Home » These Plastic Caps VW Put On Wheel Bolts Are Stupid And Confusing

These Plastic Caps VW Put On Wheel Bolts Are Stupid And Confusing

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My wife went to drive her often-problematic Volkswagen Tiguan this morning. The Tiguan being the Tiguan, though, it turns out that even if the car is mechanically fine, it would just be wrong if the car just drove, so this time one of the relatively-new tires was convinced to take a dive, having somehow gotten a nasty bit of sidewall damage that ended in a very flat tire. I went to change the tire and discovered something about the car I never noticed before. Something stupid. Something that irritated me. Something baffling. What are these somethings? These stupid little plastic wheel bolt covers.

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See these things? They’re cruel little things. Why cruel? Well, think about it: if you’re staring at them, you probably are about to change that wheel, and chances are pretty good that you’re already not happy about it. If you have a flat by the side of the road, what you want to see when you are crouching on the ground (possibly in the dark or wet or cold) are obvious bolt heads that you’ll soon be wrestling off.

What you don’t want to see is this:

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What the hell are those things? Is that a Torx head? Some sort of star-head? Do I even have a tool that fits that chonky sorta Mogen David/sorta cartoon sun-shaped hole? I got my set of weird driver heads and tried to find one that fit, and when I found one that did, it just kind of spun.

Notneeded

What kind of cruel joke is this? I just want to get the damn wheel bolts out, not enjoy escape-room-style mind benders here. Soon I realized that the reason they just spun is because they’re not threaded bolts at all, but are simply plastic bolt covers that can be pried out, with something that I unfortunately wouldn’t call “ease.” So, the whole Torx-head business is all bullshit, a silly pantomime, a masquerade. Underneath them are the bolts, which I then removed, and replaced the wheel.

Exposedbolt

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Also, as you can see, there’s a lot of dirt and crap under that cover, so whatever it’s doing, it’s not exactly keeping those bolts pristine. And that picture above looks a bit like an angry robo-pig face.

All those plastic covers did was slow me down and confuse me, two things that nobody who is changing a tire wants from their tire-changing experience. So what’s the point of these things? I asked this rhetorically in our Slack channel, and our own Thomas Hundal rose to the defense of these plastic wads of crap:

“They serve a couple purposes: Beautification, corrosion-protection, theft-deterrence.”

Let’s take these one by one here. Beautification? Really? Replacing one kind of bolt head with another kind of bolt head, a fake one even, is somehow “beautification?” If that’s actually true, then our standards of beauty are way, way off. Regular bolt heads aren’t anything to be ashamed of! Lots of cars happily show their bolt heads, and some cars even love the look of regular wheel bolts so much, they fake them:

Fakeboltcap Toyota

That’s absurd, too, of course, but I think it just helps emphasize my point that the little black plastic caps with the fake Torx heads are doing nothing for the beauty of this vehicle.

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[Editor’s Note: Chevy has similarly fake plastic wheel-nut covers:

Picture 1 of 3
Image from oakleafautosalvage/eBay
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Image from oakleafautosalvage/eBay
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Image from oakleafautosalvage/eBay

You can see that the nut has internal and external threads. The latter were used to thread the plastic caps to the lugnuts. I always assumed this was a cost-save thing, as the open nuts are cheaper than ones pretty enough to be visible. But maybe corrosion protection? I don’t know.

-DT]

Corrosion-protection? I mean, maybe. But if water should get inside one of those plastic caps – hardly an unlikely possibility – then it would be locked in there with the bolt forming a very effective rust trap. So I’m not sure I’m buying that one, either, especially after seeing the condition of my bolts under those caps.

Tomato Caps

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As far as theft deterrence goes, I mean, maybe, for the same reasons the fake caps are so frustrating to anyone changing a wheel on the car: confusion. It needs a Torx head something? What is this bullshit, a potential thief may think, and the go on their merry way, likely to repent and re-assess their life of wheel-crimes.

So, for Thomas’ defense, I’m giving his reasons a no, no, and a grudging maybe. That’s not enough to convince me these don’t suck.

Tiredamage

Am I missing something? Am I being unfair to these little bits of molded plastic? Am I taking their deception too personally? If there’s anyone who can defend these things, here’s your chance, in the comments. If these have some benefit that justifies the confusion and time-wastery of them, I’d love to hear it. If not, well, then I think I’m going to chuck them all in the trash, or maybe melt them down and re-cast them into a keychain shaped like a cockroach or something.

