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Ask Automan - Wheels Stuck to Hubs

The wheels of the vehicle would not come off

Frank of Beach Park, IL, writes:
In performing routine 15,000 mile maintenance, one of the services to perform was tire rotation. The wheels of the vehicle would not come off. After considerable effort I was able to remove 3 of the wheels, but the 4th (rear) would not come off. After several attempts and differant techniques I was unable to remove the wheel. In complete honesty I tried to remove the wheel by chiseling around the hub and was unsuccessful. Natually with the wheel being aluminum alloy I did damage the inner hub of the wheel. After continued effort the only solution I had was to call the dealership. The dealership was able to free the wheel by force from the inner side of the wheel.

The dealership agreed to replace the axle hub assembly but not the wheel. The service rep said it was quite common for aluminum alloy wheels to adhere to cast iron. As a amatuer mechanic I agreed but that my concern was that I had considerable trouble in removing all of the wheels and if I had not been home with the resources I had available to me I would not have been able to remove the wheels if I had sustained a flat or other damage. They agreed but basically said the only solution would have been to call a tow truck. I contacted Toyota and was basically told the same thing.

Automan responds:
Your address suggests that you have to deal with a lot of snow and road salt. Salt will quickly corrode an aluminum to a base metal such as a hub. I run into this occasionally and sometimes excessive force is required. Patience, penetrating oil, heat and sometimes a sledge hammer with a large wooden block about 18" long placed across the back of the tire will do the trick. Only one shot per placement and then rotate the wheel so as not to bend or damage any one portion of the wheel. All manufacturers are guilty of not addressing this problem with aluminum and sometimes even steel wheels that have an already tight fit on the hub.

A good quality synthetic grease applied to a clean surface (emery cloth, wire brush, or sand blasting (preferably when vehicle is new) between the hub center and wheel center will eliminate this problem. I agree it is a worldwide problem and I have many scars and bruised body parts to side with your concerns. That is why my customers appreciate the extra time and effort when I service their vehicle. Remember to correctly torque the wheel lugs to the correct specification, otherwise you can warp the wheel, hub, and brake rotor, but that is another story...

Chalk it up to an expensive lesson

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