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Wheel replacement advice: junk yard, new, wait and see? 2004 Corolla

I’m hoping for a bit of advice from the car community here. I’ve got a 2004 Corolla with 170k on it. I had a few lug nuts which were getting dinged up and I wasn’t able to get my tire iron fully on to so I decided to be proactive and replace them before they got too rounded. Around that time I started noticing a slight wobble sound from the back left tire I concentrated my replacement lug nuts on. Upon discussion with my dad I learned I’d followed my inherent cheapness and bought the less expensive lug nuts which taper in rather than having a flat washer that meets the wheel. What I now know is those with the taper are for steel wheels, whereas what I have are aluminum alloy. So I’m thinking that likely caused what is a slightly warped wheel I’ve been driving with for a few months now. To double check I recently rotated my wheels, that one to the front and the noise moved with it.
So now is what I’m hoping I can get some help deciding should I replace the wheel or let it be? I’m in grad school for physical therapy so less money spent the better. Secondly if I should replace it would I be okay getting a 45 dollar one from a junk yard or spring for the 150 dollar new one.
On the side of letting it go, my daily commute all under 40 mph, no highway. After having this for a few months, I measured the tread depth with a gauge which currently shows no difference between tires. I’d greatly appreciate opinions on this as well as advice when selecting a used wheel from a junk yard.


Replace the studs and lug nuts, not an expensive proposition from a tire shop.

Why would you replace the tire?

Using cone lug nuts with alloy wheels will wear away the wheels where the nuts tighten down, are they worn? That’s why you might need replacement wheels.

Have you jacked up the car so you can spin the affected wheels by hand and see if you can notice any side to side or up/down wobble of the tire? If you are the scientific type you could make a home-brew gauge to measure how much the wobble is using a screw and a nut and something to hold them steady near the wheel as it turns, since you know the pitch of the threads. I’ve done this myself to measure to 1/20 of a mm.

I never paid much attention but I’m pretty sure both my cars have tapered nuts on cast wheels. I don’t know how you would center the stud in the hole of the wheel without having them tapered. What did I miss?

I’ve never run into it myself, just an oem steel wheel owner here. But there’s been posts in this forum before about using the wrong lug nuts for the wheel, and doing so can definitely cause problems like this. I guess the wheel and lugs nut design are paired together.

Without seeing the damage I can’t comment on that but I’d have no problem with a used wheel from a salvage yard. Your car is rolling on 4 used ones right now. :smiley:

I did not see where the OP has the correct lug nuts now. If not that would be the first thing to try before buying a wheel.

Unless the wheel with the incorrect lug nuts has come loose it is a mystery what you are listening to. Perhaps the noise is from a wear pattern in the tire. Install the correct lug nuts.

I have no problem with boneyard wheels. Just check them over and be sure they’re not bent.
The boneyard I use actually rates the wheels for cosmetic quality and doesn’t sell any that are bent.

I'm pretty sure both my cars have tapered nuts on cast wheels. I don't know how you would center the stud in the hole of the wheel without having them tapered. What did I miss?

My Insight has tapered nuts on alloy wheels. My sister’s Camry has “flat” nuts on alloy wheels which appear to be centered by the wheel hub alone. Her nuts do have a tapered center so they can be used on her steel spare. This totally confused a AAA guy last year who told her the nuts wouldn’t work on her spare.

Toyota tends to use flat based nuts on its lugs and center the wheel on the hub lip. Some manufacturers use tapered nuts. Both work well, but you cannot mix them.