Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Is my broken bolt Sears' fault?

I am in the middle of replacing the front brake pads on my 2008 Scion XD. I have done my own brake work many times before but this time the nuts holding the wheels on are so incredibly tight that after several coats of penetrating oil and many attempts to wrench the nuts loose, the best I could do is to break off one of the bolts.

Sears put new tires on this car just about 6 months ago and were the last people to touch the wheels.

My question is: Was the broken bolt unavoidable due to over-tightening and can I hold Sears responsible for the repair?

I really hope the answer is yes.


Yes,Sears overtightened your lug nuts, and lots of luck getting them to take responsibility for it.

I doubt they’ll pay for it, but they definitely overtightened them.

Sears overtightened the nuts/studs. You will not see a dime from them. Shops like these do not know the importance of proper torque. I will bet there is no torque wrench in the shop at all and if they have torque sticks they are laying in a corner being wasted.

I instructed one shop to use a torque wrench when they mount my tires and they told me their compressors were calibrated. After some debate I asked them if they told all their customer that they said yes.
I told them some people will believe that but I know its a load of crap. After that anytime a shop has my wheels off as soon as I get home all nuts are loosened and my torque wrench comes to the rescue.

Same here. I work at a Valvoline Quick lube and even we use torque sticks when rotating tires, but whenever a shop works on my car with the tires off I always retorque when i get home.

When lug nuts are properly torqued, they can be removed by hand very easily… Lug nuts use a “tapered seat” and do not require a great amount of torque to remain secure…

Thank you everyone for the confirmation!
I can now go into my local Sears and throw a tantrum with the confidence of knowing that I’m right. I too expect that they will do nothing for me but I’ll feel much better.
Thanks again!

…and thanks also for recommending the retorque following removal of wheels by a garage. I’ll definitely remember that.

It sounds like the lug nuts were tightened with an air driven impact wrench for speed and therefore productivity. I would not be happy with retightened lug nuts after the fact due to the possibility that damage may have already been done by overtightening the lug nuts.

If you take a noon lunch break walk in a big city as I have done many times, you will often find lug nuts with a length of broken off lug bolt screw thread in the gutter at street corners. That seems to be where they finally fall off. I look there as that also is where I find my supply of wheel balancing weights.

I am going to present a dissenting opinion.

While the guys at Sears were guilty of tightening the lug nuts too tight, they were not guilty of breaking the stud - and it is pretty easy to construct an argument that if 6 months went by and nothing happened, then the broken stud had nothing to do with whatever it was the Sears did. In other words, the stud did not break in service.

A followup argument would be that it was the lack of expertise on the remover’s side that broke the stud.

  • and if I were Sears, that is the way I would present it to a judge.

  • and be careful ranting at the store. It has been happened that that people have been asked to leave and never come back - and at worst, the police has been called and folks arrested for such behavior.

While the guys at Sears were guilty of tightening the lug nuts too tight, they were not guilty of breaking the stud - and it is pretty easy to construct an argument that if 6 months went by and nothing happened, then the broken stud had nothing to do with whatever it was the Sears did. In other words, the stud did not break in service.

I have to disagree with that. Once a bolt is over tightened…no matter what you do…there’s a very good chance it’ll break when trying to unbolt it. This is typical of places that hire high-school dropouts. You’ll this type of workmanship in almost all the chains. They hire the cheapest labor they can get to keep their profits high. Sears/NTB(owned by Sears)…are notorious for this type of problem. Whoever overtightened the bolt is responsible.

Here’s a thought - take it back to Sears and tell them that the nuts have not been touched since you were there last. You recently attempted to take a wheel off and broke a bolt. Ask them to slightly loosen the others for you so that you can do the rest of the work…

This kind of thing is very common - drives me up a wall. I also pull out the torque wrench whenever my car has been in someone else’s hands.

But its just a darned wheel stud - this is not a capital case. You’ve already spent more time worrying about it than it is worth.

Furthermore, the Sears guy will probably look at you blankly and if he says anything it will probably be something “after 6 months you want to blame me because a nut froze up on your car?”

If you do anything at all just do what sparkymeb suggested.

Your bolt seeems to have siezed on it’s threads, even exceeding the rated tourque spec by 40-50lbs should not have caused the stud to actually break upon removal. Two things I observe, you state you do all you own brake work, how do we know you did not crossthread the bolt, and leaving youre wheels on for 6 mths, I guess rotations are not part of your plan. Be thankful it happened where you did not get stuck.

Eggadds!!, now a mechanic is responsible for a lug he tighten six months prior, who knows who has been at this car (or not at this car).

