I remember being at a local car meet with my ’92 Civic. There was another guy with the same car and wheels, but they looked better on his Honda. He had the flush fitment.
Curious, I approached him; that was the first time I heard the term wheel spacer. Naturally, I wanted to know if this modification would impact my car in any other way.
That was more than 20 years ago, but today, I still see people asking:
Do Wheel Spacers Affect Anything?
In this article, I’ll give you all the answers. You’ll learn about the potential impact on your vehicle’s performance, suspension, alignment, and more.
Do Spacers Add or Subtract Wheel Offset?
Whether going for hub centric or lug centric spacers, most auto enthusiasts, including myself, use this modification to change the wheel offset. Here is how it works:
The closer to the fenders your wheels sit, the lower the offset. A wheel spacer subtracts the offset as it moves your wheel towards the fender.
For example, a +30 offset with a 10mm spacer becomes a +20 offset.
That’s the simplest explanation I could come up with. Now, let’s move on.
How Do Wheel Spacers Affect Performance?
The notion of putting wheel spacers is met with mixed emotions. Some tout them as essential parts for car modification, while others warn of potential risks.
So, what’s the real deal? I’ll break it down.
A wider track width achieved by installing wheel spacers enhances your vehicle’s stability and cornering capabilities. This, in turn, can help tame oversteers, especially when spacers are put on the rear wheels.
So, if you’re wondering whether spacers improve handling, the answer is yes.
However, thick spacers (25mm+) can also throw off your vehicle’s geometry. Widening the track too much will change the scrub radius and traction balance. You’ll get reduced grip in corners and a heavier steering wheel feel.
The quest for a smoother ride often leads us to experiment with various aftermarket parts. We change wheels, tires, shocks, springs, etc.
But what about wheel spacers? Do they affect ride quality?
While adding spacers gets you a wider stance, they don’t directly smooth out your ride. They shift the weight distribution, and some folks believe this improves the ride comfort.
To be honest, running 5 to 15mm spacers on different cars, I’m not sure if there was an improvement. But I’m confident about one thing:
Wheel spacers won't ruin your ride quality!
Contrary to popular belief, spacers won’t slow you down. Now, you might ask if wheel spacers have a positive effect on acceleration. To a certain extent, they do.
Obviously, wheel spacers won’t give you more power, but as mentioned, they improve road grip and stability. This helps you accelerate quicker when coming out of corners.
When it comes to gas mileage, spacers won’t have an impact on most cars unless you change the wheel size.
I was also concerned about the range of our Tesla Model 3 before buying the wheel spacers, but there is no difference.
On the other hand, car guys often install wheel spacers as they allow them to fit bigger wheels and wider tires. That’s what makes vehicles less fuel-efficient.
The Effects of Spacers on Your Suspension
Okay, I’ve touched on how spacers can influence the different aspects of your vehicle’s performance. Now, let’s see if they can affect your car’s suspension.
Theoretically, when you change suspension geometry, there must be consequences. In reality, using just wheel spacers won’t necessarily shorten the lifespan or damage suspension components.
Here are the main concerns and how to avoid any problems.
Are Wheel Spacers Bad for Bearings?
By pushing the wheels out, spacers can increase pressure on the bearings. This added strain can potentially lead to a faster wear-out rate of the wheel bearings.
While that’s a possibility, it’s not a must.
If your vehicle is well maintained and you properly install top-quality wheel spacers, you’ll be fine. I see people on forums complaining about vibrations. In most cases, that’s caused by pre-existing problems with their suspension. Spacers just amplify those.
Do Wheel Spacers Affect Camber Angle?
Installing wheel spacers to the rear will change how the suspension is loaded, which might indirectly interfere with the camber angle. That’s on theory.
My experience tells me that spacers with thicknesses up to 15mm won’t change your camber.
Keep in mind that most cars should have a bit of negative camber in the rear. When you put spacers on, you just make it more visible. If you think it’s too much, check your alignment.
Will Wheel Spacers Affect Alignment?
It doesn’t matter if you’re using thin spacers for a minor offset adjustment or thicker ones to prevent bigger tires from rubbing against the wheel wells.
Spacers won’t ruin your alignment if you choose the right wheel spacer size and torque all wheel bolts properly.
Spacers are installed on the wheel assembly to give you more clearance between the hub and the wheel. While they slightly change the track width and the wheel position, wheel spacers have no impact on alignment.
Can You Get an Alignment With Wheel Spacers?
You sure can, and there is no reason to remove wheel spacers before alignment. They change how your vehicle behaves on the road, and alignment should be done with them.
Do You Need Alignment After Installing Spacers?
No, there is no need to do alignment just because you installed wheel spacers.
If you’ve switched to lower offset wheels with different tires, upgraded suspension components, or didn’t get an alignment for a few years, then you should do it.
You’ll come across different opinions about wheel spacers being bad or good for your vehicle. Every word in this article is based on my experience as a car nut for over two decades, and my goal is to be objective.
To sum it up, installing wheel spacers can have some negative effects. Still, you can certainly avoid those by making informed decisions. Bet on quality, choose the right size, install the spacers properly, and you’ll have no regrets.
Finally, I must mention that fitting wheels with negative offsets or changing the wheel width will also impact your vehicle’s behavior. So, if you plan to do either one with installing spacers, check out the LMR video below.