Is the lug nut thing a ruse? What happened during this oil change?

Recently after breaking up with my Toyota dealership I started going to a local shop that came highly recommended. On my first visit they replaced the spark plugs and cleaned the throttle body and were good to deal with and reasonably priced. Now on the second visit I asked for an oil change and tire rotation -and they completed the work. Here are my two questions:

  1. When I came in to pick up the car after receiving a call that it was ready, they said they could not get some of the lug nuts off in the usual manner and…therefore had to render some of the lug nuts unusable in order to pry them off to get all the tires off. The guy showed them to me: four dented and banged up lug nuts that really looked like someone took a hammer to them. They charged me for four new ones at $9 a piece. How do I know they didn’t destroy the lug nuts after they popped them off? They never called me to tell me, only a call saying my car was all ready -when a charge is not expected, or discussed at the time of drop off doesn’t a mechanic usually tell you this before they do it and if not before, call you to say this is what we had to do? I didn’t say anything at the time but after I left I became suspicious…then,

  2. I noticed after driving the car around and when reaching a trip in excess of 15 miles or so the cabin starts to smell like exhaust. And the longer you drive the more intense the exhaust smell becomes. So on a recent road trip that was approximately 350 miles the last 100 miles or so I was really bothered by the exhaust smell and was getting light headed. Stopping at two toll booths I noticed when I was stopped and in that enclosed area that the exhaust was greyish white and was puffing out much more than usual. How does this happen after a simple oil change? I have never had this problem with the car before.


Happy New Year!


They charged me $5.75 per lug nut (not $9!)
And they charged me for seven of them for a total of $40.25

How old is the car? I’ve had a 5 year old car with lug nuts that were abused by some service tech, most likely using an impact gun to tighten the lug nuts, that were impossible to remove normally. Using a breaker bar, we normally snap off the lug studs and replace them once the wheel us off. As far as calling the customer, this is a minor additional to the charges, and typically not known until we are deep enough in the job to just to need to do. Broken bolts and snapped lugs are typically referred to as ‘shop supplies’. If they did not mention it, I’d avoid the previous shop that handled these tires previously, since they don’t seem to know what they are doing.

Also, the exhaust leak seems to be an unfortunate coincidence. An oil change and tire rotation has nothing to do with the exhaust. Depending on the age of the car, it could be a common ailment of cars in the Northern climates that use salt on the roads in winter. Or just due to age.

Lug nuts should never appear as you describe. I have driven several cars to ripe old ages, do my own tire work; use an impact wrench to remove lug nuts but not install them and have not seen what you describe. Something does not smell right about this. At this time it may be difficult to prove who damaged your lug nuts, the past or present maintenance people. You can pursue this by asking for the damaged lug nuts and bringing them to your prior service people for their view. That will also put your present service people on notice that you will not be gullible if they may want to try something shady again if indeed they did.

Always ask for old parts unless they are large and/or heavy to help keep mechanics honest. Bring your own plastic bags to make it easy. Just take them home and save them for someone to inspect or toss them.

My only reaction to the exhaust odor is that oil may have been spilled on your exhaust manifold or piping to make a temporary odor. That does not explain the lingering odor that you describe.

I bet they used a wrong sized (metric on an SAE or vice versa) socket on the lug and stripped it with the gun.
As already mentioned, they could have spilled oil. It takes a while to burn off, if that’s the case.
Those places employ total morons.

If the oil filter wasn’t tightened properly or the gasket not seated properly would it allow oil to drip onto the exhaust? On some of my cars every time I remove the oil filter to replace it with a new one oil runs down onto the exhaust. I always wipe it off with a rag as good as possible, but still have an odor for a short period of time.

Check your oil level, now. You may have a leak. Did they replace the studs or just the lug nuts?


As far as the lugs? They probably couldn’t get them off for whatever reason…and basically beat them into submission…Not much they or you could do when that happens… If they were overtightened and BONE DRY of any lubrication…sure they can lock themselves on there pretty well… Which is Why ALL of my cars wheel studs are greased or treated with Never Seize. You are lucky they didn’t snap your wheel studs and then charge you for their purchase and install

This is the first time I’ve heard anyone advocate lubing wheel studs.

I’m surprised you NEVER heard of some Anti-Seize on your studs Circuit?

LOL…I KNEW someone would say that…and I know…I think they say not to…but…I do, just a small amount…been doing it a long time with no lugs backing off in any way at all… Never one single issue with it in 25 years…

While I certainly respect Circuitsmiths expertise there is no question he is one of the sharpest out here…and I am consistently in agreement with his advice…many many x over…
I still just hate dry threads…anywhere… So a very small amount of Never Seize has been my “MO” for …well ever I guess

FORD does it on the new F150’s…from the factory… I’ve seen other makes with some type of lube…on the stud threads ONLY… Many X actually

I mean its just a nut and bolt…and an important one…I don’t want to tear them up by keeping them bone dry…studs actually dont like that… I FIRMLY believe that Antisieze does not contribute to any wheel fastener loosening as long as the head or nut makes dry contact with the wheel/rim. Not a Ton of Never Seize here…just to prevent rust on the stud… Ever have a lug rust welded to a stud? I have…it aint pretty or fun…no likey…

I also HATE lugs that get loose or come off …they don’t or haven’t yet… Sometimes I even get corrosion despite the little bit of lube.

There will be TWO sides of the fence here methinks…I’m on the slippery side I guess LOL

I HATE squeaky, rusty, horribly difficult lugs to remove. Why no Anti Seize and don’t say because they will come loose…they wont. If you lubed the entire lug in oil…then maybe…because it wont have the binding force against the wheel anymore…but the threads? NAW I have pulled my fair share of wheels in my day. I can also say that I never had to break a lug off my vehicle either…nor break a stud.

