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I recently put new wheels on my car. I don't have off-street parking, much less a garage to work in, so I had the wheels installed by a mechanic. Since they were installed, they have been driven through about 100 miles, including an autocross event, so I think it's about time to check the lug nut torque.

I refuse to take it to a mechanic just for this, so I'll do it myself. I've got a torque wrench and appropriate sockets, but I'm not sure whether the weight of the car affects the torque I'd see on the lugs. Do I need to lift the car up to take the weight off the wheels while I check the torque?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Nope, doing it with the wheels on the ground if fine, no need to lift the weight of the wheels. It's easier that way because the wheels can't turn while you are torquing the lugs.

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+1 to Larry for saying what I was going to say (so I should get partial credit...? ;-). – Bob Cross Apr 24 '12 at 2:22
I'd argue that it's not just easier, it's necessary. With hand tools, I don't see how you'd do it if the wheels are free to spin. – Mathieu K. Jul 7 at 5:18
@MathieuK. I usually wedge [an object of sufficient size and strength] between the drivers seat and brake pedal to keep the hub from spinning when I'm torquing my wheel spacers. Having power seats makes it much easier c: – MooseLucifer 2 days ago

It's already well answered here but typically you torque items "under load". Since torque values specify a clamping force you want to be sure that the conditions of the part are most like the "real world" when you set the torque. When I do tires I center the tire and snug down all lugs before putting load back on the suspension and then torquing the lugs.

This is most especially important when working with upper and lower control arms. You want the weight on the tires and the suspension settled before torquing those down. Otherwise you may bind it all together at an awkward angle and put unneeded stress on your bushings.

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