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

Cap Stipid Top
ADVERTISEMENT

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.

Cap Close

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

 

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:

ADVERTISEMENT

Cap Medclose

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

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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

Picture 1 of 3
Image from oakleafautosalvage/eBay
Picture 3 of 3
Image from oakleafautosalvage/eBay
Picture 2 of 3
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

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Relatedbar

GM Getting Rid Of Apple CarPlay And Android Auto Is Such A Ridiculous Risk, I Don’t Think They’ll Actually Do It

Someone Maybe Should Explain To This Fox News Show Host What The Hell Catalytic Converters Actually Do

Everyone’s Completely Baffled By The Cringey Voiceovers In Lamborghini’s ‘Huracán Sterrato’ Off-Road Videos

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
129 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
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”..

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
1 year ago

Yeah, these bugged me too on the VW’s I owned. But then again, it bugged me they used studs and not lugs in the first place.

Last edited 1 year ago by Pat Rich
Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
1 year ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

In my experience that’s a European Manufacturer Thing? Renault, M-B/smart, BMW, & VW cars I’ve owned all have bolts rather than nuts whereas all the Korean/Japanese cars of friends rock the nuts. I hope someone will correct me if I’m off base.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 year ago

I am an experienced amateur wrench. The first time I encountered those on my wife’s new car I was quite confused. These lug nuts feel like plastic and they are not a standard size. Took some time before I figured out you could pry them off. Really silly.

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
1 year ago

These are infinitely better than the Ford/GM/Chrysler lug nuts that have a chrome cap pressed over the steel nut. Water gets underneath and freezes, enlarging the cap so that no lug nut wrench will fit over (except for the 21.5mm lug nut socket specifically created by the aftermarket industry to remove them) or the cap twists the first time someone uses an impact to remove it and jams inside the impact socket.

My wife’s XC60 had chrome caps on the lug bolts that I removed the first time I put snows on. Looks fine without them – she never even noticed they were removed.

Isis
Isis
1 year ago

Those Chevy ones were to hold the hubcaps on tightly. My wife’s sunfire had the bloody things. So dumb.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
1 year ago

This. This exact kind of moronic over-engineered wasteful crap that no one else in the industry does so much and so badly is why I loathe almost all VAG vehicles, from not only an ownership perspective, but also as a former tech and currently a service advisor.

Adding insult to the injury of using lug-studs/bolts (which I still think is massively inferior to a wheel stud and lug nut setup), let’s add fiddly stupid covers (that are easy to lose in the dark and/or on the side of a roadway) that only want to come off easily when they least need to. I found that a right-angle pick tool was the best thing to remove them (and also works great on the dumb beauty covers other brands use on their lug nuts/studs/bolts except those screw-on ones like you showed from GM, and similarly Chrysler). This kind of thing is deliberate, and likely from some of the same minds that brought us “Dieselgate”, for those with short memories.

VAG and their engineers can pound sand.

Brandt S
Brandt S
1 year ago

I guess I’m in the minority for liking these. I have them on my Mk7 golf, all my previous VWs and a different version on my current B9 Audi Allroad. I like that you don’t see rusty lug bolts/nuts on the wheels. Not sure if you’ve ever noticed, but Mercedes doesn’t tend to cover their wheel nuts and they are almost always rusted. Not a great look for a fancy car. Audi also has a version where there’s a center cap for the hub that also covers the bolts in a star pattern. That’s my preferred version, but the cost to replace one of those if it goes missing is crazy. There’s a simple hook tool that’s supposed to be in the took kit on these cars that makes removing the caps a breeze, you know. If you read the manual you’d understand. 🙂

Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
1 year ago
Reply to  Brandt S

I like ’em too! And I came down here to say that if one Rs TFM the little hook-thingy makes it easy peasy to remove.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
1 year ago

Ah yes, the good ol’ days when VW installed useless lug caps and individual switches for all four windows.

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
1 year ago

There is supposed to be a little tool in the toolkit to take them out. If not, pick up a couple for $2 each:

https://www.fcpeuro.com/products/audi-vw-wheel-bolt-cover-removal-tool-genuine-audi-vw-6×0012243

I do like the looks with them in place.

Dale Mitchell
Dale Mitchell
1 year ago
Reply to  FloridaNative

Could be the wheel looks better with them than without;
But once one or two of them falls off, the car definitely looks worse – think missing hubcap

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
1 year ago
Reply to  FloridaNative

I used a right-angle pick tool (set of 4 differently-shaped picks from Harbor Freight for like $1 or so back when) for these when I was a tech. Worked a treat, and made it easier to put them back on by using the handle to tap them snugly into place. Still hate their existence, though.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
1 year ago
Reply to  FloridaNative

I always just stuck a flathead screwdriver in there and popped them off with a little pry action.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
1 year ago

This is just the lord’s way of telling you that OEM wheels suck and everything you own should be on a set of rare aftermarket wheels.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
1 year ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

I’d rather think it’s a sign that they need to rid of the hateful piece of garbage that is the tiguan, but that’s me.

