How to Change Wheel Studs and Not Die

Wheel studsWheel studs are those threaded posts that keep a grip on your lug nuts. Since they keep your wheels from flying off, you might imagine them rather important. You’d be right. But sometimes, especially with older cars, they break. You’re standing on your lug wrench, trying to wrestle free that last rusted nut, and snap. But before you utter an Oh snap, fear not. You don’t have to replace your car. You can fix that wheel stud yourself, and it’s cheaper than just letting it go. Because your life is worth more than the two bucks you’ll pay for a new one. Here’s what to do:

1. Visit the Kitchen – Proper hydration is always important when working on a car, but that’s not what we mean. Once you have your replacement wheel stud, throw it in the freezer. The longer you can keep it frosty, the better. If you slept through your middle school science classes, you won’t know that cold makes most matter contract, and the stud fits very tightly in the hub, so any space you can buy before pulling it into place will be welcome.

2. Remove the Wheel in Question – We know, it’s obvious, but you’re smarter than many people on the internet.

3. Remove the Brake Caliper – If this particular corner of your car is equipped with a disc brake, that disc will need to be removed. And that means pulling off the caliper. Depending on your caliper type, you may be able to get away with only taking off the facing half, but whether you do can do this or have to pull the whole clamp, it’s only a matter of two bolts. A good idea is hitting them with some anti-seize penetrating oil a few hours ahead of time, but be careful not to get any on the disc or pads. Oil on your braking surfaces doesn’t do exactly what you think it might, but it does contaminate your brake pads and make a sticky spot on your rotor that will cause vibration later on.

4a. Pull the Disc – Now it’s time to take off that brake disc. Some discs are bolted to the hubs, and the narrow head depth of said bolts may necessitate the use of an impact wrench for removal. Most, however, use nothing but the good old lug nuts, but are often fused into place with rust and age. These days, many have threaded holes through which you can screw 8mm x 1.25mm bolts, effectively pulling the disc off. If you don’t have a bolt of such an exact diameter and thread pitch (which is understandable), you can make like Jeremy Clarkson and use a hammer.

Now when you tap (never bang) on a brake disc with a hammer, you have to be very gentle, and very specific. Never strike the outer disc: front, back, or edges. This could cause it to warp and bring you a vibrating world of hurt down the road. Only strike the “cap” area that surrounds the hub. Start with one side and work your way around. You can also tap the facing surface, but take care to avoid hitting the studs. Like reverse Wack-a-Mole. Once the disc is loosened up, pull it off.

4b. Or the Drum – If you’re faced instead with a brake drum, you can use the same methods. You’ll probably want to avoid Clarksoning the drum’s outer rim, since it could also warp. Once again, be sure to miss the studs. Smacking them could ruin the threads. Of course, by the end of this article, you’ll be brushing those worries off your shoulder, because you’ll already know how to replace studs.

5. More Hammer! – You barely ever get to use a hammer on a car, but on this job, it’s essential. Here’s where you want to knock out the old stud. Gently tap on the broken end until it backs out of the hub. This may take some effort, but it will eventually punch itself out. In the unlikely event that it broke off flush with the hub, you can use a punch to avoid striking the hub.

6. No More Hammer! – It’s finally time to go back to the freezer, avoid taking an ice cream break (you’re almost done, Junior), and get your colder-than-a-glare-from-Putin wheel stud. Spray it and the surrounding socket with WD-40, Liquid Wrench, or a campaign speech, and plug it in. It won’t go all the way. But instead of awkwardly trying to slug it in with a hammer, use what you already have and pull it through with a lug nut and wrench. Since that lug wrench probably isn’t deep enough to clear the whole length of the stud, you’ll need a sturdy spacer between the nut and the hub. A CV nut has been recommended, though if you’re reading this, you probably don’t have one lying around. If you need to, you can even use your brake disc or drum. Then, simply tighten down the lug nut until the head on the stud is flush with the others.

7. Don’t Forget to Put Everything Back Together – Though we know you really won’t forget to replace your disc, caliper, and wheel, it bears mentioning. As previously stated, you’re smarter than most people on the internet.

And that, dear readers, is that. Does paying two bucks for a stud feel better than paying 200 for the garage to do the job? Absolutely. Better than losing a shoe on the interstate? Oh yes. So unless “wheel ejection” is a feature you paid for when you bought your car (in which case you’ll want to go ahead and replace the whole car, after all), spend an afternoon fixing that broken stud.

2 Replies to “How to Change Wheel Studs and Not Die”

  1. Great care must be taken not to strip out the socket of a lug wrench. If the end of a bent-arm lug wrench is not attached to the lug nut correctly, excessive force can damage the nut or the socket. 

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