The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Golf cart lug nut notes

2012 update on 2009 lug nut washer fix
Back in December of 2009 I posted about having some trouble with one of the golf cart lug nuts.

The hardware store didn't have counter sunk nuts, so I got some regular nuts and added a set of washers.

Turns out it was a mistake to take this short cut. Our mechanic fixed the problem with proper lug nuts on our last visit and kindly advised me to not do such a thing again.

It's hard to be sure, but the lug nut situation may have contributed to the bearing going bad.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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The primary function of the conical ends of the lug nuts it to center the wheel. If the lug nuts are loose, you'll lose that function, which can unbalance the wheel and indeed contribute to your bearing problem. Standard nuts don't provide any centering whatsoever. I make it a habit of checking the lug-nuts a day or so after changing a wheel. Loose wheels are a significant safety risk because they can eventually come off. A wheel coming off can cause you to lose control of the vehicle. And since a golf kart has none of the safety features of a modern car, losing control in a car might even be safer even though it usually moves at much higher speeds.

Due to the thick washers, the nuts that you used didn't fit completely on the studs. Lug nuts are usually higher than standard nuts to provide more bearing surface on the threads. Your modification puts a lot more stress on the thread of the studs. If you strip the tread on the studs, you're looking at a more expensive repair than a couple of lug nuts!

One of the secondary principles of good engineering is parts count reduction. That is, e.g, not using more different types of fasteners than necessary. This makes assembly and inventory control easier. So if a non-standard fastener is used somewhere, there is bound to be a reason for that. It is seldom a good idea to change those things, unless you know the design context.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Feb 5 18:55:43 2012

It didn't seem very risky when I drove the golf cart until the wheel fell off (causing the problem Mark was trying to remedy.) It just ground to a halt.... :-)

(No, I really don't recommend following my lead, but I thought I'd add the data point.)

Comment by anna Mon Feb 6 16:57:07 2012
Glad you got it fixed. Lugnuts always reminds of this: years ago, I was driving along in my little furrin' car on Irving Park Rd in Chicago, and just as I got to Dunning, the state mental home, a tire blew out. I pulled over, jacked it up and took off the lugnuts, placing them in the inverted hub cap. As I did this, a small group of inmates of the home collected at the wrought iron fence to watch. The wheel was stuck a bit and as I gave it a good tug & it popped free, I lost my balance, staggered and upset the hub cap. The lugs flew and fell thru a sewer cover. Unable to retrieve them, I started to pitch a fit, cursing, kicking and throwing tools."What am I gunna do now!?" When I settled down to catch my breath, one of the guys inside the fence watching calmly said, "Why don't you take one lugnut from each of the other three wheels, put them on the fourth and that'll at least get you to the next parts store to buy 4 more?" "That's a great idea!" I exclaimed. "Yea. I'm crazy--not stupid," he answered. Have a good day ;-)
Comment by doc Wed Feb 8 08:19:35 2012
That tale feels like a scene from a movie --- very colorful!
Comment by anna Wed Feb 8 08:43:02 2012

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