Tire Guides and Advice that make the Grade

What Do Wheel Spacers Do?

Have you ever looked at your car or truck and wondered how you could make it stand out? Maybe give it a bit of an edge, or even improve how it handles on the road?

Well, you might be surprised to know that the answer could be as simple as adding wheel spacers.

What Do Wheel Spacers Do?

Wheel spacers are installed between a vehicle’s wheel hub and the wheel itself, effectively pushing the wheel further away from the vehicle body.

This changes the vehicle’s stance, potentially improving its handling, stability, and appearance by making the wheels sit more flush with the vehicle body.

In this article, we’re going to delve deep into the world of wheel spacers. We’ll explore what they do, how they affect your vehicle’s performance, the pros and cons of using them, and finally, their safety and usability for daily driving. By the end, you’ll be fully equipped to decide if wheel spacers are right for your ride.

Let’s take a closer look.

wheel spacer
Example Of A Wheel Spacer Used To Increase Offset

Understanding Wheel Spacers

Think of wheel spacers as the middleman in a conversation, but instead of words, they’re helping your car or truck’s wheels “talk” better to the road. They are round metal components that fit between your vehicle’s wheel and hub.

How Do Wheel Spacers Work?

Wheel spacers “push” your wheels out a little farther from the body of the vehicle. Imagine standing with your feet together and then moving them apart. You feel more stable, right? It’s the same idea with your car or truck. Wheel spacers can give your vehicle a wider stance, making it more stable. They also create extra space between the wheel and the vehicle body. This can be handy if you want to fit larger tires or brakes.

When Are Wheel Spacers Needed?

Here are a couple of scenarios when wheel spacers can be pretty useful:

  • You’re upgrading to bigger, beefier tires or brakes. Sometimes, these larger components need a bit more “breathing room” to fit properly without rubbing against the vehicle body or suspension parts. Wheel spacers can provide that extra space.
  • You want to improve your vehicle’s appearance. Some folks like the look of wheels that are more “flush” with the body of the vehicle. Wheel spacers can help achieve that look.
  • You’re after better handling. Remember that bit about feeling more stable with your feet apart? A wider wheel stance can improve your vehicle’s stability, especially in turns.

Wheel Spacers in Different Vehicles

Now, cars, trucks, and 4x4s can all use wheel spacers, but the reasons might be a bit different.

In cars, wheel spacers are often used for looks or to fit larger custom wheels.

For trucks and 4x4s, wheel spacers can be about looks too, but there’s also a practical side. In off-road situations, a wider wheel stance can improve stability. Plus, larger off-road tires often need that extra space that wheel spacers can provide.

Offset Vs Backspacing Illustration
Offset Vs Backspacing Illustration

The Impact of Wheel Spacers on Vehicle Performance

Alright, now that we know what wheel spacers are, let’s chat about how they can change the way your car or truck drives. Fasten your seatbelts, because we’re going to cover a lot of ground here!

Effect on Alignment

First up, alignment. Picture yourself riding a bike. You want both wheels pointing the same way to ride smoothly, right? That’s basically what alignment is for a car or truck – making sure all the wheels are working together just right.

When you add wheel spacers, you’re not directly changing your vehicle’s alignment, but the extra width can affect how your vehicle handles. If your alignment was already off, this might make it seem more noticeable. It’s always a good idea to have your alignment checked when you install wheel spacers, just to be safe.

Effect on Turning Radius

Next, let’s talk turning radius. This is how tight you can make a U-turn or circle with your vehicle. It’s like trying to spin in place – you can only spin so tight, right?

Wheel spacers can have a slight impact on your turning radius. Because they push your wheels out a bit further, your wheels have a little more space to move when you’re turning. This could mean you’re able to make slightly tighter turns, but the change is usually pretty small.

Impact on Steering

Steering is up next. This one’s pretty straightforward – it’s how you control where your vehicle is going.

Wheel spacers can change your steering feel a bit. Because your wheels are wider apart, you might notice that your vehicle feels a bit more stable or responsive. But remember, the changes might feel different from one vehicle to another, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation.

Influence on Handling

Alright, handling time. This is how your car or truck responds when you steer, brake, or accelerate.

Wheel spacers can improve handling by giving your vehicle a wider stance and better stability, especially in turns. But like a lot of things with vehicles, the exact impact can depend on a bunch of factors – like your specific vehicle, the kind of wheel spacers you’re using, and even how you drive.

