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Why did the tire fall off?

My husband recently purchased a 1996 Ford Bronco 4x4 with 115,000 miles. He drove it about 2,000 miles when one day he noticed a strange noise coming from the back. He thought there may be something wrong with the breaks but they were still working so called the mechanic and made an appointment for the next morning. Well, he didn’t quite make it. The noise got louder and sounded almost like he had a flat tire. He exited the highway and slowed to about 20 MPH. About 100 feet later the back of the truck came crashing to the pavement as the driver-side rear tire shot off the car! We were never able to find the tire (we were hoping it might offer some clues as to the cause). The mechanics have absolutely no idea why this happened. Has anyone heard of this?! We’re curious to know the cause.

Broken hub, broken half shaft, loose lug nuts. Could be alot of things

Thanks so very much for your response. Can this happen during the course of normal driving? We were told by the previous owner that the truck was only driven briefly once a week for about 3 years. We’re wondering if the parts just rusted from neglect. Also, anything else that we should have the mechanic check out that may not be on his list for a typical inspection?

Something’s amiss with this scenario.

What exactly do you mean the TIRE ‘shot off’ the car? Detail the experience.

Plus, these ‘mechanics’ don’t seem to have it all together. “They have absolutely no idea why this happened”?

Are the tires and wheels STOCK?? Are they steel or alloy? He was going 20mph and could not find the wheel?

It depends on what all went flying. If it was just the tire and rim, it was probably just loose lug nuts. If the brake drum came with, it was probably a broken hub. If there’s a gaping hole where the tire was, it’s the half-shaft, though I’d have a very hard time imagining the wheel, drum, hub and half-shaft all flying down the road into oblivion.

The smart money is on loose lugnuts. When cars sit for a long time, stuff seizes up as opposed to loosening so the other scenarios are not very likely. I’ll bet someone just forgot to torque down those nuts or didn’t torque them down properly.

As has been said, you need to be more specific with the “tire” term. If it was simply the rubber tire, that’s got to either be a problem with the tire itself (underinflation?) or a damaged wheel.

If the wheel came off with the tire, it could have been the wheel studs or a damaged wheel or stripped lug nuts.

If the wheel and axle came out, it was most likely a broken axle shaft or broken differential carrier / circlip.

Well, shucks, it can’t be any of those logical things as her mechanics don’t have a clue as to what happened.

Is this another troll post?

I’ve gained a little weight since having kids but I sure hope that I wouldn’t be confused for a troll! :slight_smile:

My husband tells me it was the tire, wheel and brake drum that came off. The stems (things that lug nuts attach to) were sheared off at the base. Everything inside the break drum appears to be present, just very rusty. The tires were Pirelli on American Racing alloy rims (Eddie Bauer stock rims).

We searched the area thoroughly after the wrecker arrived and couldn’t find it but this was a “bad” area of town. There are a lot of homeless people and our guess is that it was picked up to be sold.

My husband obviously doesn’t drive 20 MPH all the time. Shortly before the incident, he was going 70MPH on the highway. He slowed to 20 as he exited and maintained that speed until the truck came to a crashing halt. He did also hit a little bump in the road before it came off (new pavement to old).

The mechanics are still working on the truck. There is damage to the body of the truck which we will not have repaired. We do want to make sure that the vehicle is safe. My husband drives 120+ miles/day (to work and back) and will also be driving at a surface coal mine.

We’re also a little uneasy about putting the kids in it right now. (6 and 4 yrs old) We do a lot of highway driving and having tires fall off on the interstate is not ideal. We have two other vehicles so if it’s not wise to put the kids in this one then I need to know that. My husband also has the option to leave this truck near the mine and use our Yukon for the commute. I’m not quite ready to get rid of him yet!

Either you had very, very rusty weakened studs, or -and more likely- you had a lugnut or two stripped or missing. This is fairly common (moreso than you might think, at least).

You need to remove the other wheels, check for rust on the wheel studs, ensure that the lugs are torqued down evenly and to the proper value, and you’ll be good to go. Do this immediately because if there’s a problem with one, there might be a problem with the others.

Best of luck.

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Thanks so much! I’ve asked for two new tires to be placed on the front, the front ones to be moved to the back and the current back tire to be mounted for a spare. Based on your comments, I’m hopeful that this may uncover other possible issues with the tires.

We purchased this truck with the intention of driving it until the wheels fell off… We just didn’t think it would be this soon!

It SOUNDS like the LUG NUTS came loose, allowing the wheel to start wobbling around and making a lot of noise. With the wheel wobbling loose on the studs, the studs will quickly be damaged to the point they can shear off.

Contributing factors: There MAY have been a missing lug or two, overloading the remaining studs. Although it is RARE, alloy wheels can loosen up by themselves. They should be checked periodically as part of normal maintenance. This is especially true if the BRAKES have been over-heated, which will cause the alloy wheels to expand enough to “stretch” the studs a little. When the wheels cool, the lugs can loosen up as the alloy wheels “shrink”…When tightening down a wheel, a torque wrench, not guesswork, should be used to do the final tightening…


One point: the new tires should be mounted on the front.

Reason? Putting new rubber on the backend keeps the rearend from coming around in a skid creatring a spinout.

You won’t have a problem with traction when accelerating.

From what it sounds like,you had a bad wheel bearing,or axel .If I were you I would take it somewhere else to better diagnose the problem.The description you gave sounds like what I experienced minus the fact that my tire had yet to fly off,but the bearings were loose as if they could’ve done the same in a few days,weeks.Im looking at a 2,000 repair this weekend .Something went bad and due to the tire flying off ,I’m betting other parts are damaged from the axel,Drive shaft and even ABS .I would also have the other side poked at as it could be bad and could have the same issue as well.

My vote would be for loose lug nuts or elongated holes in the alloy wheels allowing slop, then shearing the studs, then nothing holding the brake drum on.

Interesting though that I thought confusing brake with break was a relatively recent thing but it appears its been going on for at least ten years. Brake is how you stop, break is when you stop.

“10 years later” :thinking:

experience is still refreshing :slight_smile:

long time ago my wife was in a gen-1-Jeep-like car when it lost a rear wheel…

the driver was calm like a frozen lake watching his wheel passing the car and getting the the bush alongside the road, slowed down, retrieved the wheel, attached new lug nuts and off they went :slight_smile:

I knew the owner, his mechanical skill was not exactly stellar, but he always packed tools and spare parts on the back of the car

Anna Marie clearly and specifically replied to op, in my opinion

and op hasn’t been active on this website since 2008, I just checked

so the comments are too late, by my estimation

Ten years later?