 

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Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
1 year ago

I have these stupid caps on every VW I own. They get tossed into the glovebox and never used again. I’m not sold on the corrosion protection part, either. The bolts holding on my wheels don’t look any worse years after the cap deletion. Maybe VW wheel bolts used to suck that bad and VAG just kept with tradition, which tracks.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mercedes Streeter
FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
1 year ago

This is honestly the best way of dealing with those insufferable little pieces of plastic.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago
Reply to  FlavouredMilk

Nope, trash bin. My glovebox is not a junk drawer.

Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
1 year ago

I keep them in case I sell the car. Then I slide them back on and let the new owner decide how much they hate the caps. lol

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

That makes sense. I’d offer a handful of them up jokingly to any prospective buyer ,I guess, if I could think far enough ahead to keep them in the first place.
Trash bin is still the best option for now though.
I can’t be bothered with possible future use cases for garbage. Lest I become a hoarder.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
1 year ago

Offer the caps for sale, $5,000. Includes free car to put them on.

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 year ago

Wait, you don’t have a selection of storage bins specifically for bits of cars you remove and carefully labeled? Why are you looking at me like that.. What do you mean by “anal retentive hoarder”..

Fourmotioneer
Fourmotioneer
1 year ago

I do like how they look when they’re back on but I haven’t reinstalled them on either of our MK7s since swapping all seasons back on in April. At this point, I could probably make it to Thanksgiving with them off and save myself 1 minute when it’s time to swap on the snow tires.

MK1 GTIs had these (fake hex look) and they do look sort of cool. I think there is a special puller tool that grabs an outside lip. Those are easier to pull

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
1 year ago
Reply to  Fourmotioneer

The tool grabs onto the inside. It’s just a hook that you basically insert into the center star and pull them straight out. A mild PITA, and yes, not immediately obvious, but once you learn how they work, it’s really not bad.

Martin Ibert
Martin Ibert
1 year ago

My Opel Adam has something similar, but more like the GM covers shown above: black plastic caps that are shaped like wheel bolt heads but slightly larger. They fit snugly and do keep the bolts themselves clean an tidy. The funny thing is that I have as many of them as there are bolts, but because one of the bolts on each wheel is a lock bolt (which the caps don’t fit on), I have four extra caps.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
1 year ago

Can’t you just tie some colored pieces of string to them and put them on again, that will (centrifugally) dangle in the wind when driving, like the leather straps on bad taste Harley Davidsons or as a tribute to Pee Wee Herman’s bicycle ? I’m sure your wife will love that!

FUCK YOU
FUCK YOU
1 year ago

Huh. I had wondered why the wheel bolts on my Alltrack are kinda ugly, instead of being nice and shiny like the lug nuts I’m used to dealing with. Apparently it’s because they’re meant to be covered up by equally-ugly bits of black plastic crapola. The PO must have chucked ’em. Good for him.

Last edited 1 year ago by FUCK YOU
Rafael
Rafael
1 year ago

We need to properly tag articles like this as #rant #cloudyelling.
I’m not complaining, mind you, I want to find those articles and rant along! This is why I buy my Internets!

Vc-10
Vc-10
1 year ago

I can’t see the point of them. Quite a few flew off my Seat Ibiza in the 3 years I had it. There was a little wire loop thing in the tyre changing kit to remove them.

Brockstar
Brockstar
1 year ago

That’s idiotically German. Making a mundane task slightly more complicated than necessary. As someone who has pried a wheel cover off along a busy highway any time saved when changing a tire is worth it. That day I swore to never own another car without alloy wheels. Sorry I’m apparently too pompous to rock naked steelies. Toss the caps and think about how you just got rid of a few ounces of weight and 20 useless parts.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 year ago

Okay Andy calm the fuck down. Why they exist is simple. It’s called unsprung weight and I’m feeling too saucy right now to explain that shit if you don’t already get it. They use hollow bolt heads in a crucial weights saving area. Next, they don’t chrome that crap cause that costs a lot and bean-counters (also chrome chips pretty easy). So now you gotta stop those hollow heads from rusting and/or filling up with dirt so you purchase eight quadrillion molded black plastic covers from China for $296 total cost delivered and problem solved.

They have a fancy looking hole in the center to stick the equally cheap provided hook in hole and pull. The hole was made fancy to hide any damage from the hooking. I use one of those cheap ass hooks from HF to remove mine. I do seasonal tire changes on three different VWs, so six times twenty, or one hundred twenty per year and I still have not gotten frustrated which for me is saying everything.