I don’t think you need to have ever been to any kind of school to torque correctly, just a 20 min. primer when you hire in. Saying this problem is related to the “hiring of high school dropouts” is way out there. All of the most experienced mechanics I know tighten with the “rattle wrench” These guys are so highly trained that they can tell the torque bening applied just by the feel and sound of their wrench, Yeah sure bet.

I am sure that Sears will point out that lug studs do not have an unlimited lifespan, as they get stretched during every torque down.

Yes it was more than likely their fault. If they killed your engine or transmission it would be something to pursue. However, it’s a broken bolt. Kindly ask them to repair it if you haven’t already done so, they might say yes given it’s such a small repair. They’ll probably say no, in which case take it to a decent mechanic and have them put a new stud on, it won’t cost much. That may make the most sense regardless, I’m not sure you’d want Sears “automotive” touching your car again.

I’m going to agree with CapriRacer and oldschool. Going in and “throwing a tantrum” is not a good way to even go about handling this because the person being cursed at is not likely the one who allegedly caused this problem or even knows anything about it.

Just an example here. A gentleman bought a new VW from us and did not want to spend any of his money on the 7500 miles service when he was told that warranty does not cover normal maintenance. He chose to do it himself at home in the drive and rotating the tires was part of it.
He attempted this feat with the factory jack and the short factory beveled lug wrench.

So what did he do? He succeeded in ruining almost every lug on the left front wheel followed by bringing it back to us and (seriously) “throwing a tantrum” at the front counter by insisting his car had “frozen defective lug nuts” and a “defective lug wrench”.
The invertebrate service manager caved in to this and had this fixed under warranty with my telling him the company was going to eat every single dime of this repair.

The followup is that the company did indeed wind up eating the entire cost, along with the service manager being royally reamed by the VW factory rep, and every single one of those “frozen defective lugs” came right off with no problem at all; even with the bolt heads being mangled beyond recognition.

And the use of an air wrench to install lugs is not necessarily a bad thing. They do have an adjustment knob for air control on them and an experienced tech can determine what is right by feel.

Capriracer, I can only surmise that you’re presnting the argument that Sears would present were they in small claims court rather than something you actually believe. If that’s true, then well done.

I too believe Sears must have overtorqued the studs, and I too doubt that the OP will ever see a penny. Sometimes it’s best for our health to just cuss a little and move on.

By the way OP, the studs can be pressed out and new ones pressed in their place.

Get a block of wood, put the rotor on it. get a hammer and knock out the remainder of the stud. buy a new stud for a few bucks at your local parts store. Tap into the open hole. replace the rotor, with the new pads. Put your wheel back on and use your torque wrench to tighten the nuts. It is the lugnut that needs to get torqued, not you. Never go back to the Sears place again. That’ll learn 'em, when enough people stop buying their shoddy sevice. Chant your mantra now.

Most shops including Sears use air impact wrenches. These things are efficient and adjustable, but mostly they just use the same wrench for every car. My cars all have different torque recommendations; 80 lbs for the Honda, 90 for the T’bird. Shops don’t bother to look up torques and adjust their wrenches.

The way impact wrenches work they “hit” the nut repeatly and rapidly and also they use a tight fitting socket. Therefore an impact wrench might have removed your “overtightened” lug nuts with breaking or damaging the bolts.

As another suggested, I’d take the car back to Sears and ask them to remove the wheels as they are on too tight. Ask them to reinstall them with the proper torque using an old fashioned manual torque wrench, consult your owner’s manual for the correct torque spec. If any of the other other bolts break off Sears will have to repair them and perhaps they can repair the currently broken one also.

Not exactly.

While I did present the argument as what Sears might present, it has a bit of truth to it. Look at it this way, if overtightening a bolt doesn’t break it, why would loosening it? Could it be the procedure for loosening it is … oh … let’s call it “less than optimal”? If only torque were applied to the nut, why would loosening it be more severe than tightening it. One of the problems with removing nuts and bolts is applying a shear force, instead of just a torque.

Now one of the other parts of the argument would be corrosion. If the bolt now requires more torque because of corrosion, then the argument has to do with corrosion.

An aside: If overtightening is such a common problem in wheel studs, then loosening these would result in a rash of broken wheel studs at tire shops - and I don’t think that is the case. And the reason I think that is not the case is because they use an impact tool to remove the nuts - and those tools deliver almost 100% torque and no shear forces.

But I am just a shadetree mechanic - and a part-timer at that. But I have broken a few bolts / studs, but every time it was with a hand tool. I have yet to break a bolt/stud with an impact wrench. But that’s just my experience.

Do others have different experiences with hand tools vs impact tools?