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Properly Torque Wheels

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Old 09-07-2004, 10:16 PM   #1
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Torqueing 6th Gen Maxima Wheels



Why is it important to have wheels properly torqued?

Overtorquing wheels can damage alloy wheels, snap lugs, and can also make it very difficult to remove a wheel with the standard Maxima tire wrench should you have a flat in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.

Unevenly torqued wheels can easily result in damage to brake rotors.

Undertorqued wheels can result in your having to pay for the cow killed by your wheel as it zips across the meadow.


As soon as convenient after taking delivery of your Maxima, and after every instance when anyone has removed any wheel for whatever purpose (such as tire rotation or brake work/adjustment).

Nissan also recommends that the wheels on a new Maxima should be retorqued at around 600 miles. If you did not do this, but the wheels have not yet been off your Maxima, please consider doing it soon..


As folks who work on your car are generally only concerned with making sure your wheels don't fall off, the universal trend is to overtorque. Partially in view of the same concern, manufacturers tend to overstate the amount of torque needed for cars. Here is an example: 70 foot pounds of torque would easily be sufficient for the 6th gen Maxima. 'Erring' on the cautious side, Nissan recommends 80 foot pounds. My '04 SL was actually delivered with from 87 to 96 foot pounds on every lug nut.

I have kept my wheels torqued at 75 foot pounds for over a decade. My son has used 70 foot pounds on all his vehicles for almost twenty years. Less venturesome souls should still torque to no more than Nissan specs (80 foot pounds).


Ignore the 'flex' wrenches; they are not accurate. Stick to ratchet (click) wrenches. Ignore the 'inch pound' wrenches; they are not for wheels. Stick with 'foot pound' wrenches. It may be possible to torque Maxima wheels with a 3/8" drive torque wrench, but I would never torque wheels with anything but a 1/2" drive wrench.

Torque wrenches are sensitive instruments, and should not be abused. They are one of the few tools Craftsman will not back with a lifetime warranty; they cover them for only one year. But with proper care, and an occasional recalibration, they should last decades.

I use Craftsman (Sears), but others such as Kobalt (Lowes) and Rigid/Husky (Home Depot) are probably comparable. Expect to pay from $60 to $80 for a top grade wrench, unless you have a coupon or hit a sale.


Read the directions accompanying the wrench very carefully. Not all wrenches are alike. One common setting method is to twist the grip until the cursor is on the 'tens' marker (such as 70 or 80 or 90) at or below your desired setting. Then twist the 'fine selector' collar until the exact pound you want is centered on the scale.

For 75 foot pounds, we turn the grip until the cursor reaches 70, then turn the 'fine selector' collar until its cursor reads 5.

For 80 foot pounds, we turn the grip until the cursor reaches 80, then set the 'fine selector' collar to 0.

Once we have the desired foot pounds set, we must turn the 'locking collar', else the setting will not hold during use of the wrench.


Use ONLY DEEP SET (LONG) socket, otherwise an extension is needed. Unless you are fumbling with a 3/8" drive torque wrench (a no-no), the socket must be 1/2" drive. The OEM lug nuts on ALL 6th gen Maximas are 13/16ths". Although a 6 point socket (6 coves inside opening) is preferable for wheel work, most deep set sockets come with 12 points, and these work fine for torqueing.
-----HOWEVER -
Many Nissan dealers put one locking lug nut on each wheel. For reasons that escape me, the coded socket furnished to turn these locking lug nuts has a drive end that requires a socket slightly larger than the 13/16th" of the regular lug nuts. I bypass this problem by using a 21mm deep set metric socket, which works well with both the 13/16ths lug nuts and the drive of the locking lug nut socket. If we carefully measure the tire tool that comes with the Maxima, we find it is actually 21mm, not 13/16th". Just another Nissan quirk . . .


Mount wheel onto hub. Hand-tighten all lug nuts. Use Maxima OEM tire wrench (the torque wrench may also be used for this) to VERY LIGHTLY snug the lug nuts.

Lower the car until the tire has good contact with the ground/floor. Torque each lug nut to specs (Nissan says 80 foot pounds, I use 75). IT IS IMPORTANT (for the wheel, rotor, etc) to torque the lug nuts in one of these two 'across-the-hub' orders: 1-3-5-2-4 or 1-4-2-5-3. Either of these orders may be used in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. In order to keep things simple, I always consider the lug nut nearest the valve stem as #1, and number clockwise.

When using the torque wrench, apply a steady pressure, using only the grip, and being alert for the 'click' and sudden slight slippage that tells us the appropriate torque has been reached. Release pressure on the wrench immediately, as further pressure takes the torque past the desired setting. Never slip a pipe or other 'extender' over the handle to 'make things easier'.

Starting the torquing with the handle at the '4 oclock' position works best for me. That enables the pressure to be applied in a natural downward direction, and reduces chances of damage to the car if anything slips.


Read the last two paragraphs in the preceeding proceedure (Torqueing While Mounting Wheels). Car should be setting on ground/floor, which does not have to be level. Using the Maxima OEM tire tool (or other suitable wrench or breaker bar), loosen a lug nut slightly. Torque that nut to the desired foot pound setting. Proceed to the next lug nut.

In this procedure, it is not necessary to follow the 'across-the-hub' torqueing order given above for mounting wheels, although I still use it from habit.
lightonthehill is offline  
Old 09-08-2004, 11:47 PM   #2
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Torgueing Wheels

Good job, Lightonthehill. Very detailed, comprehensive explaination of the procedure. I bought a good quality Craftsmen 1/2" drive click type torque wrench 25 years ago and I have used it hundreds of times on all my vehicles. A good torque wrench is a must for any do-it-yourself mechanics tool box.
I have taken the wheels off my 04 Max dozens of times since I bought it and I RELIGIOUSLY torque the lug nuts to 80 ft. lbs. every time I put em back on. I have never had a problem with front end "shimmy" or warped rotors.
I would just like to add a couple of notes on the subject:

The total amount of torque is not as important as the consistency of the torque. Most threads have a "tolerence" or range for torque specs depending on the diameter and the thread pitch (like 75 to 82 ft. lbs.) In other words, if you are within this range, you are good to go, as long as every nut is the same torque.

If you are using a "click" type torque wrench, it is important to return it to "zero" when you are done with it. The mechanism inside the wrench is spring loaded and if you leave it "on" all the time, the spring will weaken and the wrench will loose it's accuracy.

As far as a torque pattern is concerned, I find it easier to imagine the 5 lug pattern as points on a star. Start with any lug nut, then move to the farthest point on the "star" until all 5 nuts are torqued.

Oh, and if you own one of those "flex" handle torque wrenches (with the pointer and scale) throw it away or give it to somebody you don't like very much. Those things are junk!

Happy torqueing!
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