Ford Thunderbird/Cougar 1983-1997 Repair Guide



Wheels must be replaced when they are bent, dented, heavily rusted, have air leaks or enlongated bolt holes. Replacement wheels must be equal to the original equipment wheels in load capacity, diameter, width, offset and mounting configuration. An improper wheel may affect wheel bearing life, ground and tire clearance, speedometer and odometer misreadings.

Corrosion buildup can result in wheels sticking to the axle or rotor flange. To help prevent this from happening, spray wheel center and wheel stud nuts with a good penetrating oil. Once the wheel has been removed, clean the axle/rotor flange and wheel bore with a wire brush, steel wool or other suitable material. Spread a thin coat of disc brake caliper grease on the wheel bore, but do not put grease on the wheel studs. Use spray penetrating lubricant on the wheel studs.

To avoid injury from vehicles with a Traction-Lok® axle, NEVER run the engine with only one wheel off the ground, such as changing a tire. The wheel still on the ground could cause the vehicle to move.
Never allow hoists or jacks to contact the axle housing, halfshafts or CV joints.
Do not attempt to use jack pressure on either front or rear bumpers of any Unitized Bodied vehicle.
The mini spare is provided only for temporary emergency use. Do not use as a regular tire. Service or replace the regular tire as soon as possible.


The service jack provided with the vehicle is only intended to be used in an emergency, for changing a deflated tire. Never use the service jack to hoist the vehicle for any other service.

See Figure 1

  1. Using the end of the lug wrench, either remove the wheel cover or carefully pry off the wheel cover applique, as applicable.

Click image to see an enlarged view

Fig. Fig. 1: On aluminum wheels, you must remove the center wheel cover to access the lug nuts

  1. If equipped, remove the wheel locking nut.
  3. Loosen the remaining lug nuts with the wheel on the ground, then raise and safely support the vehicle. If you are working at home (not on a roadside emergency) support the car safely using jackstand(s).
  5. Remove the lug nuts, then remove the wheel and tire assembly.

If the wheel is stuck or rusted on the hub, make all the lug nuts finger-tight, then back each one off 2 turns. Put the car back on the ground and rock it side to side. Get another person to help, if necessary. This is far safer than hitting a stuck wheel with the vehicle on a jack or jackstands.

To install:
  1. Clean the wheel bore and bolt holes as necessary.
  3. Position wheel and tire assembly onto the axle or hub.
  5. Install the lug nuts hand-tight.
  7. Carefully lower the vehicle, then tighten the lug nuts in a rotation, skipping every other one. Always use a torque wrench to avoid uneven tightening. Tighten the lug nuts (including the locking nut, if so equipped) to 80-105 ft. lbs. (115-142 Nm).
  9. Install the wheel cover, ensuring that the valve stem is positioned correctly, if so equipped.