West Palm Beach Attorney Discusses Accidents Caused by Detached Wheels
Poorly maintained vehicles—including sedans, SUVs, and commercial trucks—pose a risk to the driver and everyone else on the road. Poor maintenance is usually the cause of detached wheels. These situations put other drivers at risk of being struck by either the vehicle or the wheel itself and can easily lead to serious damages, injuries, and possibly even death.
When an accident caused by a detached wheel occurs, it’s crucial that investigators determine the root cause of the issue. It can be difficult to determine who is at fault when these accidents occur, as it can be the driver, the mechanic, or the manufacturer themselves. This is what the crash forensic team will look for after an accident.
Why detached wheels happen
There are two main causes of a detached wheel:
- Failure of the wheel mounting system, which includes the wheel studs and lug nuts.
- Failure of the hub and wheel bearing assembly.
Both kinds of failures are usually the result of improper installation or poor maintenance, causing the wheel to become loose. Less often, these failures can be the result of a manufacturer defect.
Wheel mounting system failures
Improper installation is one of the most common reasons for the wheel mounting system to fail. A loose wheel can cause the studs to break and allow the wheel to separate from the vehicle. There are many potential reasons for this to happen, but most often it is associated with over-torquing or under-torquing the lug nuts.
Over-torquing the lug nut can cause it to stretch to the point of failure and no longer handle the forces of a moving wheel. This is one of the most common reasons for failure, due to the widespread use of impact wrenches during installation. The amount of torque needed varies from vehicle to vehicle, but impact wrenches can easily apply over triple the necessary force.
Under-torquing causes the wheel to be loose because the lug nuts have not been tightened enough. This can be caused by corroded and damaged wheel system components, by using a cheap or worn-out impact wrench, or by having a low air-pressure supply to an impact wrench.
Hub system failures
Hub system failures have four primary causes:
- Lack of lubrication
- Overloading the vehicle
- Installing the axle nut too tight
- Installing the axle nut too loose
There are warning signs to look out for in the case of a hub system failure. Look for leaking hub seals, abnormal tire tread wear, odd sounds, smells, smoke, and steering wheel feedback. An axle nut that is too tight or an overloaded vehicle will not have the barrier of lubrication needed to reduce friction. The resulting heat can cause the system to fail and the wheel to come off of the vehicle.
Examining the intricate parts of the wheel after a car accident is difficult work, especially if it was severely damaged in the crash. But the work of a crash forensics team can provide the evidence your case needs to get the compensation you deserve. If you or someone you know was injured in an accident caused by a detached wheel, contact our office today.