By on November 12, 2013

Sajeev writes:

In our last installment of this particular ‘slap, a reader had a question about aftermarket wheels.  The solution was rather simple, the wheels discussed were not hub-centric.  But I also mentioned a horrible “death wobble” problem with my aftermarket reproduction SVT Cobra wheels on my Fox Cougar, solution TBD.  It was a big problem until…

photo 1I switched out the junky/unsafe lug nuts (bottom) that came with my aftermarket wheels for some OEM (top) units! Unsafe how? While the bevel that seats the lug nut into the wheel was identical, they were both a thin casting AND completely hollow. More to the point, that chrome end is actually a PLASTIC CAP giving the appearance of a solid casting!

NOTE: sadly, out of blind rage that I risked my life with horrible lug nuts, I threw away the actual problem units. These higher quality aftermarket lug nuts are for photography purposes: imagine a snap-in chrome center on this skinny+hollow design and you get the full picture.  

photoAnd the only reason this happened? My Ranger (pictured here after running a RallyCross) received a healthy wheel upgrade, requiring chrome lug nuts to complete the look. After installing “good” aftermarket chrome lug nuts and these Alcoa forged alloys (shaving 40-50lbs of unsprung weight) the original FoMoCo lug nuts went on the Cougar’s 1993 Cobra wheels and presto…no more death wobble.

Last week I finally drove the Cougar on a notoriously “wobble inducing” stretch of Houston highway and sure enough, the problem is 99% gone. Hence the update you are now reading.

Moral of the story: check the basic components of any system, even if they are “new” and seem to be high quality. Because, odds are, it’s something simple causing the problem.

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27 Comments on “Piston Slap: To Love, To Hate Aftermarket Rimz (Part II)...”

  • avatar

    This is one of those things easy to get wrong, as many want form over function….not good.

    One of my cars has beveled nuts for one set of wheels, and rounded (half ball) nuts for another. It would be very easy to confuse the two.

    I see so many ill advised wheel sets that I won’t even comment on that….22 inchers in NYC…really ?

  • avatar

    I’ve always preferred steel rims with fancy full-rim hubcaps. Can you imagine a car chase without hubcaps flying off in hard cornering? That wasn’t so great with my own car, since the hubcaps are now plastic and once one flies off it’s ruined, and you need to buy a new set. I’ve decided steel rims painted the color of the car and dog dish hubcaps are my best choice, since the dog dish caps stay on, and steels are cheap to replace after a wheel is attacked by a curb, an increasing phenomenon as I’ve gotten older.

  • avatar

    Were the old nuts just a hex nut with a bevel at the end where it seats in the wheel? A common problem with this type of lug and wheels is that the points of the hex at the base of the shank will bottom out and prevent the bevel from contacting the rim. The lug at the top is often referred to as a bulge nut and the design allows the bevel to fully engage the seat on the rim.

    A bulge nut is always my first choice unless the rim has a specific requirement like an extended shank or a rounded bevel ( often seen on Honda ).

    • 0 avatar

      No they don’t fit that description: they looked like conventional chrome lug nuts (long, not stubby) but the ends were plastic caps.

      The lug itself was beveled on both ends, one to meet with the wheel and the other to accept the plasti-chrome end cap.

      Totally kicking myself for throwing them all away right now…

  • avatar

    I’ve swapped wheels on almost all of my vehicles but they have always been an OEM wheel. I had ’98 2.5RS (goooold), ’99 2.5RS, and ’01 2.5RS wheels on my ’01 2.5RS at one time or another. I ordered my MKV GTI with the 18″ Huff wheels and picked up the standard 17″ wheels on the cheap. I gave them a quick coat of satin black and some winter rubber for snow driving. No wobble, rubbing, etc from any of those configurations. I almost bought aftermarket wheels for my 4Runner when I put all terrains on it, but thought better of it at the last minute.

  • avatar

    I’ve always had mediocre to bad luck in swapping wheels. I have become probably the only human remaining the remembers and lusts for steelies with baby moons. The last car I had those on was a 77 impala wagon that wasn’t that old at the time.

