Are wheel spacers safe?

Our tech guru has the answer
by Ferman Lao | May 30, 2012

Greetings, Ferman! I'm Teo Bautista, I wrote to Top Gear before about our new BMW Z4. I'm back with a new question: Are wheel spacers safe?

If they are, up to what thickness is it safe? I'm planning to put on new rims on my 1983 Datsun 280ZX. Its specs are 4 x 114.3 with a zero offset. These days, 17-inch rims with a zero offset and 4 x 114.3-spec wheels are hard to find. I'm hoping you could help me with this one because I'm really looking forward to making the car look good. Maybe you could even feature it in Top Gear someday. It's got a great look with a turbocharged six-cylinder engine with the authentic Z badge up front.

Thanks!

Teo

 

Hi, Teo. Used in the right manner, wheel spacers are safe. It's a good, cost-effective way to widen your vehicle's track for handling and cosmetic purposes. Be aware though that when you install wheel spacers, you are going to need to change your wheel bolts or wheel studs for longer ones. This is to ensure that the wheel studs or bolts are attached properly. The minimum amount of thread that needs to be secured has to be at least the same length as the diameter of the bolt or nut of the wheel stud. Anything less is considered unsafe and poor practice--and you do risk having the bolts or wheel nuts come loose, causing an accident.

Now, you may think that all spacers are made the same but they aren't.

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There are the universal ones you commonly see from wheel and tire shops which are spec'd to fit all manner of vehicles and wheel patterns. These are cheaper and are usually available only up to a certain thickness. Be aware and don't make the common mistake of putting more than one of these types of spacers per wheel. There's a risk of causing imbalance to that wheel.

Another less-often-seen wheel spacer is the H&R Trak+ spacer. It's made to be hub-centric (meaning it will fit and center exactly onto your existing hubs), and more often than not, it's vehicle-application specific apart from coming in many thicknesses. It does cost more but is worth the extra cost. It usually also comes with new bolts or wheel studs of the proper length to ensure a proper and safe fit.

If you're having trouble finding the right wheel design with the proper PCD (pitch circle diameter) for your car, you can also consider H&R Trak+ wheel adapters. They'll allow you to use a wheel of a different PCD for your car. They are thick spacers that are designed to attach to your existing hubs and bolt down like you would your wheels with lug nuts. Attached to the spacers are bolts that extend out like they would as if they were your wheel hubs but of a different PCD to accept wheels of a different PCD.

Best regards,

Ferman Lao
Technical Editor

Do car problems keep you awake at night? Send questions to topgear@summitmedia.com.ph

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