(Updated on November 21, 2022)
Wheel spacers are special components which create more space in the area that lies between the wheel hub assembly and the wheel itself. You place the wheel spacers over the holding bracket of the vehicle to produce this additional space.
When you purchase wheel spacers, they need to be made specifically for your type of vehicle because they must match its bolt pattern. That way, they can fit over the bracket’s current studs. You won’t have any problems mounting the wheel if this all checks out.
See Also: Lug Bolts vs Lug Nuts
What Do Wheel Spacers Do?
The main purpose of wheel spacers is to give you additional space between the wheel and hub assembly. Okay, so why is it important to have this additional space?
Basically, it’s not a good thing for the wheel to be too close to other inner components like the wheel well. It would degrade the driving performance of the vehicle if they were close. When making turns, the tire would rub against the wheel liner or suspension components. Wheel spacers simply add a bit more additional space so you don’t have any clearance issues.
Wheel spacers are commonly used in vehicles that have larger or wider tires. This is usually due to a custom installation where the tires you install are larger than the standard tires that came with the vehicle. Because of this, you may need wheel spacers to help them fit in the space.
They can also give your vehicle a slicker appearance because your wheels will be pushed further outward from the main frame. They may be flush with the fender or even stick out a bit. If that’s the look you’re going for, then definitely get wheel spacers.
Another great thing that wheel spacers can do is provide better traction on the road. If you want your vehicle to handle better, then it’s usually best when the wheel is father away from the hub assembly. This creates better grip on the road between the tires and the pavement.
Related: Are Wheel Spacers Safe?
Pros of Wheel Spacers
Let’s go over the advantages of wheel spacers.
1) Better Appearance
If you want a unique appearance for your vehicle, then wheel spacers can help provide that. They will slightly push out the tires and make them perfectly aligned with the fender or in some cases even push them out past the fender for more of an aggressive look with a “wider stance”.
2) Install Wheels with Incorrect Offset
If you have a set of wheel you really like but they’re not the correct offset for your vehicle, then you can use wheel spacers to make them fit. This is usually the most likely scenario for needing wheel spacers in the first place.
3) Better Car Handling
Wheel spacers will give your vehicle better handling characteristics when you make turns and go around corners. This happens due to the wheels being further away from the car chassis which creates a wider track and lower center of gravity. You may also notice less body roll.
Cons of Wheel Spacers
Here are the two main disadvantages of wheel spacers.
1) Steering and Suspension Characteristics Change
Because your wheels are now out further away from the wheel hub, you’ll notice that the steering will become a bit heavier or require more effort. In addition, spring and shocks will not absorb bumps and harsh road conditions as well as the stock setup they were designed for.
2) Additional Wear and Tear
When you have wheel spacers installed, additional stress is placed on nearby suspension and hub components since the wheels are further out. For instance, the wheels would no longer be touching the ball bearings. This ultimately reduces the lifespan of the wheel bearings, causing them to go bad earlier than normal.
Related: Symptoms of Failed Wheel Bearings
Ultimately, you need to know what you’re doing when you purchase and install wheel spacers and knowing the main advantages and disadvantages is a good start.
If you’ve done the research and are confident a certain size of wheel spacer will improve wheel/tire fit or the aesthetics of your vehicle, go for it! Just keep in mind that “too much of a good thing” definitely applies to wheel spacers.
2 thoughts on “Wheel Spacers Purpose (and Pros and Cons)”
In Ontario, Canada, running spacers on ones wheels is frowned upon – actually it’s illegal. How have I concluded that? Reading the “Passenger / Light-Duty Vehicle Inspection Standard, Reference Handbook – October 2015” This is the guide which mechanics must adhere to when inspecting a vehicle to determine if it’s roadworthy when sold to a new owner. In Section 9 “Tire and Wheel” – on page 89, under sub section 7. referring to “Wheel / Rim (General)”, the following is printed. “A Spacer is a solid piece of material
intended to offset the wheel outboard. It has holes in it through which the studs pass without engaging the spacers.” The mechanic is directed to “Reject” the vehicle if “spacer has been used between any wheel and hub” I guess aftermarket wheels can be swapped for stock at the time of the inspection but it sure seems like a lot of work! The source of this gem is – http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/trucks/pdfs/passenger-light-duty-vehicle-inspection-standard.pdf
Good words, good explanation.