    It may be out of fashion but I’m probably past the wheel changing stage of my life.

    • 0 avatar

      I had steel winter wheels on my XR4Ti with Baby Moons. They were actually one of the cheaper hubcaps available for the steel Fox Mustang wheels I purchased for my snow tires. Would have looked good if I had sprung for the chrome trim rings. Nice contrast to the stock basket weave rims used in the summer.

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    Also be aware of cheap-o parts at auto parts suppliers.

    Most supplier stores offer “good/better/best” for wear item parts-the “good” ones can sometimes be cheap Chinese-made crud that can wear out prematurely/not made to OEM spec, so SOMETIMES, spending just a little more $$ for something name-brand means more savings in the long run.

    Recent case I ran across was some Chinese-made upper strut mounts, caused a rattle. Returned them, paid for name brand, issue fixed.

  • avatar

    The ’79- ’82 nose is starting to grow on me.

  • avatar

    99 percent? Is the other one percent just natural road irregularities?
    Or is it in your head now? :)

  • avatar

    For some reason this reminds me of the c. 2001 C-Class that my parents bought. It came with four flashy alloys. The spare wheel was a steel rim which needed a different set of nuts which resided next to it. A lot of hassle for the owner just so that a very large manufacturer can squeeze a bit more profit out of the sale.

    The jack and wheel spanner were the only tools that came with the car. Not even a screw driver was included in the price. Oh yes, there was a set of white gloves, good for one use I guess. At the time I just shook my head and muttered something about the cost-cutting accountants having taken over.

    • 0 avatar

      Think of the target market of a C-Class.

      Is the buyer going to care about a tool kit, even a flat-blade screwdriver?


      • 0 avatar

        What would you even use it for? That said, I bought all the tools that BMW started leaving out of the tool kit in my 3-series. I doubt they will ever be touched again, but the empty slots bugged me. They are really nice tools too!

        No jack or wheel spanner with the BMW since no spare tire either. Which I am actually OK with. I have not had a flat in 25 years, and I am not going to risk my life to some @sshat on the phone changing a tire on the side of the road.

        Count me among those who is a big fan of OEM wheels. All of my snow tire wheels are used OEMs, so no lugnut worries.

        • 0 avatar

          I prefer original alloys too, but there’s not much you can do with early ’80s 14 and 15″ wheels. Especially when upgrading brakes. The pictured Cobra came with 390mm TRX wheels. The 1st thing you do is ditch those.

          • 0 avatar

            Unfortunately the quite handsome ’85-’87 “film reel” Mustang alloys are rather narrow and (as far as I know) lack aftermarket larger versions, which is a bit of a shame because they look good…

  • avatar

    I often change my wheels on my cars preferring aftermarket to stock OEMs, but being an old nut from way back I always check my new nuts before going nutz over some nutty wobble. Quality wheels are important, putting cheap wheels on your car is, well…


    …dumb ;-)

  • avatar

    Wow, This actually makes the wheel bolts used on German cars sound like a better solution.

    When I first got my VW I thought it was idiotic, after changing my first flat, I realized it wasn’t any harder than studs.

    Of course I’m sure someone, somewhere make terrible aftermarket wheel bolts too.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I tend to think that automakers do a better job of making wheel designs than the offshore company that sold you fifty-dollar-apiece chromed-out dishes that’ll be bent out of shape within 30K miles. So I usually don’t like aftermarket wheels. However, tasteful wheels with at least *some* sense of design work well on certain vehicles.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen that ’80 cobra somewhere in central Iowa…can’t miss well as fail to hear it. Definetely not the original 255 anymore.

    Is it just me, or are these not the best looking fox mustangs?

    • 0 avatar

      ’79-’86, you can’t go wrong with.

      ’87-’93…eh. I swear I’ve seen three distinct grille treatments for those six years and none of them are “perfect”.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes – I think a Vellum Venum article on the ’79 pace car, ’80-’81 Cobra or an ’82 GT is overdue. Maybe include the ’83-84, ’85-’86.

        Somehow all the elements come together so nicely on the early 4-eyes. Better than on the ’87-up (which look like the front and rear were put under a heat lamp).

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