Broken wheel stud

Had my '99 Honda CR-V wheels rotated about 2 weeks ago at my friendly local gas station. The guy used the usual air wrench, and I was about to ask him to go easy on the air pressure, but I decided to keep my mouth shut and just let the guy do his thing. No problems, I pay the guy 20 bucks, and drive home. Fast forward to this morning: I load up the car and drive 150 miles for the holiday. I get out of the car and notice that, on the driver’s side front wheel, one stud is missing. Broke off flush right at the base of the lug nut. Pretty sure it happened on this trip, as I would have noticed earlier. So my question is, what do I do? Go back to the guy and say, hey, you broke my stud, and ask him to replace it? Or should I buy a stud and take it back to him and ask him to put it in for me? I’ve never had a stud break, so I don’t know how much responsibility/blame to put on the guy who rotated the wheels. Do these things just randomly break, or is it clear that the guy overtorqued the stud?

It’s the guy’s fault. This is why you don’t use air tools to put lug nuts on. He really should replace all of the studs, because if he damaged one its likely the others got damaged too.

(more explanation added)

Impact guns are designed to react to resistance by pounding. That’s the loud rattle sound you hear. So when the air gun gets resistance from a cross-threaded or dirty lugnut, instead of stopping, backing it off, and correcting the issue as you should do, it just sits there banging away until it forces the lug nut on. If the lugnut is crossthreaded, you’ve just wrecked your threads at best, and you’ve probably twisted the stud itself because the stud isn’t designed to withstand impact torque like that. That’s why your wheel stud broke. It is very easy to crossthread a lugnut if you put it on with air tools, and sometimes you get away with it because the gun is powerful enough that the lugnut just cuts its own threads, and you don’t twist the stud enough to break it off - but you have weakened the stud, and you’ve messed it up for the next guy who has to remove the wheel.

Your mechanic should have started the lugnut by hand, and then used a hand torque wrench for the final tightening.

OK, thanks for the feedback. But this brings up another question. You say that he should have used a hand torque wrench for final tightening. How many shops actually do that? I’ve seen a lot of wheels put on with impact wrenches, and I’ve never seen anyone in a shop actually use a torque wrench, even if they should. So why aren’t everyone’s wheel stud breaking off, with all these guys using impact wrenches?

Many tire shops will start them by hand, which eliminates the cross threading problem, but then torque them with an impact wrench using a “torque stick,” which is a flexible shaft between the gun and the lugnut that’s supposed to absorb any torque over the specified amount. That’s still not very accurate, though, so while you don’t have to worry so much about breaking the stud, you still have to worry about uneven torque, which can accelerate warping on your brake rotors.

I know that Discount Tire uses this technique, but uses torque sticks that are 20 ft/lbs or so below the specified torque. They then finish torquing by hand. Of course, the problem with this is that the kids working at Discount Tire often have no idea how to properly use a torque wrench, how to calibrate it, or how to properly care for a torque wrench so that it doesn’t become inaccurate. So even though their corporate policy tries to make it so that your lugnuts are torqued properly, in practice it’s not uncommon for the tech to screw it up anyway. That’s why it’s always a good idea to carry your own torque wrench, drive down the street far enough so that you’re out of sight and don’t offend the techs, and retorque your wheels yourself.

A lot of shops, especially the quickie shops, will put the lugnut in the socket and zip them on with the airgun. When they do that, it’s left to luck whether or not you damage the stud.

I’ve never seen a “torque stick”, and this guy definitely didn’t use one. The socket was right on the wrench, with nothing in between. I should have listened to that little voice that said “tell the guy to turn his air pressure down.”

Thanks for your help.

Back in the ol’days we would pound the old one out n pound a new one in…not so sure on a 99 honda

Have you checked the torque on the others? if some (or all) of the others are over torqued it would really help your case. As a tech I can tell you that it is very,very easy to get a feel for how your impact sounds and feels at a coresponding torque setting, I am not saying this tech is as good as me (few are) but perhaps.

