Well, this is somewhat of a controversial topic. There are people who believe that wheel spacers are really useful and also very safe, however, there are also people who believe that no matter the reason, wheel spacers should not be installed on any vehicle ever.
There are countless rumors surrounding wheel spacers and their safety, but when it comes down to it, we can confidently say that there are not many people that you will come across who have experienced actual problems with using wheel spacers.
You may now be wondering which team in this long-running debate is in the right, well, the short simple answer would be no, wheel spacers are quite safe and can be used by anyone.
If you are looking for a more detailed answer to the question “are wheel spacers safe”, we suggest you keep on reading.
What Are Wheel Spacers?
Now, before we get into the safety of wheel spacers, let us first learn what exactly wheel spacers are.
Well, the main use of wheel spacers is to help widen the stance of a vehicle. This is mainly done by making a bit of extra space in between each of the wheel’s mounting flange positions as well as the wheel’s inner face. In simpler words, it means that each of the wheels is displaced outwards. The distance of this outward displacement will be the same as the spacer’s thickness.
You will be able to find wheel spacers in a range of different bolt patterns, diameters, and thicknesses. This allows everyone to be able to find a set of wheel spacers that meet their own specific requirements.
There are also different types of wheel spacers available out there. All of them essentially do the same thing. They just attach themselves to the vehicle’s wheels in a different way.
In order to get the correct thread engagements, using wheel spacers in most cases ends up requiring you to buy aftermarket lug nuts or wheel studs.
The additional space that is made by the attachment of wheel spacers to the wheel studs of your vehicle can also help your wheels to not brush against the brakes, wheel well liners, or any other components that help with the suspension of the vehicle. This is achieved since the tires will be sitting farther away from the hubs.
What Are Wheel Spacers Used For?
The main use for wheel spacers comes in when the wheels of your vehicle are offset in a way that is not optimal for your wanted end result. No matter what your reason is, whether it is because the offset of your wheels is not enough or because you find the axles to be a bit too narrow.
Whatever reason you may have, with the help of wheel spacers you are able to put your wheels and tires wherever you would want them to be under the fender of your vehicle.
What Are The Different Types Of Wheel Spacers?
If you are out looking for wheel spacers, you will come across plenty of wheel spacers in different designs. However, we have listed down some of the most common ones that you will find. They are:
- Bolt-on hub centric
- Bolt-on lug centric
- Slip-on hub centric
- Slip-on lug centric
Some of these are going to be safer for your vehicle compared to the others. What this mostly depends on is how the wheel spacers are distributing the weight of your vehicle.
1. Bolt-On Wheel Spacers
Bolt-on wheel spacers are basically spacers that are directly bolted to the hub and mesh up against it. You can get a lot of benefits from using bolt-on wheel spacers as well. One of the biggest ones is that you do not really have to worry if your wheel studs are just not long enough.
Compared to slip-on wheel spacers, these tend to give you a fitment that is a lot tighter. Due to the tighter fitment that bolt-on wheel spacers provide, they also most of the time tend to just be specific for certain vehicles and make the use of your existing studs.
Bolt-on wheel spacers basically tightly bolt up against your wheels and your hub and then they bolt to the spacers. They are mostly used when you need to make adjustments that are about 20 mm or even more.
Hub Centric Bolt-On Wheel Spacers
The hub-centric bolt-on wheel spacers are totally safe to be used on your vehicle and they work just in the same way as your actual wheels do. With this design, these wheel spacers are able to slide over the wheel studs and be bolted onto the hub. They also come with a lip that helps them fit around the hub of your vehicle.
Doing it this way allows this wheel spacer to put all of the pressure back onto the hub. This is helpful because the hub is basically the strongest point.
Lug Centric Bolt-On Wheel Spacers
These wheel spacers are also directly bolted to your vehicle’s wheel studs. Lug-centric bolts on wheel spacers come with their own specific lug nuts that allow them to be mounted on the vehicle. However, lug-centric bolts on wheel spacers don’t come with a lip like with hub-centric wheel spacers so they cannot put all of the torque onto the hub.
Instead of the hub, they make all of that torque actually go down to the studs of your wheels. Since the manufacturer of this wheel spacer did not really design this spacer’s lug nuts to be able to manage the entire weight of your vehicle (the hub was manufactured to do it), it makes this style of wheel spacers to be more unsafe.
