Wheel Spacers Pros and Consby William Zane
Wheel spacers are round metal spacers that go between a car or truck's hub and the wheel. Spacers locate the wheel further away from the body and are used for a variety of reasons, including fitment, performance and appearance. There are two main types of wheel spacers. The first is a simple design that slides over the existing lug bolts or studs. The other is a bolt-on type, which bolts to the car’s hub. The wheels are then bolted to the wheel spacer.
Wheel spacers are most commonly used to ensure that a particular set of wheels will fit properly on a vehicle if the wheels have the incorrect offset. If wheels interfere with suspension components or body work in the inner wheel arches, then installing a set of wheel spacers may solve this problem by locating the wheels further away from the body work. On the other hand, wheel spacers can potentially cause interference issues since they may locate the wheels closer to the fender lips and body work around the fender openings.
Another reason that wheel spacers are used is to make a vehicle look better. Wheels that come out to the edge of a vehicle's body work (but not past) give the vehicle a better “stance,” which is how it sits on the road. Wheel spacers have been used for years by companies such as Porsche to not only improve handling but to make the vehicle look more aggressive. However, if the wheel spacer is too wide, it can result in an odd look, where the wheels protrude outside of the body work too far.
Another reason for using wheel spacers is to increase the handling of your vehicle. Wheel spacers are installed between the hub and the wheel and push the wheel further away from the chassis, widening the track. This is turn increases the amount of grip that your vehicle has in corners, allowing faster cornering. Spacers can also change the balance of your car’s handling. For instance, if you install spacers in the back but not the front, than you will get more grip in the rear. This in turn will cause your car to understeer, where the front goes towards the outside of the corner, during cornering, because of the increased grip from the rear.
Wheel spacers can cause accelerated wear on suspension and hub components because of the added stress that they place on parts that were designed to certain tolerances by the manufacturer. Because the wheels are further from the hub, more stress is placed on the wheel bearing, hubs and/or axles, potentially causing these parts to fail prematurely.
Depending on the size of the wheel spacers, the steering will potentially become heavier. The wider track means that more effort is needed to turn the wheels, which can make it more difficult to turn the steering wheel. Again, this is dependent on the width of the spacer. A small, ¼-inch width spacer will not have as much effect as a 1- or 2-inch spacer.
William Zane has been a freelance writer and photographer for over six years and specializes primarily in automotive-related subject matter among many other topics. He has attended the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, where he studied automotive design, and the University of New Mexico, where he studied journalism.