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Are Wheel Spacers Actually Safe?

Fitment Industries Author | | July 3rd, 2018 |

  • - When we look at spacers, the YouTube comment section turns into a war zone, cause you have two groups of people. You have the people that say that it's not that bad and as long as you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, you just run them til the wheels fall off. And then you have the other people that say no, absolutely not, you better not run spacers, otherwise your entire car's gonna implode. So when you go onto YouTube and you type in, "are spacers actually safe," you get 10 to 12 different channels.

    Engineering explained, there's a bunch of garage channels that all talk about it, and you get a bunch of different answers. So we thought we'd try to give it our take on, "Are spacers actually safe?" And we're gonna talk a little bit about everything that you would wanna know before actually picking up a set of spacers, or if you even should. Before we get started, just hit that subscribe button. We're trying to get to 100,000, because we hit 50,000. So thank you guys so much; I appreciate it. I still don't have a beard; I'm trying really hard to grow that. It's been six weeks but I don't wanna talk about it. So we're just gonna jump right into it.

    So spacers are the easiest way to get perfect fitment. A lot of times when people are looking to pick up wheels they go with the one-piece cast. And if you're looking at something that's a 35 or a 40 offset, a lot of times you're not gonna get that perfect fender look, because you're gonna have to have, you know, a couple extra millimeters to poke it out or in, depending on the car that you have to buy. And on top of that, if you really go into the multi-piece wheel game, you can even mess that up too. People make mistakes when they're buying their wheels and six to eight weeks to by and you're still two, three millimeters off. So spacers help answer the question of really fixing mistakes or getting that perfect fitment. Two to three millimeters is usually pretty much the most common, but there are other spacers out there that get much, much bigger, depending on how much offset you need to change.

    Now here's where the keyboard warriors just come out of the woodwork, because they're gonna tell you, "If you mess it up once, just go buy new wheels and tires, "because you can't run spacers, "cause they're the worst thing in the world." Spacers aren't the end of the world. And we're gonna talk more about that in the video. But you don't wanna go spend two to three grand and then go make the mistake on the offset or maybe the offset just wasn't provided, and then have somebody tell you to go spend another two or three grand to get the right offset wheels. I don't know anybody that does that. I don't know anybody that would wanna spend an additional $2,000 to $3,000, because a lot of you guys spend 20,000, 30,000 on your car to begin with. And the last thing you wanna do is fork over another two or three grand. So spacers are just a way for you to dial in fitment to pretty much the Nth degree, depending on how specific you want to get. So we're gonna break this dilemma down into three questions, how are they made, what about the stud length, and how extreme are we going. Alright, so we have an eBay spacer adapter with the bolts in there. It's not hub-centric, in case you couldn't tell. It looks like it had a run-in with the law. It didn't work out too well. I have no idea what this is made out of. We don't know what it's made out of. The website that we bought it from didn't tell us what it was made out of. And we just generally don't have any concept on what it can withstand and what it can't withstand.

    A lot of times people go cheap with the metal, they go cheap with the studs, they go cheap with pretty much anything to save a buck. And then obviously non-hub-centric is a huge issue, especially when you're looking to run after-market wheels. Then you have an Adaptec spacer. Now Adaptec is one that we sell and I'm not gonna try and sales pitch you or anything like that, but the first thing that you're gonna notice is that it has a hub-centric ring, which is killer in terms of vibration and issues that you're gonna have with a lot of weight rotational issues with non-hub-centric wheel spacers, especially over the long term. On top of that, you're looking at T60, 61 aircraft grade aluminum and a 10.1 steel stud. That's gonna make sure that these suckers don't break. And what I'm trying to get across in terms of the point is how are the spacers or adapters that you're buying, how are they made? If you're looking at wheel spacers or adapters, regardless of what brand you're looking to buy, you wanna make sure that they're actually good metal. If it's forged, if it's not forged, if it's aluminum, if it's billet, if it's steel, if it's not, all of those things matter, because ultimately this becomes a part of your assembly and if this is the weak point in your car, yeah, you're gonna have issues. A lot of times, those Amazon or eBay, if you don't know the brand or you don't know where you're coming from, they may not be the best quality. Whereas if you look at companies like Adaptec or other companies that take a lot of pride in how they make their products, you're gonna get a good spacer and it's super important to understand that. Because at the end of the day it depends on how they're made, not just what the purpose of the product is. And that goes with pretty much anything.

