What Does Cross-Threading a Lug Nut Mean? (& Restore)

cross threaded bolt

Have you ever changed a tire puncture only to have problems with your wheel nut?

Maybe the nut cannot be loosened from the stud, or maybe there are problems with the fastening. If that’s the case, your wheel nut or bolt may be suffering from cross-threading.

Cross-threading occurs when nut and bolt threads do not mesh. A closer examination of the threads will reveal a form of destruction.

What is the cause of a cross-threading wheel nut?

cross threaded bolt2
Cross Threaded Bolt. The threads are slid over the wrong thread.

As a car owner, you have to distinguish between a wheel nut with cross-thread and a stripped thread. The latter occurs when the threads on the nut or bolt are damaged by wear or excessive tightening. With a stripped thread, you will notice that the threads have disappeared and the bolt only has a small surface area left.

The main cause of cross-threading is that you try to fasten a nut at the wrong angle. You may be in such a hurry to change your puncture that you fail to realign the nut to the studs. Instead of positioning the nut tightly, you will force it onto the studs. You will then have difficulty removing the nut.

Another cause of cross-threading is the usage of the wrong nuts. Each bolt requires a nut with a certain diameter. In this case, the threads do not match even though your mounting bracket is correct. If you continue to force the nut onto the bolt, you will end up with damaged threads.

Usage of wrong materials


The bolt and nut can be made of different materials, which means that they have different properties. If you try to fasten a bolt made of soft material, some cross-threading may occur – especially if you tighten the bolt too much. When tightening the nut, make sure that you use the right tightening specifications.

Cross-threading of wheel nuts can also be caused by nuts and studs that have not been changed for a long time. This causes them to rust and the corrosive material sticks them together, making them difficult to remove.

How to effectively change a tire and avoid cross threading

car tire replacement

To avoid cross-threading the wheel nut, you must learn how to change your punctured tire effectively. The first thing you need to do before changing a tire is to place your car on a flat surface. This will ensure that no excessive pressure is applied to any of the tires.

You should always use lubricant or oil on the threads to avoid cross-threading. Check with the manufacturer to get the right lubricant for the material on the bolt.

Next, turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers of mechanical problems. Make sure that you have applied your handbrake. Place large stones under the other wheels to prevent the car from rolling in case the handbrake fails during a tire change. If you have an automatic, the transmission should be in ‘Park’.

Take all the materials you need to change tires out of the trunk. This includes the spare tire and the jack. Find the right place to attach the jack. Most cars have small notches for this. Lift the car with the jack, but don’t go so far as to lift the wheel off the ground.

Start by removing the hubcap; use the cross wrench to loosen the nuts. Make sure that you turn the nuts and not the wheel. A good cross wrench fits the nuts perfectly. To prevent the wheel nut from being cross-threaded, make sure that the nuts fit snugly against the bolt threads when resetting them.

The positioning is very important. Most of the cross threads are created when replacing the nuts after a puncture. When the nuts are tightened, you may have to apply more force than is necessary, and you thereby risk damaging the threads. Do not try to use your full body weight when turning hard nuts. When you have loosened the nuts, lift the car off the ground with your jack. Before you can remove even one nut, make sure that the car is stable.

For additional safety, you should use jack stands. Now you can remove the loose nuts one by one. When all nuts have been removed, you can safely remove the punctured tire and replace it with the spare wheel.

You can put the punctured tire under the car for extra safety when you change the tire. Align the wheel with the hub and start screwing the nuts with your hands until they are tight. Make sure that the nut is aligned with the studs to prevent cross-threading.

Tighten the nuts further with your wrench. Do not apply too much force as you may destabilize the jack. Use the jack to lower the car and tighten the nuts further, but do not overtighten as this will destroy the threads. Put the old tire in your truck and remember to repair it as soon as possible in case of future punctures.

How do you restore damaged threads?

One tool that proves useful when repairing faulty threads is a rethreading kit. It can be used to restore old and rusted bolts. The first thing to do is to restore the thread with a file. Use a ratchet to attach the sleeve that you should have fitted to the head of the cross-threaded bolt. To remove part of it, turn the bolt counterclockwise.

Pour some cutting fluid on the damaged threads while determining the appropriate diameter. Then turn the tap clockwise to restore the damaged threads.


Cross-threading on a wheel nut is a problem for many car drivers. The main cause of cross-threading is overtightening of the screws on the studs during a tire change or incorrect alignment of the screws to the studs.

The result is that the bolt threads shift from the center and cut into the internal threads of the bolts. Repairing the threads is a challenge that may force you to replace the hub. Damaged nuts and studs can cause your wheel to come loose during fast rides.

Cross-threading can also be caused if you try to change a tire in a hurry. If you apply too much force, you can cause further damage to the threads. Learning how to change a tire effectively is a must for every driver.

Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of MechanicBase. He has been working as a mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced diagnostics and troubleshooting. He has also been a motorsport (drifting) driver for over 5 years.