Use of Anti Seize on Vehicle Lug Nuts

Hi everyone,
I would like to start a discussion on the use of anti seize on vehicle
lug nuts. Searching the net, there are people that claim to have used
anti seize on lug nuts for many years with no problems, and some
people that advise against it.
I have two main questions I would like to address separately. The two
questions directly below are related to the two main sources of
controversy on the subject.
1. Will the use of anti seize on properly torqued vehicle lug nuts
likely cause them to loosen over time, to the point where it could be
dangerous ?
2. Will the use of anti seize on vehicle lug nuts cause a significant
increase in the axial loads and/or stresses on the lug studs, that
would likely cause a significant problem or danger ? If so, I would
think you could simply reduce the specified torque by a certain
percentage to compensate for the use of the anti seize.
I have a bottle of NAPA anti seize (item # 765-1674) and interestingly
enough, it says right on the bottle to use anti seize on lug nuts.
I would expect most engineers and auto manufacturers to recommend not
to use anti seize on lug nuts, even if they're not sure either way
whether or not it would cause any problems, just because of safety
On the other hand, one would think that a large company like NAPA also
considered safety liability, and would not state right on the product
bottle to use anti seize on lug nuts, unless it was a safe practice.
On the bottle of the NAPA anti seize product mentioned above, under
directions, it states to apply the product, and then torque all bolts
to manufacturers specifications.
The directions make no torque reduction allowance for the lubrication
effects of the anti seize, and the effects it may have on increasing
axial loads beyond those anticipated at OEM specified torques.
Also on the NAPA anti seize bottle, it recommends the use of the
product on engine head bolts, but again, does not provide any
recommendation for an OEM torque spec reduction with the use of the
anti seize, which leads one to believe that it may not be a
significant issue.
Most repair shops are not going to torque your wheels anyway, they
will use impact wrenches which always over torque and many times warp
rotors. Some shops use torque sticks on the end of the impact wrenches
which is a good idea, but you would be hard pressed to find any shop
using torque wrenches on lug nuts. It's just not fast enough for them.
Even if you request that they use a torque wrench, they may likely
forget, so you would have to watch them. I know because years ago I
worked in an auto repair shop.
I have used anti seize on the lug nuts of one vehicle I have and I
have not had any problems. I used it very sparingly, and I tried my
best to make sure that there was no anti seize between the end of the
lug nut (part that seats in the rim) and the rim. These were aluminum
rims with closed end acorn style lug nuts. I re-torqued after driving
50 miles or so which is standard practice on aluminum rims anyway.
The reason I used the anti seize is because I had to remove a tire
once and the lugs were so rusted I could not remove the nuts without a
long breaker bar. I thought they might break. Had I have broken down
somewhere without that breaker bar, I would have been stranded. After
that, I removed the lugs on all the wheels, replaced them with new lug
nuts, and applied a small amount of anti seize to each lug stud at the
time of replacement. That was years ago and I have not had any
Many times cars will come into a repair shop with rusted lugs. Some
lugs will come off with an impact wrench and others will break off
because they are too rusted. However, just because the lug nut came
off with an impact does not mean that the stud was not damaged,
fractured, or over-stressed when removing the lug nut, due to the
corrosion present. Due to corrosion, after removing a lug nut, you
could have a fractured or structurally compromised lug stud(s) and not
even know it. This is another reason I can think of to apply
*something* to lug nuts and studs to keep them from rusting.
Is there anyone out there that has had some real world experience with
this, perhaps with fleet vehicles ?
I would appreciate any feedback or thoughts on the subject.
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Dear John2005:
It will *permit*, not cause, loosening. Any loosening is dangerous. But like checking tire pressure, really should be checking lug nut tightness too. One of the reasons "tire rotation" is important...
It can. But those standards are based on (essentially) well- lubricated, fresh threads with well-lubricated fresh mating surfaces. Aging components have different friction values than new ones.
It wasn't anti-seize on the threads, but I reamed out some nice mags on the rear wheels of a car with a newly rebuilt engine... because the lug nuts were not tight. I thought it was the new big 780 Holley doing the talking...
Lube it and check it, or don't lube it and risk replacing it periodically. Lube will attract and retain solid particles, but exclude moisture (in general).
David A. Smith
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Here;s my nickel: I had a light duty flat bed trailer built. I needed a pair of wheels to suit the hubs: 5 studs on a 4.5 inch diam circle. What I found was a pair of wheels that were 5 on 4.75 inch diam (A Ford versus GM design spec issue)
I redrilled the rims to suit - this was a light duty trailer for a kayak after all. I noticed an interesting detail. The recessed stud holes in the wheel rim were not on the mounting plane, but set forward a little. This would have the effect of springing the lug nuts on their studs. This is just the sort of arrangement that would stop the nuts creeping out in normal circumstances. The frictional element would be provided by the conical contact surface, so that the stud threads could be anti- seized safely, in my view.
Brian W
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I have also posted this question at some engineering forums and other newsgroups. The general consensus seems to be that the use of anti seize on vehicle lug nuts that are properly torqued, is not going to contribute to the lug nuts loosening. It seems wherever I posted, more people reported using anti seize on lug nuts for years without any problems, than people advised against it.