Change in Acceleration

Last up, acceleration. You know the drill – this is how quickly your vehicle can increase its speed.

Wheel spacers themselves don’t really affect acceleration. They’re not adding power to your engine or making your vehicle lighter, after all. But, they might affect how acceleration feels. That wider stance could give your vehicle a more stable feel when you’re speeding up.

best tires for canyon driving
Tire Performance On The Road

The Pros and Cons of Wheel Spacers

Just like any part of your vehicle, wheel spacers have their good sides and not-so-good sides. It’s all about weighing those pros and cons to decide if they’re the right fit for you and your ride. So let’s get into it, shall we?

The Good Side of Wheel Spacers

Let’s kick things off with the positives. Here’s why people sometimes give wheel spacers a big thumbs up:

  • Improved Vehicle Stability: Wheel spacers can make your car or truck more stable. Remember the whole thing about standing with your feet apart? The same principle applies to your wheels. With a wider stance, your vehicle can handle turns and curves more comfortably.
  • Enhanced Appearance: Some folks just love the look of a vehicle with a wider stance. Wheel spacers can make your wheels sit more flush with the body of the vehicle, giving it a sportier, more aggressive look.
  • More Room for Upgrades: Planning on fitting larger tires or upgrading your brakes? Wheel spacers can give you the extra space you need to fit these beefier components.

The Potential Drawbacks of Wheel Spacers

Now, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There are a few things to consider before you jump on the wheel spacer bandwagon:

  • Stress on Bearings: Your wheel bearings are like the messenger in a relay race – they help transfer the load from your vehicle to your wheels. Adding wheel spacers can put extra stress on these bearings, potentially leading to faster wear and tear.
  • Modification of Scrub Radius: Here’s a fancy term for you – scrub radius. It’s the point where your steering axis (imagine a line running through the middle of your wheel) hits the ground. When you add wheel spacers, you’re moving your wheels further out, which can change this point and potentially affect your handling and steering feel.
  • Risk of Using Too Much Wheel Spacer: Just like anything else, you can have too much of a good thing. Too much wheel spacer can put extra stress on your vehicle’s wheel assembly and even affect your vehicle’s performance.
sweet miata
Miata With Nice Fitment

Safety and Usability of Wheel Spacers

So we’ve talked about what wheel spacers do and how they can change your vehicle’s performance. But what about safety? And how much wheel spacer is too much? Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

Are Wheel Spacers Safe for Daily Driving?

This question might have popped up in your mind, and it’s a good one. The short answer? Yes, wheel spacers can be safe for daily driving – if they’re used correctly. That means proper installation, quality spacers, and regular checks to ensure they’re still in good shape.

However, keep in mind that every vehicle is different, and adding wheel spacers might feel different from one car or truck to another. Also, remember that while wheel spacers can give your vehicle a wider stance and potentially better handling, they’re not a magic bullet. Good driving habits are still your best bet for staying safe on the road.

Importance of Correct Installation

Just like a superstar needs a good supporting cast, wheel spacers need proper installation to do their job. That means making sure they’re the right size, are properly fitted, and are checked regularly. Also, high-quality wheel spacers usually come with their own set of lug nuts, so make sure you use those.

If you’re not sure how to install wheel spacers, or if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, don’t worry. A trusted mechanic can help you get everything set up just right.

Determining How Much Wheel Spacer is Too Much

Remember that bit about having too much of a good thing? The same goes for wheel spacers. Too much wheel spacer can put extra stress on your wheel assembly, and might even make your vehicle handle strangely.

But how much is too much? That can depend on your vehicle and what you use it for. Generally, it’s a good idea to start small – maybe a quarter-inch or half-inch spacer – and see how that feels. If you’re still unsure, your best bet is to talk to a trusted mechanic or a wheel and tire professional. They can give you specific advice based on your vehicle and needs.


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Final Thoughts

Wheel spacers are like any other tool in the toolbox – they’re great when used correctly, for the right job. They can give your vehicle a fresh new look, provide space for beefy upgrades, and even improve handling. But it’s important to remember that they need to be installed correctly and checked regularly.

So there you have it, everything you need to know about wheel spacers. Whether you decide to add them to your ride or not, remember – stay safe, keep learning, and enjoy the ride!

Good luck and happy motoring.

About The Author
Will Creech
Will has been an automotive enthusiast since he was old enough to make engine sounds. Formerly a member of the contract training team at Discount Tire, he is unusually knowledgeable on all things related to tires. He is now the owner of and main contributor to TireGrades.com.
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