my wheel fell off while driving, the day after the mechanic changed the brakes, tie rods, tires, etc..

I drive a company provided minivan for my job. I pick people up and take them to their appt's. Anyway, Tuesday night, the mechanic who maintains our fleet did a bunch of work to my minivan -- mostly
suspension work and new brakes and he put new wheels and tires on.
Next morning, I am driving the van with some clients inside and then all of a sudden the steering gets real shaky, so I slow down and start to pull into a parking lot. Right then, the wheel comes off and goes sailing down a parking lot and it hit a fence about 300 feet away -- luckily not hitting anybody. The van recieved some body damage due to the loose wheel hitting the fender. I am very lucky the wheel didn't fall off on the highway. The studs on the wheel assembly were all broke off.
Anyway, I get towed up to headquarters. The mechanic who did the work on the van the night before comes out, scratching his head -- "Gee I wonder why the wheel fell off." So I replied: "because you probably didn't torque the lug nuts properly." He replied: "No, that couldn't be it", and then walked off and started wrenching on another car. He is so detached and aloof, even after his shoddy work almost kills people. A lot of the drivers complain about his shoddy work, stuff not being repaired correctly, problems being ignored, etc..
I am just trying to figure out what other things could cause a wheel to fall off? Besides the tie rod and brake work, he also put different rims on it (it had steel wheels, but he put alloy rims on it), so maybe he used the wrong lug nuts? Looking at the hub of the wheel, nothing looks loose. Only visible problem is the 5 lug nuts that were sheared off by the loose wheel.
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Give an impact wrench to an idiot and that is what happens. For them to shear he had to have the impact wrench cranked to its highest torque. I would have a close look at the other wheels....You should also have a serious talk with your employer. I would think he wouldn't want his customers to be subjected to that...

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Not really Woody. Improper torque of any kind will cause this problem. Insufficient torque will enable a lug nut to loosen and the wheel beings to chuck on the hub. It only takes a small amount of chucking and the holes in the allow wheels begin to enlarge. Then the chucking increases. All the while, the lugs are in the process of shearing off. Finally one goes and in no time the rest follow suit. As in the OP's experience, there is some warning of the others heading to the happy hunting grounds, but at highway speeds, this warning is quite brief. At around town speeds, it's not all that long.
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This guy screwed up. It takes no genius to align the wheel and tighten the lugs appropriately. It didnt happen here,and that is why you had a harrowing experience.
Most of us think that we never do anything wrong, but when this happens, SOMETHING wrong was done.
If the didnt torque it appropriately, he was THE cause.
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While the problem can be loose lug nuts my experience in 50 years of cars has been that loose lugnuts come off after time and do not shear the bolt off. If the bolts were looked at you would probably find they were cross threaded and driven to the point of failure. Regardless of what caused the failure since this was a business van he needs to have a serious talk with his employer and try to get this poor maintenance problem corrected.

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This is no mechanic. I would report him before anything else goes wrong and he causes alot more damage. I would take the van to a reputable dealership and have them inspect it too. This would help support firing him.

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JL wrote:

Then somebody over torqued the crap out of them. I would file a complaint with your employers insurance company. Insurance companies really don't like taking on unnecessary liability. If someone is injured or killed due to incompetence of a company mechanic and that mechanic has a demonstrable history of doing unsafe work then the company is liable and so is it's insurance company.
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John Horner wrote:

What pissed me off the most is that the mechanic refused to consider the fact that he caused the wheel to fall off. He KNOWS he caused it; he's just passing the buck. He should be a man and face up to what he did.
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That is why small claims courts and insurance was invented. You have a few avenues for your situation. If your insurance company covers the damage, they will go after the offender. If you don't have coverage, go after the shop and their insurance should step in. You may need testimony or some evidence that over tightening can cause wheel studs to break. If you haven't checked the other side yet, get a shop to remove the lug nuts with a torque wrench and record the torque needed to loosen them versus a proper installed lug nut. Remember, in court you must prove you were wronged with the preponderance of evidence.
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And you might check the monetary limits for small claims court in your state. It's $4000 in my state. It was enough to cover an insurance claim to my home that the crooks at the insurance company were trying to screw me on. Insurance adjusters are a low crawling form of insect life, in my opinion.
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I lived in a small town where vandalism was a favored pastime.
They thought it was funny to loosen the lugnuts on one wheel.....
Never did get caught. ( sadly )
<rj>
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You are certain that those studs were over torqued severely? You're certain they weren't undertorqued? And just how would you know this?
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I would think that undertorqued would let them loosen and then break from the slop and movement of the wheel. And wouldn't that leave evidence in the form of damage on the wheel?
Then again, it might not, depending on the design of the wheel and how the events actually unfolded.
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Yes it would - the wheels would have elongated lug holes. That's generally a more common finding in sheared studs than having been over torqued. Over torquing will generally result in either warping the wheel or rotor, or stripping the threads on either the stud or the lug nut. It takes a lot to snap a stud from over torquing it. The OP never posted (that I saw) whether the lug holes were elongated, and I won't guess what happened without seeing the wheels, but I was just pointing out that it's dangerous to jump to the conclusion that they were over torqued as had the poster I responded to.
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You should have told him a few people who were in the van were critically injured and then see if he would still walk away scratching his head.
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