Agc9e
Agc9e
1 year ago

Our GTi has these. I do think they look nice, but don’t really see the point. They are one extra step when changing sets of wheels and while they pop right out (bit of coat hanger bent into a hook does the trick) they can be fiddly and annoying to put back in.

That said, I’m not a fan of the way the stock bolt heads look without them so I always use em.

Stacheface
Stacheface
1 year ago

To sort of correct David, that isn’t really a good comparison. The GM caps are part of a center cap or hub cap assembly, they thread onto the lugs to hold it in place.

MP81
MP81
1 year ago
Reply to  Stacheface

Came here to say this – GM uses those to hold hubcaps on. They are not used on wheels (and thus, nor are the externally-threaded lugs) without hubcaps.

WalmartTech
WalmartTech
1 year ago
Reply to  Stacheface

Yup, the stock 14” wheel covers on my old Chevrolet Aveo had the plastic lug nut covers that went through the wheel cover and helped keep it secure in the rare instance of some mouth breathing tire shop grease monkey snapping all the tabs off of the outside perimeter.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 year ago
Reply to  Stacheface

Came here to say that too, but on the other hand other manufacturers seem to have no trouble keeping wheel covers on their wheels without literally bolting them down with the lug nut caps.

Nathan Gerdes
Nathan Gerdes
1 year ago

The first time I encountered these I had a moment where I thought the dealership had put locking nuts on every bolt. Caused some serious confusion until I figured out what’s up

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
1 year ago

My fiancee’s Tiguan has these and I hate them. A couple have disappeared already on a car thats less than a year old. I keep thinking about getting new ones just so it looks consistent, but I can’t bring myself to buy these stupid things. I should just go buy lug nuts that are finished.

Mark Pelto
Mark Pelto
1 year ago

The GM style pictured were used to help secure the hubcap in place on vehicles with steel wheels. My mother had an HHR and Malibu that both used them. In addition to being annoying and having to deal with them when you change a tire, they also never stay tight and give the added annoyance of loosening up and allowing the hubcap to flutter and make an annoying plastic-y rattle sound. Poor mom got so annoyed by it, she asked me to leave the hubcaps off, and actually the steel 5 spoke wheel underneath didn’t look terribly bad, aside from being black. In a way they reminded me of the Porsche 944 “cookie cutter” wheels.

Paul Kett
Paul Kett
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Pelto

The best part was when you took a big screwdriver to pry off the hubcap and couldn’t figure out why the hell it wouldn’t come off.

Beasy Mist
Beasy Mist
1 year ago

Oh they’re still doing that huh? In college I was with my extremely un-handy friend in his ’98 Jetta and we got a flat on I-95. I thought no big deal, I’m handy enough to change a tire. Until I got to the perfectly smooth, domed plastic bolt covers on his alloy wheels, and which we had no tool to remove. We had to wait for hours until AAA showed up and proceeded to use a small screwdriver to pry them off. I wanted to drive that fucking car off a cliff.

Fred Seelig
Fred Seelig
1 year ago

You’re like an artist trying to play pictionary. They suck at it. You, too, know too much for your own good. The first time I had to deal with those on my long life in VWs (it would have been my 2006 Jetta) I found the wire pry-off tool right away in the tire-changing kit and thought nothing of it. BTW, I think VW includes those because, combined those with ugly-ass cheapo lug bolts is cheaper than providing good-looking chromed wheel bolts in the first place. Plus, for hubcapped steel wheels, they can forgo the plastic caps and still use the same cheap bolts. No need to source different parts for different wheels!

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
1 year ago

This is better then shitty bolts that have pressed on chrome covers that eventually fail and just spin around the nut. Then you’re left trying to pry/drill/burn with laser eyes the damn cover off. And, even if you are able to get the inboard lip to deform enough to slide off the nut (which is wegded in an impossibly tight hole btw) you just end up with a nut that is slight smaller then it is supposed to be (because you lost the thickness of the cover that failed) and struggle to find a socket that will fit enough that it won’t destroy itself or round whats left of the nut.

I love those open ended nuts, seeing those mean I don’t have to worry about all that other crap. Put some shitty cap over it and move on.

JumboG
JumboG
1 year ago

Yeah, this right here. I’ve had to change about 1/2 the nuts on my Ford C-Max because of the stupid chrome cover. Luckily the aftermarket replacements don’t have the same problem since they are 1 piece.

I hate the GM ones shown as well.

Clark B
Clark B
1 year ago

I kind of like them. I had an extra set laying around from my ex’s Passat, and they were perfect for covering up the slightly rusty looking lug bolts that I use on my snow tires, which are fitted to the factory wheels of my Sportwagen.

Also, there should be a tool to remove them with your spare tire and other supplies. It looks like a round loop of metal with a little hook on the end, and makes removing them take about ten seconds.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
1 year ago

I thought they were Torx bolts as well. They never bothered me.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
1 year ago

My ’89 Firebird has plastic bolt covers. They serve a very real purpose – To make you feel like you accomplished something when you unscrew them. Because the joke-masquerading-as-a-lug-wrench can’t get the real lug nuts off at all. The plastic caps give you a tiny sense of victory as you stare at a flat tire you (or the tire shop) will never be able to fix.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
1 year ago

Those are useless. I can’t remember how many times I saw a novice tire store worker hook up the air drill and crack those thinking they were bolts.

