother.

In 24 years and 518,700 miles on my '88 Escort I think I’ve replaced either 1 or 2 lug bolt/nuts. If I recall correctly the nut seized while removing it causing the bolt to twist off. This was probably caused by being over tightening and stretching/stressing the threads on the bolt or in the nut. Although it’s not unheard of it’s not an everyday occurrence on most cars. I too would suggest checking prior to taking the car into the garage and again before leaving for damage. If everything’s fine when it goes in and one gets broke or it comes out with a problem confront the manager about the damage. On most cars they are pretty simple to replace by driving the old bolt out with a hammer and driving in another one and can be done yourself in 10 minutes for much less than $40.