It also seems to be considered that the application of lubricants in general to properly torqued fasteners will not contribute to their loosening. It is generally considered that traverse movement is what causes fasteners to loosen
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However, it probably makes good sense that the anti seize be very sparingly applied to *only* the lug stud thread and *not* the contact or interface point between the end of the lug nut and the rim. The question of whether or not to decrease the manufacturers torque specifications to account for the application of anti seize is debatable, but if you can keep the anti seize off of the contact point between the end of the lug nut where it seats in the rim, you are probably better off staying with the manufacturers specified torque. The following information will explain why.
I found some info regarding wheel stud failure here...
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The link directly below goes to a page with some interesting information regarding the difference in axial loads (preload) obtained when coating *only* the threads with anti seize, and when coating both the threads *and* under the bolt head or nut. Apparently, if the information is reliable, there is a huge change in axial load when you coat both the threads and under the bolt head or nut, as compared with hardly any change in axial load when you apply anti seize to *only* the threads and not under the bolt head or nut.
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If you look at the table / charts provided near the bottom of the page at the link directly above, using anti seize on the *thread only* shows slightly less axial load than using no lubricant at all. This is probably due to the wide variation in friction of identical bolts with dry un-lubricated threads, which can be as much as +/- 25% to +/- 50%.. See the following links for more information=85
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(some more articles here)
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They say that about 90% of the input torque of the torque wrench is consumed by friction, with 50% of the friction being between the bolt head and mounting surface, 40% of the friction being in the threads, & only 10% being the stretch of the bolt which produces the axial force or preload.
The article at references another article titled "Failure of bolts in helicopter main rotor drive plate assembly due to improper application of lubricant" by N. Eliaz, G. Gheorghiu, H. Sheinkopf, O. Levi, G. Shemesh, A. Mordecai, H. Artzi, Published in Engineering Failure Analysis #10, pages 443-451
Here is a link to the article published in engineering failure analysis=85
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Regarding the article at the link directly above, it seems it was not the use of anti seize that was causing failure of the helicopter rotor bolts, but rather the improper application of anti seize that was causing failure, namely applying anti seize under the bolt head or nut instead of only applying it to the fastener threads. Applying anti seize under the bolt heads and/or nuts increased axial loads substantially. It also appears Tightening by turning the bolt instead of, as specified, the nut, resulted in more torque going into bolt tension rather than being absorbed by bolt head friction.
Would it be unreasonable to require engineers to design all *critical* threaded joints & related components (wheel lugs, helicopter rotors, etc. anything where a life may be at stake) to be able to withstand the maximum axial loads produced by torquing lubricated threads to specs with a torque wrench ? The lubricants vary, so they should design for the lube that produces the lowest friction.
It seems anti seize and/or lube on threaded joints is a good idea in most cases, plus applying the lube produces more consistent and accurate transmission of torque, so it would appear to make sense to always design for a lubricated joint.
I have also read that research has shown that not lubricating the thread and nut face will result in the friction value increasing on re- tightening which subsequently reduces the preload for a given torque value. This would be especially important regarding lug nuts, which are being removed & re-tightened frequently for tire rotations.=A0=A0
It seems all torque specifications should specify both dry and lubricated threads for reference, & if lubrication or anti seize is required or recommended, it's exact application method should be specified. Although ideally the joint would be designed to withstand a worse case scenario application of lube on both the threads and under the bolt head.
At the
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website, they say that it is actually transverse joint movement that causes loosening of threaded fasteners. In the case of a wheel, friction between the wheel and the hub prevent traverse movement. The friction is generated by the axial force generated by the torqued lug nuts.
Because of traverse movement causing joint loosening, it's probably best to not use anti seize or any lube on the back side of the rim where it contacts the rotors, hub, or brake drums.
My feeling is the benefit of using anti seize on lug nut studs outweigh any concerns of problems it may cause. I do think it is a good idea to apply the anti seize very sparingly to the lug studs, and to try to not get any anti seize on the contact point between the end of the lug & where it seats in the rim lug recesses.
The last time I used anti seize on lug nuts, I think the way I did it was to smear a small dab of anti seize on the end of the lug stud, then run a lug nut on the stud by hand back and forth until a thin film of anti seize covers most all the stud (almost up to the rim). I ran the nut back and forth on the stud enough times so that it did not push a glob of anti seize between the end of the lug and where the lug seats in the rim when I was ready to finally tighten the lugs down. I wiped off any anti seize at the lug end as required.
If anti seize is used however, it seems wise to be extra careful to make sure that any shop you take your vehicle too only uses a hand torque wrench to tighten the lugs to the correct torque.
The main question that remains is whether to torque the lugs to manufacturers specs or reduce the torque by a percentage to compensate for any increase in axial loads due to the anti seize. Based on the information given above, & my experience, my guess is to just torque the lugs to manufacturers specs, especially if you use the anti seize very sparingly and can keep it off the end of the lug nuts where they seat with the rims.
This has worked for me and I think the fact that it did not warp my rotors is a clue that the axial loads are not too outrageous. Shops warp rotors all the time with power impact wrenches, and they might turn or replace your rotors, but they don't replace the lug studs as a precaution for the possibility of them being overstressed by the impact which warped the rotors.
This reasoning may not apply to all vehicles, especially larger tucks, but for most pickups and cars, I would think that if you have not warped the rotors and you do not feel any break pulsations, then you probably have not overstressed the lug nuts & studs to a point of any real concern. Impact wrenches break lug studs off all the time, I doubt anyone has broken a lug stud off with a hand torque wrench, whether coated with anti seize or not. I doubt any rotors have been warped with a hand torque wrench, anti seize on lug studs or not.
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