I haven’t checked because I don’t have a torque wrench. I could go and buy one, but then that’s an $80 tool that’ll sit in my basement and do nothing for 364 days per year.

I’m hoping I can buy a $2 bolt, go back to the guy and say, hey, look, the stud broke after your rotated my wheels, and would you please install this new bolt for me? Kind of hard for him to argue that it wasn’t his fault, even if I don’t have torque measurements all around.

Having said that, I’m definitely going to take a breaker bar, break all the remaining nuts free, and torque 'em by hand, a method that has never failed me, despite my uncalibrated hand.

Just see if you can loosen one with the lug nut wrench that came with the car, this is not so hard to figure out.

Forget shops. It’s a wheel. It is meant to be replaced on the side of the road by the operator, not under pristine conditions using state of the art equipment and torque wrenches.
Using the equipment provided by the manufacturer, when tightening the lugs onto a wheel, always tighten each lug lightly and equally and then begin to fully tighten each lug fully - until it squeaks. Tighten any lug first, so long as it squeaks when tightened.
And then tighten the lug opposite the one you just tightened. And repeat, until all lugs are tight.

I just broke all lug nuts loose with a 17" breaker bar, then retightened them. None of them seemed overly tight. They were all just about at the tightness I would have done by hand. So why that one bolt broke is kind of a mystery. Maybe it did get cross-threaded. Anyway, I’m more confident now that none of the other bolts was damaged. I went to NAPA today and got a couple of new bolts. Will go back to the station and ask the guy if he would replace the one that broke. Thanks to everyone.

it isnt the air pressure that matters so much, the gun has a preset max torque break away.

Update: I took it back to the guy who rotated the tires. He was very accommodating and tried to do the repair, but when he got down to trying to remove the hub, he called me over and showed me the rusted castle nuts on the tie rod end and the (whatever it was). He was worried about breaking the ball joint, so I said, that’s OK, thanks for trying, let’s just put it back together. (It was late Friday afternoon, and I knew if he broke anything, it would be too late to get a new part and I’d be SOL.) Next morning I took it to a Honda specialist (farther away), and he was able to replace the bolt in 30 minutes without breaking anything else. Cost me $50, but no ball joints were damaged in the process.

Thanks to all who advised me here.

oops, I meant “castle nuts on the ball joint…” not the tie rod end.

There is a method that I would call “field expediant”. This method involves either bending or cutting up a section of backing plate material, this gives access so a new stud can be installed. Not the cleanest repair but it does get the job done.

In my experience torque sticks are pretty darn accurate. When I first purchased them I would double-check each nut with a hand-torque stick and they were always right on. If I turned the hand torque stick up 2 lbs. it would turn ever so slightly.

I recently had something similar happen to my 1998 Civic. I was cleaning and inspecting my brakes, and one of the lug nuts wouldn’t come off. It was apparently cross-threaded.

I got it off by breaking the stud, but kept the nut. I called the last people to have the wheels off (Goodyear). I brought them the car and gave them the nut with the broken stud inside of it. They replaced the stud and the nut for free.

If you ask politely, the guy who had the wheels off last should be willing to fix it for free. If he isn’t willing to fix it for free, get it fixed elsewhere and never go back to him again.

When you think about all the stress the original stud has withstood over the past 11 years, it might not have been this guy’s fault. Metal weakens over time. However, he should be willing to accept responsibility for it and fix it for free if he wants your business in the future, and if he fixes this for free, you should still feel safe going back to him for work in the future.

I agree, and the guy was WILLING to fix it for free, but when he got halfway through the job, he was worried about breaking the ball joint. And, as I said, it was late Friday afternoon, so if he broke the ball joint, I was going to be walking home. So I chose to drive home, rather than walk.

He has been very helpful in the past, and I’ll go back to him for simple things like fluid changes, etc.