Wheel Spacers 101: Explanation Guide

Car tuning requires deep knowledge to be done right. If you are interested in upgrading your car, wheel spacers are an item you most definitely will need at some point

Wheel spacers are not one of the first items we think of in terms of car tuning. After all, they are literally not easily visible; we use them between the wheel and its rotor. The truth, however, is that they are often quite helpful. In short, we need them to make it possible to apply other upgrades such as new brakes or off-road tires. Sometimes, we might just want to make our car wider because it looks better that way.

While the item itself is quite simple, proper use requires attention. In this article, we are going to start by defining wheel spacers; after all, not everyone has heard of them. Then, we are going to delve into details of sizes and uses. Last, but not least, there is a FAQ section based on what readers want to know. We are confident that this article is going to help you make a good decision about wheel spacers for your car.

Forged Active Cooling spacers installed in a Ford Mondeo (source: Bonoss)

What are wheel spacers?

Circular discs that we use between the wheel and its rotor. A spacer increases the wheel’s offset, that is, its distance from the center of the car. They are also static, which means they do not have dynamic functions. As mentioned, they are useful when you install a new set of brakes and/or custom wheels in your vehicle.

The selection of this item involves two main variables. One is the offset distance, which can be as large as 1 inch. The other one regards how you attach them to the wheel: there are hub-centric wheel spacers and lug-centric ones. The next part of this article is going to explain the differences between all those items.

Types of wheel spacers

To tell the truth, the names are quite straightforward. Hub centric wheel spacers have their central bore aligned with the hub’s while we center lug centric ones through the lug bores. The very first conclusion we can draw in this topic is that the first type automatically always perfectly aligns itself with the wheel.

Example of H&R wheel spacers (source: H&R)

In practice, lug centric wheel spacers often have a larger hub diameter than that of the wheel. The main reason why they still exist is to fit special wheels. In other words, limited-run wheels of non-standardized dimensions. It is cheaper to use those ones than request a bespoke wheel spacer for each type of wheel.

Other than that, hub centric wheel spacers are the best option. They may not be the cheapest, but they provide better alignment; the most valuable consequence of that is minimizing vibration from imbalance on the wheel. When it comes to the offset distance, each manufacturer offers its own range of options.

Spacers vs adapters

In a few words, spacers create a larger distance between wheel and rotor. We use adapters for a whole different purpose. They come in handy when we are trying to change the bolt pattern. Or, which is even more common, when we are trying to apply the wheels of one factory on a car made by a different one.

BONOSS Wheel Spacers Good or Bad Wheel Spacers Pros and Cons Hubcentric Wheel Spacers
Example of Bonoss wheel spacer (source: Bonoss)

How do wheel spacers work?

Their main function is to make extra space between wheel and rotor. Aftermarket brakes and wheels may not perfectly fit inside the wheel wells. The worst thing that might happen is having wheels scrape against other parts. In most cases, even the narrowest wheel spacers (~3 mm) are enough to address this issue.

Besides that, increasing the distance between wheels of the same axle makes the car more stable. In other words, its handling, traction and grip all improve. The only problem here is that too much distance makes the wheels rub against the fender. We are going to discuss that measurement in a few more paragraphs.

On the other hand, the new setting causes extra pressure on the suspension, which makes it wear faster. It is also possible that the ride quality suffers, because you are breaking the factory balance. Finally, there is a chance that steering becomes harder as well. Let us show those consequences in a more organized way.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Better handlingFaster suspension wear
Room for wider tiresWorse ride quality
Cheap and simple to installHigher steering effort
Better appearanceMay unbalance wheels
Positive and negative characteristics of using wheel spacers

Are wheel spacers safe?

Yes, when properly installed. A common issue with the largest spacers is that they take up space on the wheel bolts. If the wheel goes too far, it may be fixed with fewer turns of the bolt and that often makes the wheel attachment less safe in its place. Fortunately, there are some options to deal with that issue.

Extra thread (ET) lug nuts have a longer threaded length. They provide larger contact, indeed, but you need to make sure they will fit on the lug holes. Some wheel adapters may be helpful as well to secure the wheels. They have their own holes and provide their own bolts, which have longer threaded lengths.

