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Lugs came loose...

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Customer came in on April 6th for oil change and tire rotation. Has driven 795 miles. Wheel came off vehicle while driving. Customer claims we're last ones to touch wheels and expresses concern about our work, logically. I've been here two years and this hasn't happened before. Tech who rotated tires is thorough. All six lugs are missing, wheel cap is missing, stud holes in rim are wollered.


I can't say why this happened but I have my doubts that the pickup could have driven nearly 800 miles and now has this happen...


Will probably have to eat this one but I've put a disclaimer in place regarding tire rotations and returning to our shop after 50 miles for re-torque and check. Any thoughts?

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Great Tire Deal

That's a tough situation to be in. Is it a repeat customer or first timer? Can you see any reason why the customer would lie about who the last person to work on the vehicle was?


If you're confident about your tech and see no reason to doubt the customer, I'd eat the repair and offer next 2 oil changes free. If you sell BG product, I'd throw in a road side card with the services too for their peace of mind. You could also tell them you've changed shop policy and now require all wheels to be torqued with a torque wrench or torque stick. All this to earn their trust back and show them how much you appreciate their business.


However, if you're suspicious of the customer, I'd probably eat the repair and that's it. No additional recommendations, no freebies, just fix it, double check all 4 wheels with a torque wrench, apologize, thanks for the opportunity to make it right, and be glad it's just a wheel you have to replace and not ending up in court.

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That's what I'm planning on doing. I know the customer and he's not lying to me about it happening and doesn't have any knowledge of anyone else touching his wheels. I have no reason to doubt him but our opinion is that if it left our shop loose it would have worked free well before 800 miles were driven. I have heard of extreme cases where build up corrosion on the wheel can create a false sense of the wheel being snug but wouldn't that same corrosion/buildup have already been there and the same thing have happened? This is a bad break for my shop and team but we'll work through it and hopefully not have it happen again.

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I've experienced this a couple times but never one coming all the way off. From my experiences, the main culprit causing one to come loose is corrosion between the wheel and rotor/drum. Ford alloy wheels seem to be the worst. Obviously if it was left loose that's another discussion. If you left it loose they would have heard a knocking like sound as the drove away. Even with small jobs like tire installation the vehicle get a minimum of a 5 mile test drive!


Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk

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its 98% that the tech left them loose.


how come no other wheel lugs are loose due to corrosion, aluminum wheels etc?


You need to watch your techs when they do this to find out the issue. We too had this happened and i watched the same tech do the next one, now he didnt leave that one loose too but what this guy did was he placed a wheel on the car then just spun the lug nuts on by hand. Then he went to the next wheel and did the same thing and on to the next. So, most likely our guy got distracted and left one of those not tightened thinking he had already tightened that one. Customer drives and they start to loosen.


Now we watch them randomly to ensure they dont do this, we actually have a policy that states that you tighten the wheel before going on to the next wheel, he just forgot or just didnt want to do it that way.


anyway, good luck.

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Our process pre-wheel falling off was twice with the stick then test drive. Now we're double-checking with torque wrench after the stick and I've put a statement on invoices to return in 50 miles to have them checked again. This truck isn't washed often, or at all, and I also believe that corrosion caused this to work loose. The other three wheels were at spec and tight when it came back. Luckily, the customer was very understanding and we took care of him.

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  • 4 weeks later...

We had one come off a Ford Explorer after 700 miles. I torqued them with a torque wrench. I think there might have been an issue with the wheel lug nut seat was screwed up after 200k miles who knows, what I do know it cost me a wheel bearing assy, 6 lug nuts, and one new wheel. Plus I got threatened with a chargeback and a couple lawsuits even though we did the comeback repair for free and there was no injuries or property damage (except the wheel and studs which we covered).


Wheel offs are my nightmare. I tell everybody "you need to check the lug nuts after 25 miles we do it free" and it's on the repair orders but nobody checks them.

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  • 3 months later...

A couple things to note here


One, factory or aftermarket wheels? Remember that many aftermarket wheels use nut/bolt mating patterns that differ from factory so whenever there is a non stock wheel on the car always check. Offer to sell the customer the correct ones if they are wrong and if they decline make sure its noted on the RO.


Two - There are a lot of comments here on corrosion. This is a super common problem especial here in the northeast where the roads are salted. If we have any trouble at all getting a wheel off, the hub and wheel are cleaned and coated. The wheel should slide on and fully seat with NO EFFORT. If the nuts/bolts are pulling the wheel in when remounting a wheel then something is wrong and it must be corrected.

p.s. - don't forget to charge for it.


Three - electric impacts, unreliable, use a wrench. We usually just use the air, not the best method but the only time I've run into an issue is if someone relied on the electric impact or didn't clean the wheel.



Joe's method is the best and most thorough. I wish I had quality control like that. Maybe some day.

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It happens. I'm fanatic about records so yes I have file on this. In the last 11 years we have had 20 instances of loose wheels. Sounds like a lot but we are talking 15 to 20k wheels off and on a year so the % is really low. Anyway, of those 20, 5 actually resulted in a wheel coming off. The rest were all just loose. The miles from service to problem was 20 to 7002 miles with the average being 1616 miles. Only 8 were under 500 miles and only 3 were under 100 miles. 4 were over 3000k miles. We hand torque every wheel and the guys are pretty good about cleaning the corrosion on the mating surfaces. There is no doubt that the 8 under 500 miles were probably our fault. From 500 to 1000 miles it starts to get questionable and I really don't consider those 4 over 3000 miles our fault. However, if the customer believes it was our fault it's best to just handle it and apologize. Non of the wheel off instances resulted in an accident, just some body damage. Over half the time no repairs are necessary. The other half we might have to change some studs or buy a used wheel. Again, it happens. Don't beat yourself up about it.

Edited by tyrguy
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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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