Wheel spacers are aftermarket parts that move your wheels farther from the vehicle’s body. They widen the stance, fix extreme backspacing and clearance issues, and improve appearance. Used on street cars and off-roaders, they are installed onto the wheel assembly and come in hub-centric and lug-centric designs.
What Are Wheel Spacers?
Wheel spacers are flat metal discs, often made of billet aluminum, installed between the wheel hub and wheel. They range in size from 5mm to 45mm or larger. Spacers move the wheels away from the frame and body, improving stability, allowing larger tires, and increasing grip.
What Do Wheel Spacers Do?
Wheel spacers space out wheels for better handling and steering response. They ensure proper bolt engagement, provide clearance for wider wheels, and can correct wheel offset. This alteration changes the wheel’s position, benefiting various vehicle aspects from appearance to performance.
Types of Wheel Spacers
Hub-Centric Wheel Spacers
Hub-centric wheel spacers are known for their precise fit because they center directly on the wheel hub. The borehole in these spacers matches perfectly with the wheel’s centering flange, ensuring a snug and accurate fit. This precision makes them a preferred choice, as they reduce the risk of installation errors.
Lug-Centric Wheel Spacers
Lug-centric wheel spacers rely on the lug nuts for centering. The borehole in these spacers is typically larger than the wheel’s centering flange, requiring conical lug nuts for attachment. They must be tightened by hand in a star pattern.
Lug-centric spacers are often used for vehicles with unique hub sizes, where creating hub-centric spacers for each variation is not commercially viable.
Hub-centric spacers are generally more popular, while lug-centric spacers exist for vehicles with unique hub sizes.
How to Install a Wheel Spacer?
Installing wheel spacers correctly is straightforward with the right spacers, tools, and steps.
- Torque wrench
- Mechanic’s socket set
- Tire iron or ratchet and socket set
- Low-profile floor jack
- Jack stands
- Wheel chocks
- Wire brush
- Brake cleaner
- Ensure you have the correct size and type of spacers.
- Park the vehicle on a level surface. Lose the lug nuts but don’t remove them.
- By using wheel chocks, jack up the vehicle and secure it with jack stands. Now remove the wheels.
- Clean the hub with a wire brush. Slide spacers over the existing lug nuts.
- For bolt-on spacers, tight the spacer lug nuts. Ensure enough thread for secure installation.
- For bolt-on spacers, torque them as per instructions (typically about 90 ft-lbs). Use a star pattern for torquing.
- Reinstall the wheels.
- Raise off jack stands, remove them, and lower the vehicle.
- Again torque the lug nuts using the manufacturer’s specs, following a star pattern
Pros and Cons of Using Wheel Spacers
- Wheel spacers can give your vehicle a more aggressive, unique look.
- By widening the vehicle’s track, spacers can improve stability and handling, especially during off-roading. They also improve handling in vehicles with a high center of gravity.
- They allow for the fitment of upgraded components like brakes or suspension, which might otherwise cause clearance issues.
- If not installed correctly, they can lead to severe safety issues, including wheels coming off during driving.
- Altering the vehicle from its stock setup can decrease the life of components like wheel bearings and suspension.
- This makes the vehicle less maneuverable as the tire track becomes wider.
When to Use Wheel Spacers?
- To give your vehicle a distinct look.
- Especially in trucks or SUVs, to reduce the likelihood of rollovers.
- To fit larger or different brakes and suspension systems that might not otherwise fit.
- Especially useful when aftermarket parts have incorrect fitment.
Do Wheel Spacers Increase or Decrease Offset?
Wheel spacers increase the offset of your wheels. Adding spacers pushes the wheel further away from the hub, thus increasing the offset. In other words, wheel spacers lead to negative offset.
Are Wheel Spacers Legal?
Wheel spacers are legal in most countries and regions, including the United States. However, laws can vary by region, and it’s essential to check local regulations. The legality often hinges on not making the wheels protrude excessively from the hub assembly.
Are Wheel Spacers Worth It?
The worth of wheel spacers is subjective and depends on the user’s needs and understanding. If installed correctly and made of high-quality materials, they can be beneficial for off-roading.