(Updated on November 21, 2022)
Wheel spacers can be used when you want to install custom wheels, especially wheels that are not positioned properly for your vehicle. In the most basic terms, wheel spacers provide additional space between the wheels and the wheel hubs. This helps to correct the positioning of the wheels that you want to install by adjusting the offset.
In addition, the extra space created allows your wheels to be more stable as they rotate. You’ll feel this stabilization the most when you go to make turns around corners.
Overall, wheel spacers are purchased more for cosmetic reasons because people love the way in which the wheels get pushed out by them. However, there is also some concern that wheel spacers make driving more unsafe. You’ll find a lot of controversy about this topic between various car enthusiasts and auto mechanics.
Generally speaking, wheel spacers are in fact safe if they’re installed properly. It is not recommended that you try installing them yourself, even if you think it’s a simple job. It’s typically best to use a professional mechanic who has experience installing wheel spacers successfully.
That being said, you should only install wheel spacers if you think you really need them. Most people don’t need wheel spacers, so it matters how badly you care about their cosmetic appeal.
So, are wheel spacers really safe? Let’s go over some of the safety concerns regarding wheel spacers so you can decide for yourself whether they’re worth the risk or not.
Wheel Spacer Safety
To start out, you cannot use the same wheel studs or wheel bolts when you go to install new wheel spacers. You need to get longer bolts and studs to ensure that your wheels remain adequately attached to the vehicle.
Otherwise, short studs and bolts will put you at risk anytime you’re on the road. Also, you need to factor in the least amount of thread that is necessary. The best thread amount will be one that matches the length of the bolt’s diameter.
Most importantly, make sure all your bolts and nuts are tight and secure. You don’t want to run the risk of having loose nuts and bolts because that will increase the chances of an accident.
Keep the components properly torqued and you should have no problems. If you don’t understand how to do any of this, then it is even more crucial that you have a mechanic do it for you.
So to answer the original question, wheel spacers are in most cases completely safe if you take the necessary precautions. This means making sure the wheel spacer, wheel, and wheel hub are secured enough to where they don’t flex.
Whether for your bumper-to-bumper commute, spirited driving outside of town, or at the track, wheel spacers are no more dangerous than a factory setup as long as they are correctly installed.
When people experience wheel stud problems, it usually has to do with loose lug nuts because of a lack in clamp force. On the other hand, don’t overtighten your lug nuts either because that will stretch the stud too far. Find a suitable balance in the level of tightness and the stud will remain strong.
The common myth is that wheel spacers disrupt the physics of the wheels and wheel hubs. This is simply not true because the physics are not affected by the spacers.
After all, the center of the hub is not what secures the spacer onto it. The wheel spacer’s lip does not experience any load either. It only helps you with the wheel installation.
While it is important to use long wheel studs for your wheel spacer, you don’t need to have longer wheel studs installed if you choose bigger wheel spacers. Just choose studs that are longer than your standard factory studs. Ask a mechanic to recommend some if you’re still confused.