There, now you have your explanation writ dickhead style. Love you Jason.

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
1 year ago

I guess designing some wheel bolts that aren’t cheap garbage isn’t part of the VW engineering department’s job.

CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
1 year ago

My gen1 CTS-V has stainless steel screw on caps, one now missing after I got new rear tires fitted.. I wondered why they just don’t use nice chromed lug nuts in the 1st place and call it a day!? I’ll never know…

Chris D
Chris D
1 year ago
Reply to  CTSVmkeLS6

It saves about fifteen cents per wheel.

RalliartWagon
RalliartWagon
1 year ago

I love a good Torch rant, but I don’t get the big deal. If you like how they look, leave them on. If they annoy you, throw them out. 5 second decision. And yes, I owned a VW with these. Never bothered me, and I rotate my own tires, so I dealt with them semi-regularly. I used a flat-head screw driver.

Philip Dunlop
Philip Dunlop
1 year ago
Reply to  RalliartWagon

I guess the point is: if you don’t expect it, it can be frustrating. I can see why this would be the case after encountering them on my wife’s Passat.

On a side note: are VWs really that unreliable? Is it just a US VW thing? I can’t say I’ve had any complaints about the aforementioned 2016 Passat, which has kind of become my car by default since my wife has had some health problems and we’ve shrunk the family fleet to save money. Outside of regular maintenance and that one tyre issue, it’s been hassle free in the nearly two years we’ve owned it. It’s got more electronic nannies than I’d like and the driving experience is less fulfilling than on the 1999 B5 Passat beater I bought years ago for €1,000 as my first proper car. But it’s also comfortable and spacious and fairly economical.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
1 year ago
Reply to  Philip Dunlop

Short answer: yes, at least in the U.S. Some models more than others.

Long answer: There’s not a single VAG product I’d willingly put my own money towards, Porsche included. I’d have to be paid a huge sum to even consider daily driving one, let alone owning one. Even then it’d be an absurd amount, and I’d be extremely picky about what model is was.

Others may disagree, but that’s just Stockholm Syndrome and sunk cost fallacy at work. These types are usually identifiable by using the factory designations like B5 and B8 and such, which illustrates just how mind-controlled they’ve become.

Paul Kett
Paul Kett
1 year ago
Reply to  Philip Dunlop

You will have to get rid of your Passat soon. All those electronic nannies have sensors that fail. Eventually your car will leave you stranded somewhere and when you tow it to the dealership they will ask for $500,000 to replace the sensor in the middle of the engine that requires complete automobile disassembly.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

Take it all off. Screw covers, plastic engine covers, hub caps and this nonsense.
Most of that crap goes directly in the trash whenever I get a newish car.
We are pretty much married now.
Lose the burqa or push up bra and leave the lights on.
I chose you because you are beautiful and perfect. Especially those bits you thought you had to hide.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
1 year ago

Angry Robo Pig is my new band name.

Anyone remeber those hateful lugnuts on (I think) GM products that had a silvery, thin metal shell over the lug? The lugs would rust under the shell and swell them to a size that no standard socket would fit.We replaced so many of those in the 80s.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

Oh this is nothing compared to Ford’s idiotic jacketed lug nuts.

At least these are just caps that come off easily. Ford decided that pretty pretty was what mattered, so it glued nice aluminum jackets onto the outward facing end of its steel nuts.

Sure, they look great until you need to remove them and your vehicle had been subjected to any kind of regular or irregular change in temperatures, moisture, etc. prior to that. You know, like most of them usually have.

B/c by then, the jackets may have swelled up, making it nearly impossible to get a wrench of any sort over then.

First time it happened, I thought I’d messed up and rounded the edges off the nut (seems about my speed). Eventually I got it off & replaced it. Next year, same thing happened and I got suspicious.

So a little searching turned up the truth. There apparently was even a class action lawsuit against Ford for this.

I replaced all of mine with the ugly but functional regular ones. Sigh.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jack Trade
Box Rocket
Box Rocket
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

In fairness to Ford, they’re not the only ones who use this design, Mopar next most notably. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but long-term effects definitely illustrate how they might not have been the best choice.

As relatively rare as it comes up though, and as relatively inexpensive as it is to resolve, it’s still not the worst choice ever.

Bruno Hache
Bruno Hache
1 year ago

They are insufferable useless pieces of tat. I run aftermarket steelies in the winter and my tire shop still puts them back on regardless.

