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Summary
  • Lug nuts are heavy metal fasteners that screw onto the lug nut studs of the wheel hub, securing the wheel.
  • It’s not safe to drive with a missing lug nut because there will be uneven pressure on the wheel hub, meaning your wheels are more likely to wobble.
  • Driving with a missing lug nut also means the wheel studs can snap off along with the wheels themselves.

Your vehicle’s wheel hub has lug nut studs that protrude from the wheel hub assembly. The lug nuts secure the wheel onto the wheel hub by pushing the wheel onto the wheel hub with a lot of torque. These lug nut studs also help mechanics guide the wheel so that it can have a snug and secure fit onto the wheel hub. Instead of lug nuts and studs, some vehicles use a lug bolt.

Sometimes called wheel nuts, lug nuts are heavy metal fasteners that screw onto the lug nut studs of the wheel hub. The wheel is secure because it’s sandwiched in between the hub and the lug nut. The lug nut is also tightened with a lot of torque. The torque values vary depending on the vehicle. Smaller vehicles require 68 foot-pounds of torque, while trucks will require 200 foot-pounds of torque. However, sometimes lug nuts can swell, corrode, or come loose because of inadequate tightening. They can sometimes come off without you noticing. If this happens, is it still safe to drive your vehicle?

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Why Driving Without a Lug Nut is Unsafe

Is your vehicle missing a lug nut? If so, you should be careful because this is unsafe. Here’s why:

Uneven Pressure on the Wheel Hub

When all of the lug nuts are properly tightened, each lug should exert an equal amount of pressure onto the wheel. If one of these lug nuts comes off, the remaining lug studs and lug nuts will be under more stress since the wheel will have fewer support points. Since the weight of the vehicle is meant to be evenly distributed among all the lug nut studs, missing lug nuts can cause premature wear on the wheel hub bearings.

lug nuts
Sometimes called wheel nuts, lug nuts are heavy metal fasteners that screw onto the lug nut studs of the wheel hub.

Wheels Can Wobble

A wheel with a lug nut that’s broken won’t firmly press itself onto the wheel hub. This can eventually cause the wheel to not press onto the wheel hub at all, which can cause the wheel to wobble when the vehicle is moving. This can make the vehicle feel unstable when accelerating, braking, and cornering. You’ll probably be able to feel the wobble on the steering wheel. This issue can also stress the wheel studs, resulting in more issues.

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Wheel Studs Can Snap Off

A lost lug nut can put excessive stress on the wheel’s remaining lug nuts and lug nuts studs. This can cause the remaining wheel studs or lug nuts to break off. The wheel is at serious risk of falling off if this occurs.

The Wheel Can Come Off

Lug nuts and lug nut studs experience a lot of stress. They’re responsible for transferring power to the wheels when the vehicle is accelerating. Similarly, they’re also meant to hold on to the wheel during braking. This stress can add up, eventually causing wheel studs or lug nuts to fracture. Eventually, they can break off and cause the wheel to fall off.

How Long Can You Continue to Drive Without a Lug Nut?

A wheel that has a missing lug nut might not show any symptoms, but the remaining lug nuts and lug nut studs will experience more stress, which can eventually cause the wheel to wobble. Is a vehicle that has a broken lug nut stud safe to drive? No. At any moment, the remaining lug nuts and lug nut studs can break off in a chain reaction, which can cause the wheel to come off. This could cause serious repercussions to you and your passengers and other drivers and pedestrians on the road. Since wheels weigh around 50 to 60 pounds, they can turn into deadly objects when you’re traveling at high speed. Without a wheel, your vehicle will also lose control. You can only imagine how much damage your vehicle will sustain if that happens.

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If you notice your vehicle’s wheel has a missing lug nut, you should stop as soon as possible. If you’re driving to an auto shop to have it fixed, drive slowly to avoid stressing the remaining lug nuts and lug nut studs. If you can, get a replacement lug nut and fix the issue yourself.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Tony Harlin is a Master Gas and Diesel Diagnostic Technician with over 18 years of experience. He works full-time at a large independent automotive shop as a driveability and repair technician working on all types of vehicles with a focus on diesels. ASE certifications include A1-A9, L1 and L2, as well as X1.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

File Under : Wheels and Tires , DIY Tagged With :
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