Chances are when you think of a lug nut, one image comes to mind. But are all lug nuts the same size? In actuality, a number of different types exist that vary by both manufacturer and application. It’s important to make sure any replacement you choose is the correct fit for your vehicle, or you could risk anything from the annoyance of a cross-threaded stud to the disaster of losing a wheel. Before replacing your lug nuts, learn a few of the differentiating characteristics.
This is a measurement of the diameter of the inner opening of a lug nut. You can get the lug nut’s thread size by measuring the diameter of the stud it matches. Since these measurements tend to be of small circular surfaces and need to be precise, dial or digital calipers are the best tools for the job. Your vehicle may use SAE or metric:
- Common SAE sizes are 7/16, 1/2, 9/16 and 5/8.
- Common metric sizes are 10mm, 12mm and 14mm.
This is the distance between the individual threads and can be measured by counting the number of peaks in a certain distance. For SAE lug nuts, that distance is 1 inch. For metric, it is 1 millimeter. Once again, these manual measurements can be most easily taken from the matching stud. This can be a pretty small area, so if you have to take the measurement manually, it might be easier to mark off 10 mm instead and then divide the total peaks counted by 10 afterward to get the 1 mm measurement.
The easiest way to find both thread size and pitch is in your owner’s manual. You also can take another matching lug nut or stud to a hardware/automotive store and match it up by threading it on.
The seat is where the nut meets the wheel. Different angles are available by manufacturer and application.
- A shank or mag seat has no taper and contacts the wheel as a flat surface, often with a washer. When replacing these, pay attention to the length of the shank.
- Tapered seats have 45- or 60-degree angles, with 45 being used for racing applications and 60 for off the track.
- An E/T Ultra tapered mag seat combines both a taper and a shank.
- A ball seat is rounded.
The most common lug nut has a hexagonal head that can be removed with a hex socket, though this does make them easier to remove and thus more prone to wheel theft. To combat this, manufacturers have developed options that make removing a lug nut more challenging:
- A spline shaft has a grooved or ridged head and requires the matching spline socket for removal.
- A hex key head requires a hex key for removal.
Lug nuts are available in different colors and platings and may be open or closed (“acorn” style) on the ends. Open-ended nuts allow the stud threads to pass through while acorns provide a cleaner look.
As a final word on lug nuts: No, they are not all the same. It’s important not only to make sure that you’re getting the right one but also that you torque it down to manufacturer specifications once you do. Then your wheels are ready for the road.
Check out all the lug nut and socket products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on the question of are all lug nuts the same size, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photos courtesy of Blair Lampe.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.