    You go to buy wheels and tires or just tires, you buy good tires or you can buy junk tires and you're obviously gonna be able to tell the difference on the quality of both; the same goes for your spacers. And at the same time don't forget that just because the quality might be different, you don't get to brag about it, but there are other things that can happen with it too. If you have improper balance between the metal, you're gonna have issues with your tires and rotation. You're also gonna have issued with warping and heat, which does happen a lot with those cheaper spacers. They can actually get almost glued onto your wheel or onto your assembly. And that can cause a massive amount of issues. There are some people that have actually had issues with that in the past. They end up taking a sledgehammer to their OZs. And you have the video that went viral a couple of months ago. And now we go onto the second thing which are the studs. So a lot of people will go and they'll buy their spacers and a lot of times it goes for a 25 millimeter spacer, they have studs on them. They throw them on their car, the put the wheel on, they torque it to spec, they're going down the road at 70 miles an hour, and all of a sudden they look out their window and their wheel that was now on the back of their car is now going 75 miles an hour and you're wondering, "What the (beep) just happened?" A lot of times that happens because of a lot of people not properly installing their spacers and not thinking about just how the whole overall geometry of it works.

    So we're gonna jump into it just a little bit. The easiest way to think about it is this, is that if your spacer is just the spacer itself, and it doesn't feature any additional studs or anything like that, when you place that on, you're gonna want to torque them up to 6.5 to eight rotations to ensure maximum torque and make sure that they're seated correctly. If you're having issues getting that many turns, what you're gonna have to end up looking at are spacers with lug studs also included with them, because that's gonna allow you to get the appropriate torque and the appropriate tightening, which you're gonna need to make sure that your car spacers are safe. Now, when you put on spacers with the additional lug studs attached to them, now you're gonna have to look at how is that going to go in the overall scheme of things? Because if you have a one and a half inch spacer but your studs are 1.75 inches, you're gonna have a quarter inch of stud sticking through your spacer. What happens is people put on their wheels and all of a sudden you have a quarter inch of space in between where the wheels should sit and where they are sitting. You torque it to spec and you essentially have that space that results in people losing their tires or having just overall imbalance issues and it causes a huge mess. And that's where probably 90% of the issues with spacers come from, is the fact that they don't trim down their studs. If you're getting spacers with additional studs attached to them because they're a bigger spacer, you're gonna wanna be able to trim those studs down. Otherwise, you're gonna run into issues like that.

    A lot of times, most people don't if you're looking at a five or 10 millimeter spacer, but once you jump up to 20 to 25 millimeters, it's not gonna be uncommon for you to grab a grinder and have to grind down your studs to make sure that you get proper fitment. And the third and final thing is how extreme are you going to get. It's not uncommon for truck wheels and truck companies to offer two, three inch spacers, because that's just the norm, especially if you wanna get that poke. But for cars, it comes down to five to 10 millimeters. Usually a lot of people don't run much up above 25 millimeters, because of how much customization car wheels offer you. But if you're looking to get more extreme, you always have to remember that the larger you go, the more careful that you have to be. A lot of times those longer, wider, bigger spacers can sometimes cause issue with load bearing and different things like that. We don't want to jump into the science of it, but just a general word of thumb is that if you're going into bigger spacers, if it's possible, you're going into the more extreme things. It's important for you to make sure you're double and triple checking all of your math. At the end of the day, the wheels are what keep you on the ground, and if you have issues with it, you're likely