In order to get around this, a lot of manufacturers will sometimes make lug-centric bolts on wheel spacers, also known as “floating” wheel spacers to help out with vehicles that have smaller axles. Even though smaller vehicles that come with small axles will likely be able to handle a bit of extra weight on the lugs, it still just is not worth going through the risk.
Moreover, these types of wheel spacers are often harder for you to center onto the hub. While you may not really notice this when you are driving at low speeds, you will most likely feel it when you are driving at higher speeds at around 60 mph or more.
If you want a solution to this problem you can actually just go buy wheel centering rings and just combine them with the spacers. However, this is basically an extra cost that you could instead spend on the spacer itself to get something that offers a lot better quality.
Are Wheel Spacers Safe: Do Bolt-On Wheel Spacers Offer Good Safety?
You can expect a ton of safety from your wheel spacers as long as your bolt-on wheel spacers hub centric ones. You need to only make sure that you are following the instructions from the manufacturer properly when installing them.
Also keep in mind that before you hit the road and start driving, your wheel well now needs to have enough room for your new lower wheel offset setup that you have going. Your tires will have a higher chance of rubbing on the fenders if the wheels are pushed out quite far.
If this is something that happens to you then you may need to consider changing the adjusting the suspension geometry of your vehicle. This is so that you can pull up or roll up your fenders and even dial in some of the negative camber as well.
2. Slip-On Wheel Spacers
Slip-on wheel spacers are the most straightforward wheel spacers to go with if you are looking for something simple. You just have them slide over on the existing studs of your wheels and just attach your wheel back and reinstall the lug nuts once you have the spacers on.
While slip-on wheel spacers offer you a much safer and more straightforward design, there are still a few things that you might need to consider. We will get to those in a bit.
Hub Centric Slip On Wheel Spacers
The hub-centric slip-on wheel spacers are designed to just slide over the actual lug nuts of your vehicle. However, not only that but they also come with some grooves that allow them to be connected to the hub of your vehicle.
As you could likely guess, these grooves are really helpful since they are able to put all of the torque onto the hub itself. This allows for a lot of stress to be taken off from the wheel studs. In order to attach the lug nuts, you still however do have to make sure that the wheel studs are long enough.
But there’s nothing really to worry about if there is enough exposed thread. It should be quite safe.
Lug Centric Slip On Wheel Spacers
These wheel spacers are mounted on the lug nuts of your vehicle directly. This is the reason why lug-centric slip-on wheel spacers tend to put all of the weight of your vehicle on the lug nuts.
One of the most significant differences that you can come across with a lug-centric and a hub-centric wheel spacer is to check if it has notches that are used for the hub. Since lug-centric slip-on wheel spacers do not come around with those notches, they can safely be considered unsafe. This is because these wheel spacers are basically putting all of the stress on the wheel studs.
Are Wheel Spacers Safe: Do Slip On Wheel Spacers Offer Good Safety?
The answer to that is simple, as long as you have everything installed correctly in the proper way, you can safely say that slip-on wheel spacers are safe. Assuming that you are working with hub-centric spacers and not lug-centric spacers.
The first thing that you need to make sure of is that the lug nuts on your vehicle have enough exposed thread to help you put the wheel safely back on. Check that before the lug nut gets snug, you are able to spin it at least 10 times.
If you find out that the amount of exposed thread is not enough then you need to go for a wheel spacer that is smaller or get yourself extended studs. Due to this, you will be able to find slip-on wheel spacers that come in at 15 mm or just thinner designs in general.
Make sure to get yourself an installation tool for installing wheel studs if you end up needing to use longer wheel studs. Using an installation tool will allow you to not just make sure that your new studs do not get damaged but also save you a lot of time during the installation.
Are Wheel Spacers Safe: Benefits Of Using Them
We already know what wheel spacers are used for and that it tends to help out with the offset of the wheels by helping you increase the distance between the wheels of a vehicle. The other benefits that you can get are:
Better Grip And Traction
A vehicle will offer you a lot more grip and traction depending on how wide the wheelbase of the vehicle is. With the help of wheel spacers, you can basically boost the performance of a vehicle that is right out of stock. This is why it’s one of the biggest reasons that you see wheel spacers being used a lot in a lot of racing situations and competitions.
A Proper Fitment Of The Wheels
As time goes on, more and more motorists and just car enthusiasts, in general, are focusing a lot of their attention on using aftermarket tires and even custom wheels. You will often find suspension and frame interference when you are out driving if you do not have wheels with the proper offset.