I had one shop try the “I was like that when I got here” I pulled out my phone with the before pictures (something I do) and showed then in front of their shop the condition.

I was told we will fix it this time. I informed them there as not going to be a next time. Own the mistake, replace, move on.

Douglas Lain
Douglas Lain
1 year ago

So when with The Autopian have cockroach keychains available for purchase?

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 year ago
Reply to  Douglas Lain

I was confused by that line. Why a cockroach? Why not Beetle? It’s a VW part, and Beetle is right there

Flinched
Flinched
1 year ago

This is just typical VAG bullshit added to confuse and direct the average consumer to the dealership for repair. What a waste of material that increased production costs.

Last edited 1 year ago by Flinched
Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
1 year ago
Reply to  Flinched

Can confirm, FIL has had a bunch of VWs and he doesn’t do so much as replace a light bulb without taking it to a shop. If you make it look hard people won’t even try.

Outofstep
Outofstep
1 year ago

Oh god this just made me flash back to my ex’s Jetta and the fricking driver side headlight. It ALWAYS burnt out and the back was basically kissing the battery I cut my hands so many times removing the back cover on that pile of crap because it couldn’t be a simple twist off. Oh no, it had to be unclipped, pulled back and then pulled up to get to the bulb. I hated that car.

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
1 year ago
Reply to  Outofstep

Anything more than 5 minutes to replace a headlight bulb is rage educing for me.
To replace my headlight bulb I have to remove both front tires, half of each front wheel well liner, the entire font bumper cover, and then the whole headlight assembly.

Outofstep
Outofstep
1 year ago

That sounds like hell. Is it a VAG product? Because that sounds like something they would do.

Paul Kett
Paul Kett
1 year ago

You don’t have to pull the engine?

Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
1 year ago
Reply to  Outofstep

It’s not just VW; my then-girlfriend asked me to change a headlight on her Toyota Yaris. Try as I might I just couldn’t get my hand in to the tiny gap, and neither could she. Eventually we gave up and she asked the dealer to do it at her next oil change… turns out the OFFICIAL SHOP MANUAL procedure involved removing the front bumper. Took three techs 45 minutes to do.

The dealer comped the whole thing including the oil change, which was nice.

Outofstep
Outofstep
1 year ago
Reply to  Scone Muncher

Yikes. I remember in the manual for the Jetta when you looked up how to change the headlight it suggested taking it to the dealer. I’m sure it was something equally as ridiculous if we had done that.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
1 year ago

I think they look good, but agree, the center hole should be smooth round, not star/torx shape. That shape implies a bit, when really, you need that weird paperclip thingy that comes with the car that you use to pull them out.

1961ford
1961ford
1 year ago

The pain of removing the caps is soon forgotten.
Forgotten as soon as you try to align the wheel holes with the hub on the side of the road on that dark rainy night.
Lug bolts are even more stupid than the caps.

Matt Smith
Matt Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  1961ford

Just use the wheel hanger stud in the tool kit. It was never that big of a deal on my audi even without it.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Smith

Yes if you know that a wheel hangar stud exists, where it is located, and how to use it. The first-time flat changer will know none of those.

Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Smith

oh sh*t TIL
Thanks!

chad Face
chad Face
1 year ago
Reply to  1961ford

Lug bolts are fine as long as the wheels have the correct center bore. Put the wheel on the hub, spin until the holes line up, and install bolts.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
1 year ago
Reply to  chad Face

Look at this guy, with his non-rusty hubs and non-corroded aluminum wheels.

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
1 year ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

Take a brass brush to the inner bore of the wheel and its corresponding mating face on the hub, then rub both surfaces with silicone grease (same stuff you’d use for brake slide pins). You’ll thank yourself every time you have to remove a wheel from that point forward.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
1 year ago

Now I’ve got a gunky wheel.

I mean, I get your point, and I’m intentionally being obtuse here, but if you’ve got lug studs and nuts instead of lug screws, you wouldn’t have to do any of this.

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
1 year ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

As someone who spent two hours last weekend on just the wheel removal portion of a brake job, I agree with your point wholeheartedly.

The last time the wheels were off my newest shitbox was 2017, when previous owner got new tires; he did six years without even a tire rotation. If I lived in a salt state, those wheels might have been permanently fused to the hubs.

Richard O
Richard O
1 year ago
Reply to  chad Face

Agreed, except when there’s no little screw to keep the rotor from spinning with the wheel. Most of my cars use lug bolts. The only Audi I ever owned also used bolts, but didn’t have a rotor fixing screw to keep the rotor in place. That car was a total PITA.

Leo T.
Leo T.
1 year ago
Reply to  chad Face

Or in my case, drop the wheel onto the brake rotor because the lug bolts were just out of my reach

129
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x