2022 Volkswagen Golf R with wheel spacers (source: H&R)
2022 Volkswagen Golf R with a wider stance (source: H&R)

How to measure wheel spacers?

As we mentioned earlier, this product is available in many sizes. Your goal is to create enough room from the wheel to its rotor while keeping it far from its fender. Unfortunately, that creates a problem when we take things to practice: it is not feasible to buy many spacers, find the correct ones and return the others.

On this article, Michael Grayen shows a great way to work around that. In short, it consists of getting a set of washers to simulate the effect of wheel spacers. You add one washer on each lug nut, install the wheels back, and see how things go in terms of handling. Keep in mind that this is only a temporary experiment.

If you feel the car needs a larger space, just add another round of washers the same way you did the first one. Each round creates a short increment, so you will be able to find the ideal distance for your car with high precision. Once you find it, the total height of the washers is the size of wheel spacers you will need.

Many drivers appreciate having the wheels flush with their fenders (source: Ford)
Many drivers appreciate having the wheels flush with their fenders (source: Ford)

Wheel spacer manufacturers

As usual, some companies stand out in the segment. Bora wheel spacers are among those, although they are available on many different stores. In this section, we are going to list some others with initial details on their offerings. That will get you a head start in terms of browsing and finding exactly what you need.

H&R wheel spacers

Example of the DR line of spacers (source: H&R)

This company offers four lines of this product. The total range goes from 3 to 65 mm, which means many types of vehicles can use them. Keep in mind that each line requires specific additional parts, like studs or bolts. Besides, the DR line only brings the wheel spacers, while the others include new bolts, nuts or studs.

Spidertrax wheel spacers

Over 20 years in the market and lifetime warranty are the key points here. The online selector allows you to browse the options by year, make and model. Then again, all models are made of anodized aluminum and include wheel studs, lug nuts, and thread locker. Most of the options have around 1.25″ of spacing.

Bonoss wheel spacers

Bonoss Active Cooling System (source: Bonoss)

These products have a unique cooling system. As the website proudly shows, these spacers have specific grooves to take fresh air from the outside and channel it through the surface. That is very helpful to cool the brakes, which is essential on performance cars to keep dynamics safe and predictable for the driver.

Wheel spacers by truck model

Many drivers apply this upgrade to trucks, mostly, so it is easy to find recommendations of brands and of models. In this section, we are going to list those according to the most popular truck models. However, you should keep in mind that there are many other companies available on the market, especially online.

Truck modelPopular products
Ford F-150 wheel spacersECCPP 6 Lug 50mm, KSP 6×135, Supreme Suspensions 4pc 1.5″ Hub Centric
Jeep wheel spacersRockTrix, Supreme Suspensions, Orion Motor Tech Wheel
RAM 1500 wheel spacersSupreme Suspensions 1.5 inch Hub Centric, APL 2” Thick Hub Centric, Richeer 2” Forged Kit
Toyota Tundra wheel spacersECCPP, Supreme Suspensions, ROADFAR
Best wheel spacers according to make and model
2022 Toyota Tundra with special off-road tires (source: Toyota)
2022 Toyota Tundra with special off-road tires (source: Toyota)

Frequently asked questions

How to measure for wheel spacers?

The text above suggests using washers to model the extra distance obtained from spacers. They are inexpensive and easy to install as a temporary solution. Once you find the appropriate distance by adding washers, all you have to do is measure the total length and order spacers of the same one.

What do wheel spacers do?

They increase the distance between the wheel and its rotor. That is helpful to fit new parts and to slightly improve the car’s dynamics.

What are wheel spacers used for?

They help fit new brakes and/or custom wheels inside the wheel wells. Some people also apply them because of the visual change; the car adopts a wider stance.

Why use wheel spacers?

They provide extra space to fit new brakes and/or custom wheels and help improve traction and grip, which makes handling better. Some people also use them for the change in appearance.

What size wheel spacers do I need?

Large enough to prevent the wheel from scraping against other parts, but short enough to keep it far from the fender. There is a specific measurement for each case.

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