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Wheel falls off when driving

my 2006 honda element was taken into a national tire and repair service that i use often . told them to check my brakess for grinding sound . they concluded that the brakes were safe but could remove a rust or glazing for x dollars . i refused after they said again they were safe . 9 days and 400 miles later ( going to pick a cemetery plot for my dad ) i felt something funny on my front end . ( out of nowhere ) at driving slow to make my appt . BANG my front tire flies off across 4 lanes of traffic . luckily i was nearly in front of a repair shop . they took it, i and told them to repair it and got a ride to my appt . the next day it was done for 400.00 . it needed a new wheel because the holes were elongated and various parts . upon returning to my initial repair shop to get a wheel alignment . they feel it could not be their fault when they removed my tires initially because of the 400 miles since they checked my brakes . does any one have any ideas about this ?

Well, technically you should have taken it back in the first 50-100 miles to have the lugs re-tightened, but in my experience, if the lugs were tightened properly in the first place the re-tightening only evens out the torque readings across the nuts, and does not spell the difference between the wheel falling off and not falling off. And besides, they should have told you that when they did the job the first time.

Most chain tire shops (which you should not trust) use a 2 step method for tightening the lugs. They first zip the lugs on with an air tool, and that takes it to somewhere around 40-50 ft/lbs. Then they hand-torque them the rest of the way to the designated specs (usually 30 or so higher). It’s likely that someone did the first step, and forgot the second.

It’s entirely plausible that it’s their fault.

It is the shop’s fault. There should be a statement on the bill for when they checked the brakes telling you to bring the car back to the shop so the wheels can be retorqued in 50-100 miles. If they don’t have that statement on the slip, or they didn’t give you paperwork at all, then they must verbally tell you to bring the car back to retorque the wheels. Not doing either is negligent and puts them on the hook.

Of course they will deny fault, but when they checked the brakes they pulled the wheels off the car - yes? If they pulled the wheels, then they replaced them and didn’t do it properly.

It’s quite possible to go 400 miles before improperly tightened lug nuts come loose. It all depends on how tight they were.

It’s “brakes”, by the way.

You might want to make it a point to re-tighten/check your wheels after any maintenance involving loosening of the lug nuts. Check your oil and transmission fluid levels anytime they are changed as well. 9 days and 400 miles later is sometimes too late for a lot of things on your vehicle.

I agree. In my experience, properly tightened lugs seize and become harder to remove over time, they don’t come loose. Coming in after 50 to 100 miles is a good CYA but I have never had a problem using the two step method in 30 years of rotating my own tires.
@Missleman makes a good point…trust no one ! I know that’s easy to say when you have the tools, time and space, but lug nuts are pretty easy to check too. And, it’s good isometric arm exercise with a torque wrench.

Do you have alloy wheels? Alloy wheels are supposed to be re-torqued after 100 miles. This is not needed with steel wheels.

I agree with @uncleturbo and would like to add that trained monkeys would do a better job tightening lugs if if one could only stop them from flinging poo.
They clearly are morons. Please don’t go there again to get work done.

Shop’s fault. NOBODY (well, 99%) gets their wheels retorqued, don’t even mention this, don’t accept it as an excuse. They failed to correctly tighten the lugs. Period.

Shop screwed up and of course they will deny it. They have a vested interest in a denial.
If retorques were necessary then the roadside would be littered with vehicles sans wheels.

I had this happen to me. But I was the one at fault. So I know it can happen. I had rotated my tires, then a month or so later I noticed the front end wobbling, and getting rapidly worse over the course of just a few minutes, while driving on the freeway, fortuneatly in stop and go traffic so I wasn’t going fast. I was able to pull off at the next offramp. Upon inspection, I discovered the wheel lugs on one front wheel were loose. I must have not tightened them correctly during the rotation process. Ever after that event, I always double check each wheel I remove is properly tightened, and I make a note on my calendar to re-tighten the wheel lugs after a week or two of driving.