Wheel Spacers vs Wheel Adapters
Wheel Spacers and Adapters are two different things. Every wheel adapter is also a wheel spacer. But a wheel spacer is not a wheel adapter.
Wheel spacers fit between your wheels and hubs. A wheel spacer will bring the distance from your wheel and the cylinder out by as much as 1/4" - anything more than this is unsafe. Generally, wheel spacers use your stock bolts, this is why anything more than 1/4" is unsafe.
Many auto part shops carry spacers and most wheel warehouses use/install them on several cars each day.
You should use wheel spacers only if you intend to keep your current wheels and increase the track of your car for improved handling or looks.
If you are buying new wheels:
- Do not plan on getting wheel spacers.
- Consult with professionals to ensure that you are getting the correct wheel offset for your car so you do not need wheel spacers to make the wheels fit.
Wheel spacers are used in a couple of cases:
- When wheels do not have enough offset. A wheel spacer compensates for too little offset by pushing the wheels farther away from the hub.
- To make a lug-centric wheel (one that centers by tightening the wheel lugs rather than a hub-specific mounting surface) hub-centric
Depending on how you car's wheels are bolted on, wheel spacers require either:
- Longer wheel studs. Some wheel studs can be unscrewed for easy removal. Others will require a hydraulic press to remove.
- Longer wheel bolts Wheel bolts are an easy swap. Just use the right bolts for the thickness of spacer being installed.
Wheel spacers have a few drawbacks:
- Wheel spacers add rotating, unsprung weight (absolutely the worst kind for acceleration, cornering, and ride).
- Longer wheel studs or bolts are more prone to shear fatigue (snapping) than standard-length bolts. These are weak points for cars that have regular track use.
A wheel adapter is 1" or larger and attach to your cylinder by way of lug nuts - you then bolt your wheels to this new wheel adapter's lug pattern.
By using a wheel adapter with the same lug pattern as your original, you push the distance of your wheels out by an inch or more.
Most manufacturers, even Porsche and BMW, leave extra space between the wheels and the fenders, to suit arcane regulations or to leave space for flapping tire chains. These Light-alloy adapters are used to push your existing wheels or even your hot, aftermarket alloys out to fill the wheel-wells or your custom wide-body fenders properly, giving you better cornering, better aerodynamics and even better looks.
Wheel adapters have two different uses:
- They are used to push the distance of your wheels out further by adding an adapter of the same bolt pattern to your existing factory hub-wheel setup.
- They can also change your bolt pattern from a 5x100 to a 5x114 or even 4x100.
Prices for these range from $300 to $400 (a set of 4 x $75 to $100 each piece at 1" each), and are a bit difficult to find. Pepboys, Autozone and most import shops do not carry these. You will have to call around to many specialty shops to find these.
Installation is simple; remove your wheel, set one over your existing bolts, use an additional set of lug nuts to tighten them down. Then place your wheels over the adapter's bolt set and tighten those down. About a week later, remove your wheels and re-tighten your 1" adapter now that it has settled - then replace your wheels and you are all set.
1" wheel adapters with 5x100 pattern; Used to push the distance of your wheels out further...
Wheel spacers; Used to bring the distance from your wheel and the cylinder out by as much as 1/4"...