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Lug nut mystery

Last weekend my son had terrible noises and vibration while driving. He went to a tire shop where they discovered that the lug nuts were loose on the left front wheel. So, the car had been worked on a week before, when a shop did brake work on the back among other things. They say they didn’t remove the front wheels, as the front brakes could be examined through the alloy wheels. So, this seems to leave four possibilities:

  1. The shop is not being truthful.
  2. The nuts worked loose over a 9 month period from the tire rotation done last spring, when they maybe were left a little loose.
  3. Vandalism–it is parked on the street.
  4. Witchcraft

Any bets? I am particularly interested in the reasonableness of 1 versus 2…

My bet is number one.

So’s mine.

I tend to agree with Number One. While I also understand that checking brakes through the holes or between spokes in the wheels can be done it could also be pointed out that method of inspection is not always accurate.

The reason being is that while the outer pad may be visible the inner pad may not be. This means a halfaxx brake inspection as the outer pad could be fine on thickness and the inner may be flirting with the backing plate.

Alloy wheels and steel lugnuts, it can happen, I cannot jump to the conclusion the shop is lying.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I’ve never heard of an improperly tightened lugnut taking 9 months to back off. The much greater probability is that the wheel was off much more recently than 9 months ago.

Can’t you inspect the inner with the car on a lift, esp with a mirror and flashlight?

Can’t you inspect the inner with the car on a lift, esp with a mirror and flashlight

Yes, you certainly can. But the fact remains that when this shop does a brake inspection, we don’t just look through the wheels, we remove all 4. I’m not trying to tell you your brakes are fine, I’m looking for something to sell you. I can’t measure rotor thickness, check caliper slides, inspect hoses, etc. with the wheels still on. Any time a brake inspection is done all 4 wheels come off.

As to what happened to your son’s car, I would guess the wheels were off at the brake work a week prior. But you’ll never be able to prove it unless the invoice states “removed all 4 wheels and inspected…”

I’m going with witchcraft, only because it is more mysterious, and I just like it. :smiley:

Mine is another vote for #1.
Proving it is impossible.

… but I like the witchcraft explanation too… :smile:

OK thanks everyone. I am going to advise my son not to go back to this place, despite the fact that I got the recommendation here.

I would also comment that they had recommended to him doing a timing belt. I intervened on that one because it had been done 20k earlier.

My guess is whoever told you the shop didn’t touch the front wheels was in fact telling the truth, as best as he knew; but in fact someone in the shop did remove it, and either didn’t remember doing so, or didn’t tell the person who told you. For example someone might have removed the front wheel, then double checked the work order to find the problem is the back wheel, so he put the wheel back on, but forgot to tighten the lug nuts. The shop as part of its safety and liability requirements then wouldn’t bother to double-check the lug nuts on the front prior to delivering the car to you since the work order didn’t show the front wheels were worked on.

Forgetting to tighten the lug nuts is easy to do. Ask me how I know … lol …

What I learned from your post though is the owner or shop should double-check all four wheels before returning the car to the owner, even if only a subset of them were supposed to have been worked on.

Actually it was in for a check engine code (cat) and they checked the brakes as part of their work over. He talked to the mechanic who denied taking it off.

Actually it was in for a check engine code (cat)

This is your sons 1999 ES300? On those old ES300s it is nearly impossible to see the brake pads with a mirror if it has the factory 15" wheels, there is very little clearance between the wheel and caliper.

I’ve seen various makes of cars over the years on which the inner pads could not be seen even with the car on a lift.

It is always “human error” even though they won’t admit it. I agree that maybe someone loosened the lug nuts to take the wheel off but that never happened. Not using that shop is one solution, but I think as most workers are more distracted today, your son should be more vigilant when picking the car up after repairs. I always do a walk around, pop the hood/etc and esp pay attention to new extra noises. If my wife’s car has been in the shop, I make a point to switch cars for the first day after the repair.

Yes, it was the ES300. Factory alloy wheels.