Autorama
Autorama
1 year ago

you were right… the Wurstwagen
https://imgur.com/a/wcqNRHb

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
1 year ago

Not only the tiny extra cost of the plastic, they give you a little wire tool in your kit to pull them off. The whole thing is silly. I do my own summer/winter tire swaps so I tossed mine out. I went into my dealer for a service and they replaced all the ‘missing’ caps and charged me for them. It was a fun discussion having them remove them from my bill and car.

And no, the corrosion argument does not hold salt water. At least not how well the caps do.

Maybe they serve the same purpose as “speed holes”?

Last edited 1 year ago by Andy Individual
FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
1 year ago

Okay, now this is something I have some strong opinions on. I’m a mechanic, I’ve done a lot of work on VAG vehicles, in fact I even did road side assistance for our local VW dealer for a couple of years and BOY let me tell you these are the stupidest, most annoying, most brittle and pointless wheel nut covers to ever grace the earth. VW actually provides a small hook tool for removing these in the car tool kit, it works perfectly… Is what I’m sure VW thinks everyone says, however all the tool manages to do is tear apart that little star shaped hole until there’s nothing left to grip at which point you may consider leaving the car on the side of the road with the keys in it.

Truthfully, the best tool for the job is a pair of needle nose pliers and some steady hands, and the right type of OE VAG wheel. Stick one half of the pliers in the hole, position the other on the outside, facing which ever way has the most side of the cap exposed and gently wiggle it out. Unfortunately some wheel types prevent getting good grip on the outer edge.

God, it’s been so long since I’ve had to deal with this, I’m a little mad at you for reminding me. Mostly, I’m just sorry that you’re one of many who suffer the fate of owning a VW with them.

CSRoad
CSRoad
1 year ago

In the ’70’s and ’80’s there were 1 mm thick, silver, hexagonal covers that made the wheel bolts on your Scirocco or GTI appear as 19mm or 3/4″ instead of 17mm they actually were. The VAG obviously made them more elaborate over time, because they weren’t confusing enough and smelled of added value to somebody.

Buzz
Buzz
1 year ago
Reply to  CSRoad

Focus ST lug nuts are like that too. Very annoying.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 year ago

FAHRVERGNÜGEN

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
1 year ago

See, your logical error here, is that you are forgetting that this is a VW. VW is inscrutability personified. I have sometimes loved, and sometimes hated them because of this. But there has never been a time that I assumed VW design to be reasonable. They are similar in this regard to Peugeot. Not as intensely insane perhaps. But similarly possessed of a systematic disregard for the obvious, and an equally frustrating enchantment with the bizarre. It’s simply what they do. One must accept this. It is in the nature of the beast.

GFunk
GFunk
1 year ago

If you’re going to melt them down the end product must be a bust of Ferdinand Piech. You know those things were his fault. Here is an artist’s rendering on which you may model your new keychain:

https://www.lasamarmo.it/en/works/artists/elias-wallnoefer-2.html

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
1 year ago

Think of the maybe .19 cents Wolfsburg saves per Jetta by continuing to use the cheapest metal importable to the EU. MK4 lugs would rust in Arizona if you parked next to a Old Cheesecake Factory. There still paying off that time that time they put a W8 in Passat. So, instead of an actual lug nut made out of real metal. Gunther gave it a little party hat for .02 extra cents and became chief of engineering at Seat or something.

StayPutReachJump
StayPutReachJump
1 year ago

Clearly, you did not read the owner’s manual, something that any good German car owner would have done as soon as they took possession of the car.

If you had, you would have seen that in the toolkit of the car, one would find a little round paperclip-looking thing with a little hook on one end. This allows one to stick their finger through the round loop, feed the hook through the cover caps and simply pull the cap out with actual ease…

And if your fine German automobile doesn’t have its kleine Radmutterverschönugnsdeckelnentfernungsgerät (Lug nut beautification cover removal tool) any longer, you can order a new one from FCP Euro at this link here

Last edited 1 year ago by StayPutReachJump
Lokki
Lokki
1 year ago

Trust the Germans to add an unnecessary part that requires special tool…

StayPutReachJump
StayPutReachJump
1 year ago
Reply to  Lokki

Aber natürlich!

Lincoln Clown CaR
Lincoln Clown CaR
1 year ago
Reply to  Lokki

I made an improved version of the tool with a bent coat hanger.

David Tracy
David Tracy
1 year ago

This is an amazing comment.