I GUESS FLAME ON…lol… I know you will all say to not do this right? I know, I’ve heard…but I’m really not into broken studs or rusted lugs etc… Old habits die hard with me I guess… If I ever saw evidence of lugs backing off I wouldn’t ever do it anymore, but I have NOT. It makes my blood run cold to feel a lug tearing up a stud while I am removing it.


I guess I am an offender of pulling the positive battery cable off to diag an alternator (not always trust me, but its happened…that what a volt meter is for, I know)…and I’m a wheel stud Luber…Those are my ONLY TWO vices in the mechanic world and I am NOT a hack in the least, trust me please, I care about these things…honestly I do…and I knew before I did either that it wasn’t the “right thing” to do…and could be problematic… I also knew I could remedy BOTH issues if they caused problems before hand, if I needed to…

Not one issue to date…in 25 years…

Are you guys serious? NOT ONE OF YOU LIGHTLY LUBES YOUR WHEEL STUDS?! No Anti-Seize at all?.. Really???

I FULLY respect Circuitsmiths knowledge out here…I know he is one of the Sharpest members, but I HATE dry threads…its damaging to any thread and I’m not fond of tearing up threads or locked on lugs.

Of course I don’t do the batt cable pull on new vehicles (or much at all really)…the ten that I have done in 25yrs or so were all older cars…and I know I shouldn’t even say to do that or that I do it…I really don’t…I have nice FLUKE volt meters for a reason…

Well, I don’t have a particular problem with lubing the studs - it’s not like it’s gonna make the thing slip off while you’re driving unless you fail to tighten it, in which case it’s coming off anyway. I just never really needed to. But then I’m pretty manic about proper torques on lugs. If a shop installs tires or something I’ll drive a couple of blocks so they can’t see me (so as not to offend) and then loosen and re-tighten all the lugs to specs.

@BustedKnuckles: It’s a 2004 and has a little over 60k miles on it now. The previous shop that last did the tires was the dealership –so it doesn’t surprise me. Thanks for the response.

@Wha Who?: I wish I would have been smart enough to ask for the lug nuts but I was a little taken off guard and as a matter of fact the guy showed them to me quickly and then scooped them up and threw them in the trash. Unfortunately nothing to go on now and the fact that he whisked them in the trash makes it seem even more suspicious. thank you.

@keith: They did not replace studs, just lug nuts. I will check my oil –thank you.

@Honda Blackbird: If they overfilled my engine does this mean it’s leaking out around the cap and the smell is burning oil? Not exhaust? Maybe I’m confusing the odors…I will check my oil as Keith suggested but for the opposite reason. Thanks.

I never apply any kind of lubricant to lug nuts because these are what are called DRY-torque fasteners. If you do apply any lubricant you run the risk of over-torquing the lug nuts. Because the wheels/tires are removed to do all sorts of vehicle service and reinstalled, this over-torquing over time can cause the lug studs to stretch to the point of failure.

If the lug studs have a lot of rust on them, it’s recommended that the rust be removed from the threads with a wire brush before installing the lug nuts.

Also, you’ll never see a new vehicle with any kind of lubricant on the lug nuts/studs. Why? Because they’re dry-torque fasteners.


I thought my post above was neutral. It was intended to be flame free.

If your lug nuts have a decorative chrome cap on them, corrosion can collect underneath them which will make them useless over time, until the only way to remove them is to put a fluted socket on them and replace with new. If these are your lug nuts, this is entirely plausible. Outside of that, somebody got ham-fisted and/or used the wrong tools with these lug nuts, and it could have been this shop or the dealership you used to patronize.

As to your smell and exhaust smoke issue, the smell was most likely oil burning off from the previous oil change. The last shop probably did a sloppy job and didn’t do a good enough job of cleaning it up. If it were actual exhaust smoke getting into the cabin, you would be able to hear the leak. As to the “more smoke than usual” issue, unless you are losing coolant to a serious mechanical issue like a blown head gasket (unlikely unless you have recently overheated the car severely), this probably is a combination of your paranoia over this new shop and the season (provided you are in a part of the world that gets cold this time of year). Cars appear to smoke more when it’s cold out. My suggestion at this point is to consider either finding a different shop or going back to the dealership if they gave you satisfactory service. It seems as though you do not trust this shop, and if you do not trust them, you will never be satisfied with their service.

I’d want to look at the socket they used on the lug nuts. Many standard and metric sockets are what could be called “close enough” and many people often interchange them.
In many cases they may work but if a fastener is very tight then it may round off the head of the fastener.

Example. a 17 MM and an 11/16 socket size. They may interchange but the 11/16 is a tiny shade larger. The 17 MM may work fine an 11/16 fastener but not the other way around. This could lead to the larger 11/16 rounding off the 17 MM bolt head, lug nut, etc.

The grayish smoke from the exhaust could be due to an engine oil overfill.

I put never-seise on the face and lip of the hub and white grease on the studs. Otherwise we sometimes snap off lugs trying to loosen them and have to beat the wheels off the hub with a sledge. Most of you guys have no idea what it is like to live where they carpet-bomb the roads with salt 5 months a year.

extreme caution must be used if an anti-seize lubricant is applied to the threads as excess can either drip or be pushed onto the lug seat resulting in inaccurate torque values.”

Tire Rack — Wheel Tech Information — Wheel Lug Torquing</font.,/a>

Honda Blackbird, welcome to my world. A couple years ago, I admitted that I used a little anti-seize on the studs and I got raked over the coals by these guys here. I do use a torque wrench so I don’t over torque them. Actually you are getting off easy, so far.