DEAR CAR TALK: My wife’s car is a very well maintained 2015 Lincoln MKZ. It only has 34,000 miles on it. After a routine oil change and tire rotation last week, the dealer’s service editor said it was difficult for them to rotate the tires as we have a situation with “swollen wheel nuts” .

He strongly recommended that we have them exchanged, at a cost of nearly $100. A quick investigation on the Internet has verified that this is indeed a real problem in recent years with Ford and other manufacturers.

As a 66-year-old man who is still a teenager at heart, I confess that I first had to suppress a laugh at the diagnosis of “swollen wheel nuts”.

But, I soon realized that this could be a dangerous and/or costly thing. What if we were to get a flat tire away from home and I couldn’t get the wheel out?

Shouldn’t Ford have issued a factory recall on this? I guess buying new lug nuts is the way to go, but how do I make sure I get the right size and that the new ones won’t be prone to bulging as well?

No suggestions? — John

DEAR READER: You got the wrong columnist, if you want me to condemn you for laughing at swollen wheel nuts.

In winter, I regularly have to tell a customer that his nuts are frozen. Try doing this with a straight face, John.

Either way, yes, it’s a real thing. And you should address it. The dealer will have the correct size replacements for you. The problem is that the lug nuts themselves are steel, but they are coated on your car with a thin chrome plating – because I guess some people prefer shiny nuts.

Over time, water gets trapped between the steel and the chrome cover, and the steel begins to rust (especially if you live in a place where they use a lot of road salt). This rust is pushing against the chrome cover and making it bigger, and all of a sudden you can’t put your pin wrench on it.

Now, if you’re in a repair shop, they can just use a socket the size up, and that’s okay. But, if you run over a petrified armadillo in rural Texas and get a flat tire, you’ll only have one key with you. And it won’t fit.

So, yes, it’s a shame that this happens. But my advice is to just spend the $100 and try to balance that with a good laugh, John.

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DEAR CAR TALK: I recently purchased a used 2017 Toyota Highlander mainly because of its size. I need it to transport kayaks to a launch point.

I’m too old to lift the kayaks onto the roof, so I bungee them in the car with the seats down. But, to put them away, I have to leave the back door ajar. The “Door Open” buzzer is driving me crazy for the 30-40 minutes it takes to get to the launch point.

Is there a way to turn it off/trick it into thinking the door is closed? — roger

DEAR READER: The next time you buy a car just to put kayaks in it, you should probably make sure the kayaks actually fit in it.

I am opposed to defeating the buzzer. The buzzer is designed to annoy you, because it is really unsafe to drive the car with the door ajar.

The problem is that, exhaust fumes and carbon monoxide poisoning aside, the doors are part of the car’s safety structure. So if you go into a wreck with an open door, the car might bend in a way it’s not supposed to. Crash tests assume all doors are securely closed.

So, I take the buzzer’s side in this argument, Roger. Rather than defeating the security system, I think you should find a way to drive with the doors closed. I mean, if you go two blocks, okay. But, 30-40 minutes? I do not think so.

So what about kayaks? I will submit a trailer. There are trailers designed just for bulky but lightweight items like kayaks.

You want what’s called a “low bed” kayak trailer, that’s exactly what it sounds like. If you search online, you will find many reviews and suggestions. You can choose something like the Yakima Rack and Roll 66. This is a lightweight aluminum trailer – weighing around 150 pounds – that holds two kayaks. And, I think the cargo height is even lower than your Highlander’s rear deck.

If you want, you can attach a carrying handle to it, so when you get to the launch point, you can unhook it from your car and roll it into the water with the kayaks still on it.

Being able to roll it by hand also means you won’t have to back up and park with the trailer, avoiding ridicule from other kayakers.

If your Highlander doesn’t have a tow hitch, it’s something you can have a dealership, body shop, or U-Haul store install.

I think that’s a safer option than driving with an open door, Roger. This means that you will have to find another way to put your life in danger. But, considering you’re out in open water, I’m sure you can think of something. Good paddle.

Ray Magliozzi dispenses car advice on Car Talk every Saturday. Email him by visiting


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