One of the easiest ways that you can get the proper fitment on the wheels is most likely going to be by using wheel spacers. Especially in vehicles that are meant to be off-road or even just trucks in general.
Adds To The Aesthetics Of The Vehicle
A lot of motorists and car enthusiasts out there put their hopes on using wheel spacers to help them bring up the aesthetic values of their vehicles. In most of the vehicles out there, it is just generally more appealing to see a wheelbase that is wider than the stock wheelbase that the vehicle came with.
It offers the vehicle somewhat of a handsome anesthetic and aggressive appearance that really does suit certain cars and especially Jeeps, SUVs, and many different trucks. If you have a big truck or a bigger vehicle in general then this look will definitely compliment the aesthetics of your vehicle.
Are Wheel Spacers Safe: Disadvantages Of Using A Wheel Spacer
As you can expect, there can be advantages to anything but it will surely have a few disadvantages as well. Some of the disadvantages of wheel spacers make some motorists and car enthusiasts steer clear of wheel spacers in general. We have listed some of the most common cons of using a wheel spacer.
Vibration Of The Wheels
The manufacturers of different vehicles normally engineer and test out all of their models to ensure that they offer the best quality drivability and a superior quality driving experience possible. They are able to achieve this by making sure that the vehicle has an optimal geometry on the front end for every particular model that they make.
This is why you can have excess vibrations from the wheels of your vehicles when you add wheel spacers to your vehicle. This is because wheel spacers modify the dimensions and all the related angles of your vehicle.
Faster Wear Of The Components
The factory components for the wheels and the whole vehicle, in general, are tested and designed in a way that allows the vehicle to provide you with the most optimal service that it can in its stock state.
However, you have to keep in mind that operational pressure on all of these components is increased when you widen the wheelbase of a vehicle. This results in the faster wear rate of components such as the hubs, axles, and bearings.
This increased rate is more than what you would expect or get from the complete factory stock model of the vehicle without any wheel spacers.
Issues With The Interference Of The Fenders
While we have already talked about wheel spacers being a solution to most frame and suspension issues, however, in the process of helping you out with these issues, they can also end up creating new issues with the fender of your vehicle.
When the offset of the wheels of a vehicle is increased and the wheelbase of a vehicle is widened, it reduces the factory-made clearances for the wheel and fender. This often leads to the damage of the fenders or causes the tire to brush against it to make more damage as a result.
Are Wheel Spacers Safe: To What Extent Are They Safe?
Since the weight of a vehicle is not actually taken up by the wheel studs of the vehicle, wheel spacers can easily be considered to be quite safe. But you should keep in mind that while they may have a safe application they can easily also have terrible consequences if you did not install them in the proper way.
The wheels of a vehicle are actually held together with a clamping force to their matching hubs. This is done by tightening the lug nuts of all of the wheels. Doing this allows for all of the force to be shifted through the hubs of the vehicle. So, you can rest assured knowing that no matter what wheel spacer you use, the weight of the vehicle is not put down on the wheel spacers.
Wheel spacers can be considered to simply just be an extension on the faces of the stock hub on the vehicle. Remember that if you have wheel spacers installed on your vehicle in the proper way then it will not just make your vehicle look pleasing aesthetically but it will also make your vehicle a lot safer than it would have been with the stock setup of your car.
Are Wheel Spacers Safe For Driving And Racing?
As we mentioned before, as long as you install them correctly, they will provide you with the optimal driving experience. It’s often better than that of your vehicle in its stock state.
When daily driving you might notice that your vehicle feels really stable when you are cornering since on the axles you have your spacers installed, you will have a wider track. You might think that this advantage is not that big of a deal when it comes to your daily driving experience, which may be true, however, you will definitely feel a good difference when you are out in the mountains.
Whether you install wheel spacers for daily driving needs or for aesthetic needs, you should keep in mind that you might not feel that the handling of your car is as balanced.
When it comes to racing, you will definitely need to choose hub-centric wheel spacers for the track. Since the lug-centric wheel spacers can literally clip straight off with all of the high-speed turnings you will be doing on the track. Without hub-centric spacers, you can count on some life-threatening outcomes.
This is everything you should know about wheel spacers before you get them installed in your vehicle. Are wheel spacers safe? Yes, they absolutely are as long as you install them correctly. We hope you found this guide useful!