Anti seize on wheel studs; don’t over torque your nuts

As a 4WD owner, and someone who’s currently travelling around Australia, I’ve started torqueing my wheel nuts to make sure they are the correct tension, and not too tight, or too loose (as both can bad as each other).

However, if you use anything on your studs, like CRC, or anti seize, you should know that the torque settings need to be adjusted, and that’s a pretty important thing.

After noticing that the inner tyre wear on our Hybrid Camper was getting bad, I decided to call into a tyre shop to get the tyres flipped around on the wheels, and learnt something interesting about putting anti seize on wheel nuts.

Our camper got jacked up, and when rattling the nuts off, the tyre technician mentions that the threads have seen better days.

Of course, this is purely because they are covered in about 20,000km of dust and mud, and a simple spray of WD40 by me before we arrived would have remedied the issues, but that’s a different story.

Swapping tyres on our Camper
Swapping tyres on the wheels on our way to Queensland

When the wheels go back on though, I notice that he uses anti seize on the threads, which I’ve never done before.

The nuts go on easily, and after rattling them up with an 18V Milwaukee impact gun, he grabs a torque wrench (good move), and goes over the nuts. Of course, they just check that they are all above the setting, and don’t do it from loose which means that they can still be totally uneven, but its better than nothing.

I asked him what the torque setting was, and he gave me 3 different answers, eventually landing on 120nM, which I felt was probably OK, but not quite right.

We take off down the road, and I decide to pull over after about 20km, to check them and make sure they aren’t going anywhere.

I set the torque wrench to 160nM, which is what we’ve always used on this camper (minimum 135nM, and maximum 200nM according to the OEM), and I tighten the first stud, which tightens a fairly substantial amount, as do many of the others.

Interestingly they were all different tensions, which comes back to the point of actually tightening the nuts with a torque wrench (not just checking its at a figure after they are tight), or you get varied figures.

A few days later, after doing 250km, I grab the torque wrench and check them again, noting that some were a little under the 160nM.

After a discussion with a mate though, I do some research on anti seize on wheel nuts, and realise I’d gone very wrong.

Anti seize is a lubricant, and makes it much easier to achieve a torque setting than when its dry, and you are supposed to reduce the torque setting by 20 – 30% when anti seize is used, which would mean a torque setting of around 112nM, and not the 160 that I’d been doing.

I loosen the wheel studs, set the torque setting to 112nM, and try again, hoping that I’ve not stretched the wheel studs and done any damage!

Wheel stud condition
If you use anti seize your torque setting needs to be reduced accordingly

What is anti seize?

The name is pretty explanatory, but in essence anti seize is a product that you apply to threads, or mating surfaces at times that stops the two surfaces sticking together.

Threads that spend a lot of time outside in the dirt, or are used in a 4WD application often end up very dirty and rusty, and anti seize makes it easy for them to be removed.

Should you use anti seize on wheel studs?

There’s a lot of people for and also against anti seize on wheel studs. I’ve never used it, and never really had any issues with them seizing, so I guess it depends on how long between rotations.

In our application, where the camper has exposed threads, we should have just sprayed WD40 on them prior to removing and they would have been fine.

I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with using anti seize, but its certainly not a necessity too either, and the vast majority of people wouldn’t use it.

Stretched wheel studs

The whole reason you use a torque wrench, with the right settings is to ensure that your wheel doesn’t fall off, and that you don’t damage your wheel studs.

I’ve seen plenty of tyre places rattle tyres on and off without any care in the world as to how tight they are, and when you need a 2 metre long extension bar to undo a wheel nut (which is impossible on the side of the road if you get a flat), you’re in dangerous territory.

In essence, a stud acts like a spring; you can stretch it a little and get the right torque setting, but if you take it too far it will stretch and be unable to return to its normal dimension when you undo the nuts, and that means its permanently damaged.

This results in the nuts binding when you wind them in and out, and the stud will eventually brake, which is no good.

Replacing studs

I actually tried to get spare studs from Cruisemaster, and without going directly to them, or ordering a set, it was quite hard to find a replacement.

They gave me some measurements, but not enough to get replacements, and when I rang back the bloke I spoke to suggested you should only change them in an emergency, as knocking them out can remove some material from the hub and make them loose, which is true. Their solution is to just replace the whole hub, which you can buy for about $260 including bearings, and isn’t too bad.

Watch your wheel stud torque

So, a learning curve for me, and something I really should have thought about more in the moment with a mechanical fitters background, but as usual, my mind was elsewhere. 

It does highlight the need to ensure your wheel nut torque is correct if you are applying lubrication to your wheel studs. Do you use anti seize on your wheel nuts or wheel studs? Do you use a torque wrench?

Tyre swap at Innisfail
Next time you play with your wheels, make sure the torque is right!

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