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I'll need to help put wheels on a sedan that is currently parked on bricks near a building after some bad guys had stolen previous wheels.

I'll likely have only a basic wrench that was shipped with the car. Each wheel is to be held by five nuts each having M10 or similar diameter threading. The wrench has arm about one foot long.

How do I know how much force to apply to the wrench to ensure that nuts don't fall off later and also I don't damage nuts and don't break the wrench?

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Hand-tighten before touching a wrench. – endolith Jun 14 '11 at 1:37
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Most lug nuts should be torqued between 75-100 ft-lbs. So applying the appropriate amount of body weight (lean into it really good) should be adequate until you get to somewhere with a proper torque wrench.

One thing to note, is that you should always tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern so that you do not damage anything.

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To clarify the star pattern, when you are tightening, instead of just going around in a circle, skip a lug nut each time you are going to the next one. If you were to number them in a circle, you would tighten 1, 3, 5, 2, 4. Also, go around a second time to make sure that once everything was tightened down the wheel didn't shift, making a nut loose again. – ManiacZX Jun 8 '11 at 11:12

With just a one foot arm, I don't think you could break the nuts or the wrench. Applying the wrench with your full arm strength should be fine. Then drive the car to a tire-shop or another location that you have a torque wrench to make sure the nuts are in specification.

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Get yourself a torque wrench, sears sells a basic (non-click) mechanical model for around $20.00 to $30.00. Find out what the torque specs for that particular car is. if its a GM vehicle their nearly 100ft lbs across the board. If its an import vehicle 80ft lbs is a safe number till you can get accurate torque specs from a dealer or thru online research.

If you over-torque you have the potential or striping the threads on the hub or the bolts themselves which isn't good either way. Take the time and spend the money to get the right tool for the job.

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