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Are Wheel Spacers Actually Safe?

December 15, 2020

 

Wheel spacers are a bit of a controversial topic. Actually, let's not beat around the bush; this is a hot controversial topic for many.  Some people swear by spacers and say they are great items for adjusting the offset of your wheels; especially if you make a mistake and buy the wrong aftermarket wheels due to misjudgment in measurements.

 

Bagged Toyota Corolla

 

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Others say wheel spacers are the devil and should never, ever, be used because they could cause more harm to your vehicle than it's worth. It isn’t that simple, however.

 

Bagged Toyota Corolla

 

While various things can go wrong, it all really comes down to what you are buying and how you are installing your new spacers. 

 

Bagged Infiniti G37

 

We will be going over spacers as a whole and whether if it is a good idea to run them or not. There’s a lot of love and hate for these things. So, let’s get to it! 

 

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Bagged G37

 

Table of Contents

- What are Wheel Spacers?

- Difference in Wheel Spacers

- What to Look For in a Wheel Spacer

- Example of High-Quality Wheel Spacers

- Why You Shouldn't Cheap Out

- Installation

 

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2008 INFINITI G37 SPORT

 

 

1. What are Wheel Spacers?

Wheel spacers are devices that are used to extend the wheel and tires further out; to put it in simple terms. They go over the hub assembly of the car creating a more positive wheel offset. 

 

2012 SUBARU WRX STI BASE

 

Reasons for Wheel Spacers:

● Aesthetic purposes

● Increased performance

● They bought the wrong wheel

 

Bagged Lexus IS350 Widebody

 

There are both functional and aesthetic reasons for why someone would run wheel spacers. With advantages like these, you might be wondering why would anyone dismiss something like this.

 

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2006 LEXUS IS350 BASE

 

There are indeed great benefits to using spacers, but they also come with drawbacks. You can also find wheel adapters that will change your bolt pattern.

 

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Bagged IS350 Roller

 

 

2. The Bad News... 

For example, they may increase the wear of the bearings, axles, and hubs since the vehicle you are driving likely wasn’t designed for the additional width you set it to; depending on how far out you are going with your wheel offset of course.

 

Slammed 350z

 

You also run the risk of nightmare scenarios where your wheel comes flying off as you are driving if you failed to install them correctly. 

 

 

There also have been reports of spacers basically “welding” themselves to your wheel which results in the trusty sledgehammer being brought out.

 

2005 NISSAN 350Z 35TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION Gallery

 

As you might have guessed, wheel spacers attained a bad reputation in the community for a reason, but it isn’t as black and white as some make it seem. 

 

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2005 NISSAN 350Z 35TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

 

We will be diving more into the dos and don'ts with wheel spacers and detailing all the proper precautions to take to ensure that all the worst-case scenarios do not happen to you. After all, there are many people who happily use wheel spacers and never have any problems.

 

READ: STANCE WHEELS

 

 

3. Differences in Wheel Spacers 

A big first mistake a lot of people make when it comes to wheel spacers is getting one of poor quality. You’ll see a lot of no-names, poor-quality wheel spacers on eBay that are sold for an extremely low price and this is one of the reasons why people end up having a bad experience with spacers.

 

2016 FORD FOCUS ST

 

When there is a weak point in whatever is holding your wheels onto the can, I can almost guarantee that something will break and it will cost you.

 

1998 TOYOTA SUPRA BASE

 

 

4. Things to Look for When Buying Wheel Spacers 

When looking for a spacer, pay attention to...

  • The materials used
  • If it has a hub-centric ring to aid with weight rotation
  • What brand your product is coming from 

all of these things are going to make a huge difference. 

 

Alfa Romeo Giulia with Asanti Wheels

 

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5. Examples of High-Quality Wheel Spacers 

A good example of a high-quality spacer that we recommend you take a look at if you plan to get a spacer is the line of Adaptec spacers. They are made out of T60, 61 Aircraft Grade aluminum with 10.1 steel studs, and a hub-centric ring. The materials and build quality are going to set you up for success when running spacers.

 

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2016 FORD FOCUS ST

 

This is just one example of many out there, however. A good general rule of thumb is to go with a trusted brand to start with and look for quality, durable materials. 

 

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Subaru Wheel Spacer Rear

 

 

6. Why You Shouldn’t Cheap Out

The problem with cheaper spacers is that they are not very resistant to heat due to the lower melting point of the metals used. You end up with problems such as your spacer getting nearly welded with the wheel which is something we touched on earlier.

 

Lowered Lotus Exige

 

This is a reason why you do not want to go for the cheapest spacers you can find. Like with any other aftermarket car part, especially something designed for functionality, you can get junk that will make your driving experience worse than it was before. 

 

2010 HYUNDAI GENESIS COUPE 2.0T

 

But low pricing does not mean “junk” by default when it comes to aftermarket parts. Once you get into looking around for aftermarket parts in general, it will eventually become common-sense when something is too good to be true.

 

2010 HYUNDAI GENESIS COUPE 2.0T

 

READ: POPULAR BUDGET TIRES

 

 

7. Proper Installation and Cautions

Having a spacer of good quality isn’t the only thing that will prevent you from issues. The installation itself is going to make or break your experience.

 

2012 SUBARU WRX STI BASE

 

These things are attached to fast spinning wheels rolling down the road from anywhere between 1 and 200+ MPH depending on what you are doing and so proper fitting to ensure your wheel doesn’t fly off is critical. 

 

Bagged Focus ST

 

Your most important rule to follow is tightening the studs properly. For example, you should be able to rotate your studs 6.5-8 times to get them seated properly.

If you are unable to rotate your studs to this degree then looking for wheel spacers with lug studs included should do the trick. 

 

Lowered Toyota MR2

 

Regarding those additional lug studs, you now have an additional asset sticking out of your spacers that your wheels also attach to, unless you grind them down you will have your wheels sticking out a bit more than originally intended.

 

MR2 GALLERY

 

2012 SUBARU WRX STI BASE

 

This will lead to issues such as balance and potential wheel loss. This is why it is crucial to trim those studs so that they are short enough that your wheel can fit snugly against the spacer. 

 

Bagged MK6 Jetta GLI

 

The bigger your wheel spacer is, the more potential problems you may have and thus you should proceed with caution if you are looking to go past a 25mm spacer. 

 

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370Z Wheel Spacer

 

Conclusion

There are complications with wheel spacers for sure but doing them correctly will yield rewarding results! If you are planning on getting yourself a set, just do your research and measurements and follow proper installation.

You will be on your way to a successful relationship with these controversial items! 

 

2016 FORD FOCUS ST

 

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What do you think about wheel spacers? Let us know in the comments below!

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Comments (1)

DDarren

04/17/2021

I am contemplating spacers for my 09 S5. With the factory wheels on, which look amazing power-coated satin black, are a little tucked. I have done measurements and research and it looks like a 20mm rear and 15mm front. Only thing that has held me back is the power my S5 makes is pretty more substantial than stock. I just wonder if they can handle that kind of speed and power.

*Subject to approval within a 24-48 hours time frame.


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