Frozen wheels a tough bond to break
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Apparently I didn’t go far enough in a previous column — don’t let the wheels fall off — was about getting organised for the summer break to avoid last-minute panic.
Making sure wheelnuts weren’t seized and owners had the correct wheelbrace on hand were just a couple of tips.
Some feedback from readers would suggest there was one important tip I didn’t mention and it doesn’t centre on what’s hitched up to the car.
It’s all about the road wheels.
Making sure they can be removed easily once the wheelnuts are loosened is the additional tip I clean forgot to mention. Frozen wheels are more common within the industry than many would imagine, especially when there is a mating of an alloy and steel surface.
A form of corrosion can build up between the wheel and mating flange surface, making the wheel(s) very difficult to remove. And the longer they stay mated, the harder it becomes to break the bond.
The correct way to go about freeing up a stuck wheel, on a trailer or motor vehicle, is very important to highlight. What can start out as a seemingly simple and straightforward task can quickly turn nasty and may cause injury if you’re not careful.
One of the golden rules is to never remove wheelnuts or retaining bolts completely when trying to free up a stuck wheel.
Leaving them loose will ensure the wheel cannot suddenly break free from its mating flange. That can create an instantly dangerous situation for anyone with their hands, head or body nearby.
While stories of wheels suddenly “springing” free when they are not secured and causing injury may be rare, they are not totally uncommon, from what I can gather.
One of the most common ways to free a stuck wheel is to give the tyre a good kick from the outside or hit the tyre from the inside with a soft mallet or piece of solid timber while the car/trailer is sitting on a jack.
The obvious danger is dislodging the jack from its mounting point with the force being applied to the wheel/tyre, and the vehicle suddenly dropping to the ground.
If you are going to have a go yourself, ensure the vehicle/trailer has additional support when lifted and you are not relying on the jack alone to hold the weight.
The lengthening of regular service intervals is another reason alloy wheels especially, can be hard to remove, according to my hands-on sources.
If regular tyre rotation is not a manufacturer’s or repairer’s recommendation, for example, it could be a couple of years before wheels are removed. That’s plenty of time to create problems. Caravans and trailers could go even longer before wheels require removal.
Yes, I know there are other methods to free a frozen wheel but we won’t go there. If a wheel is stuck solid and a reasonable amount of force won’t budge it, go get professional help.
But do it before you head away. Being stranded on the side of the road with a frozen wheel only adds to the frustration and potential dangers.