The Curious Case of Ford's Swollen Lug Nuts

Posted on
#wheels #lawsuit

Most lug nuts are one piece of hardened steel, but Ford chose a design that puts an aluminum cap over a steel core. The cap is notorious for swelling and delaminating when it gets hot, and it’s also a great place to trap moisture and promote corrosion.

The end result? A lug nut that is too large for a standard wrench, or one that fuses so tightly you'll need a drill, welding torch, and seven Hail Marys to get it to budge. In other words, a standard lug nut wrench ain't gonna cut it.

At least it looks nice?

The capped lug nuts can be found on many post-2010 model years of the Fusion, Escape, Flex, Focus, F-150, and F-350. Consider yourselves lucky, F-250 owners.

Swollen Lug Nut Class-Action Lawsuit

In August of 2017, a class-action lawsuit accused the automaker of cost-cutting and not honoring its warranty.

The plaintiffs, represented by Hagens Berman, say Ford avoided using solid stainless steel nuts to save a few bucks. They also questioned whether the automaker should be allowed to label themselves Ford Tough, something Ford quickly dismissed as advertising "puffery."

Unexpected costs of two-piece lug nuts

Because the lug nuts don't swell in a predictable or uniform manner, even roadside assistance services like AAA often can't remove the lug nuts roadside. Instead, owners need to use a towing service.

When at the shop, owners are told they'll need to replace the lug nuts and at $8 a pop / 5 per wheel, the costs can really add up.

Plaintiff Robert Desotelle says he and other owners must pay to replace the swollen and cracked lug nuts, and then cover the labor costs to remove the bad lug nuts. Desotelle says he paid $58.28 in repair and replacement costs for just one of the four wheels on his Ford Fusion.

Ford has been staunchly unsympathetic when it comes to complaints about lug nuts and says "the plaintiffs talk about swollen lug nuts as if the lug nuts should be indestructible and the warranties should last forever." Lug nuts shouldn't last forever, but they also shouldn't be impossible to remove without special equipment after 10,000 miles.

Many owners have complained that any claims to replace the lugnuts have been denied while the vehicle was still under warranty. The plaintiffs argued this point but made a fatal flaw...

Unimpressed judge dismisses the case

In January of 2019 the court ruled in favor of Ford when a judge dismissed the casebecause the plaintiffs "presented no legally viable claims."

The plaintiffs implied a breach of warranty "but the judge noted none of the plaintiffs presented their vehicles to Ford within the warranty periods." Pro-tip: if you're going to imply breach of warranty in a class-action, make sure at least one of the plaintiffs was under a warranty that could be breached.


The judge also said that even though there's a long list of complaints on sites like the fine folks at, it doesn't prove Ford knows anything about the problem. Well maybe they should be more in tune with the complaints of their customers.

Lawsuits Regarding This Problem

Lawsuits about this problem have already been filed in court. Many times these are class-action suits that look to cover a group of owners in a particular area. Click on the lawsuit for more information and to see if you're eligible to receive any potential settlements.

  • Dismissed

    Wozniak et al., v. Ford Motor Company et al.

    1. Dismissed

      A Ford swollen lug nuts lawsuit has been dismissed in its entirety because the judge ruled the plaintiffs presented no legally viable claims in the 120-count complaint.

    2. Case Filed

      Ford swollen lug nuts have caused a proposed class-action lawsuit that alleges the lug nuts swell, crack and delaminate to the point special tools are needed to remove the lug nuts.

    Class Vehicles
    • Escape
    • Flex
    • Focus
    • F-150
    • F-350

Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

This problem has popped up in the following Ford generations.

Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.

Further Reading

A timeline of stories related to this problem. We try to boil these stories down to the most important bits so you can quickly see where things stand. Interested in getting these stories in an email? Signup for free email alerts for your vehicle over at

  1. Most lug nuts are one piece of hardened steel, but Ford chose a design that puts an aluminum cap over a steel core.

    The cap is notorious for swelling and delaminating when it gets hot. It’s also a great place to trap moisture and encourage corrosion. The end result? A lug nut that’s either too big for a standard wrench or fused so tight you need a drill, welding torch, and 7 Hail Marys to remove it.

    A 2017 class-action lawsuit accused Ford of cost-cutting when switching to the two-piece design. It also said the automaker is aware of the problems, but won’t honor its warranty by denying any lug nut related claims.…

    keep reading article "The Swollen Lug Nuts Lawsuit Against Ford Has Been Dismissed"
  2. Ford wants the lug nut lawsuit tossed because "the plaintiffs never allege the swollen lug nuts have ever caused physical injuries to any person or damage to any property."

    Ford also says the plaintiffs talk about swollen lug nuts as if the lug nuts should be indestructible and the warranties should last forever, then wrongly "attempt to cast their product-defect allegations as warranty, fraud and unjust-enrichment claims."

    Should lug nuts last forever? Of course not. But they also shouldn't fuse into something harder than a diamond after 10,000 miles on the road.…

    keep reading article "Lug Nut Lawsuit is Baseless According to Ford Attorneys"
  3. Ford has been sued for switching to a 2-piece lug nut design that features an aluminum cap.

    When exposed to the elements, the cap swells in the heat, cracks and delaminates, and corrodes from moisture. This leaves owners and lessees who get flat tires often stranded on the roads without the ability for even tow truck drivers to remove the swollen lug nuts. This means a tow to the shop just to have the lug nuts removed and the tire replaced.

    The two-piece capped lug nuts are cheaper than a one-piece stainless plug, but they look nice because of the cap. Most owners never think twice about the lug nut when buying a vehicle, only to be met with this headache down the road.

    keep reading article "Ford Sued for Using Two-Piece Lug Nuts That Swell"

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA