Driving with Broken Wheel Stud
You shouldn’t drive with a broken wheel stud – but that doesn’t mean you cannot slowly make your way to the repair shop. Any more than that and you’re pushing your luck.
When one stud breaks, the others have to sustain an enormous amount of extra pressure, which can end up breaking more studs.
Every car, truck, and any other kind of vehicle has four to six studs in each wheel. Let’s say your car has four – that means each stud is doing 25% of the work.
If one of them breaks, each stud has to take 33% of the workload. It may not seem like much, but too much tension over time breaks even the strongest of car parts.
You should think about replacing your stud instead of driving around when one breaks.
Sure, you can drive to the repair shop – but that’s as far as I’d go with a broken wheel stud.
If you’re thinking about going on a weekend trip tomorrow and replace the broken stud on Monday, you’re setting yourself for failure (and more broken studs).
And when more than one stud breaks, your wheels become compromised – which can lead to a nasty car crash.
What is a wheel stud?
A wheel stud is a threaded fastener used to secure the wheels of most cars, trucks, and other vehicles. You will usually find four to six of them on each wheel.
You probably have seen your fair share of studs out on the road. In fact, if you go to your garage right now, you can look down and see a few of them on the wheels of your car!
And, you probably have hands-on experience with them if you ever changed a tire.
So, yes, they are easy to spot – and they are also easy to confuse with wheel bolts. These bolts are similar to studs but work differently. You’ll usually find them in European cars.
What causes wheels studs to break?
It’s unusual for a wheel stud to break. More often than not, a broken stud is a result of poor installation, lack of maintenance, or a car accident.
The number one cause behind broken studs is poor installation.
Most amateurs and certain mechanics tend to tighten the studs more than necessary after changing a tire. And that kills your stud.
Cross threading is also a great way to break a wheel stud.
Make sure you take your time and patiently put everything in place after changing a tire to avoid any issues.
Lack of maintenance
Rust is the silent killer of all things metal – and studs are not safe from it.
More often than not, your studs will be made out of stainless metal, so it’ll take a lot of water and salt to wear them down. It happens, though.
Try to check your wheel studs at least yearly to rule out any possibility of rust damage.
A car crash will produce enough force to break a few things in your vehicle, and the wheel studs are not safe in that scenario.
You shouldn’t worry about your studs after every car crash, though. A rear-end collision is not going to put your studs in jeopardy – but a side collision could be enough to cause trouble.
Fortunately, studs are strong, so you shouldn’t worry too much about them after an accident.
What are the signs of a broken stud?
You will realize you have a broken or damaged stud because they get loose and fall off. If the broken stud manages to stay in its place, you may notice a weird vibration coming from your wheel. A visual inspection is more than enough to notice a broken or damaged wheel stud.
Most people don’t notice they are missing a stud until someone else points it out.
Some people will probably sense something is wrong because the corner of their car starts to vibrate – but often believe the vibration happens because of something other than a loose stud.
It’s not a bad idea to look at your tires every once in a while. That way, you can spot missing studs and check for low pressure too.
What happens when a stud breaks?
After a stud wears out or breaks, your wheel will lose stability. If you don’t fix it as soon as possible, other studs will start to bear more weight and wear out sooner than expected.
In a worst-case scenario (let’s say you have a broken stud and never replace it), the wheel comes off mid-drive and you lose control of your vehicle.
It sounds crazy – but it has happened before.
As I’ve said, you can manage to drive from your house to the repair shop without anything terrible happening – but you shouldn’t press your luck once a stud breaks.
So, try not to drive until you fix this issue! Your wheel will take damage because of it, and it can only get worse from there.
Can I repair a broken wheel stud?
Unfortunately, you cannot repair a broken wheel stud; you can only replace it. The average stud costs $20, and replacing it will cost no more than $100; the labor costs are higher than the part itself, so you should consider replacing it yourself.
Replacing a broken stud is pretty straightforward (unless it broke and got stuck inside your wheel, but that’s far from common).
Now, there’s a distinction I’d like to make.
If the stud broke after you replaced your tire or did something to the wheel of your car, you probably want to pay the extra money and let a mechanic replace the broken stud.
Why is that? Because wheel studs usually break from having too much torque applied to them. People tend to screw them way too tight for that to happen.
So, if you’re guilty of the crime of over screwing a wheel stud, you may want to let a professional handle the replacement. Or try again. Remember studs cost 20 bucks, though.