StayPutReachJump
StayPutReachJump
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Danke! I love German compound words, and I love creating them from the ridiculous engineering that Germans put into their cars…

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
1 year ago

You forgot to mention that the provided tool doesn’t actually pull the entire cap cleanly off, it basically just pulls chunks out of the centre of it until you expsoe enough of the hex to get a socket on.

StayPutReachJump
StayPutReachJump
1 year ago
Reply to  FlavouredMilk

I think that’s more a function of the plastic cap getting brittle and breaking and the caps getting gummed up with dirt making them harder to remove rather than the tool not working. I’ve also used a right-angle pick to remove them pretty easily, has a bit more length than the OEM little hook doohickey.

I had a 2011 Jetta Sportwagen TDI (6MT) (yes, a diesel, manual transmission wagon, but it wasn’t brown…) with these on it, and never had a problem pulling the caps off. I think what I had going for me too is that I also had a set of snow tires on VW wheels, so twice a year, the caps got removed and reinstalled when I swapped summers for snows or vice versa. So they never got heavily gunked up.

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
1 year ago

You’re not wrong, the fault is the cap, but I’d still argue that the cap and tool are a united concept and one that has failed spectacularly. There are a handful of tools that do the job better, and there’s a dozen ways I can think of off the top of my head to have made it better from the get go.

The version Audi (not sure if exclusively) used where the centre cap has 5 little arms that all have a wheel nut cover at the end was significantly easier to deal with, and despite feeling flimsy at times, I’ve never broken one.

StayPutReachJump
StayPutReachJump
1 year ago
Reply to  FlavouredMilk

Yeah, its a pretty silly concept all together. Like, VW, just spec a decent lug nut and you’re done! Or, like you said, the center cap that covers the lug nuts too.

Just thinking of the whole design process of those little things makes me laugh. Imagine a bunch of VW product designers and engineers:

Designer: “Hey, you know what would look really cool on the wheels? Lug nuts that use a Torx bit instead. So sleek.”

Engineer: “Well, the Torx bit would barely give us the torque we need to keep the wheel on. And it would be a weird, unique lug nut that most roadside assistance people and tire/wheel shops wouldn’t have. And it could easily get stripped out and then the wheel is stuck on.”

Designer: “Well, we can have a regular cheap lug nut, but then put a little plastic cover that looks like a Torx bolt. Would that work?”

Engineer: “Uh, yeah, that would work. But how would you get the cover off?”

Designer: “Hey, maybe you can design a little removal tool for it.”

Engineer: “Oh sweet! Another special tool! And we can have a little slot in the tool kit styrofoam for it!”

Designer: “Yeah, and we’ll tell the manual team to clearly describe it so owners know not to use a Torx bit on the Torx-bolt-looking-cover but to use our special removal tool instead!”

Engineer: “Perfect! Prost! But wait, the accountant team will never approve this.”

Designer: “Don’t worry, we’ll tell them its to protect the cheap lug nuts from corroding. That way, we get the sleek look, you get to design a new special tool, and the accountants will think we’re thinking ahead to save them money!”

Applause, and scene.

Months later, in the manual:

  • Take the wire clip out of the vehicle tool kit.
  • Insert the wire clip through the opening of the cover cap and pull off in the direction of the arrow.

The caps are designed to protect the wheel bolts and should be installed again after the wheel change.
The anti-theft wheel bolt has a separate cap. This only fits the anti-theft wheel bolt, but not the standard wheel bolts.

Paul Kett
Paul Kett
1 year ago

I think you could create a subsection for the owner’s manual on methods for removing the lug nut covers. Section 52 B-1 32 pages in length.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
1 year ago

This is a fantastic comment, and I love the fact that this webpage will be the only place on the Internet where the word Radmutterverschönugnsdeckelnentfernungsgerät can be found for at least a few minutes… that’s a googlewhack!

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

Copied, pasted and concurred.

StayPutReachJump
StayPutReachJump
1 year ago

Except I went and spelled it wrong!

Should be Radmutterverschönungsdeckelentfernungsgerät… I’m such an idiot…

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

No worries. COTD was several articles ago by now. Better luck next time a bolt of pure brilliance strikes you.

Radu D
Radu D
1 year ago

The funny thing is that sometimes, we call the “owner’s manual”, “engineering’s regrets and omissions”.
and this happens …

Ron Boyce
Ron Boyce
1 year ago

Clicked on article for mutual hatred of asinine VAG engineering choices (wheel attachment, oil changes, etc.) and found usual Torchinsky word-magic…”angry robo-pig face”.

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