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Wheel Spacers

My take and knowledge of wheel spacers

Wheel Spacers

Postby Onlyina_Chevy [OP] » Apr 18 2013, 6:55pm

The subject of using wheel spacers comes up from time to time, and generally, I have been completely opposed to using them until I had a discussion with one of the salesmen at our local custom off-road shop. While I was pricing lift kits for my truck, he mentioned the use of wheel spacers on the rear hubs to even out the stance of my truck after a would-be suspension lift. It seems that some lift systems (Fab Tech, Ready Lift) use a thicker knuckle (spindle) that will relocate the center (hub) and push your front wheel/tire assembly outward the from center of the truck approximately 1” to 1.5” from their original position (FYI, GM trucks, from the factory, are designed with a wider front end than the rear; approximately 1.5”). To remedy the look (stance) of your front wheels sticking out further than the rear, shops may recommend installing wheel spacers. I, being the doubting Thomas and very inquisitive individual that I am, asked a few questions about the mechanics and safety of the spacers at two different shops, (Custom Off-Road, OKC and 4 Wheel Parts, Moore, OK) and then headed home to the internet for research to fill in the gaps…this is what I have found out.

What is a wheel spacer?

A wheel spacer is a metal ring that can be installed between the hub mount plate of a vehicle’s wheel (rim) and the hub flange (from where the wheel studs protrude).

Image

These two spacers can be used in the same application but ultimately can yield far different results due to their design. Obviously, one of these is designed for a 5-lug system, while the other is used for a 6-lug. ***Oddly enough, the spacer with more holes, six, is thinner between the inner and outer part of the ring as opposed to the five hole which gains at least ½ inch***. This difference is the problem. Ultimately, the wheel is removed from the vehicle, the spacer is to be slid over the studs and then tightened down with nuts that come in the kit. Some shops will use Loc-Tite in order to secure the nuts onto the studs. I have no problem with this procedure thus far, but this where the installation gets a bit tacky.

***Point of interest: *** The 6-hole spacer ring has 12 holes, 6 to secure the spacer to the hub and 6 to secure the new ring to the wheel. That many holes creates weak points between the holes. Think of it like the pistons in your engine, the larger the piston you put in your engine, the thinner the wall between the cyliners thus creating a weak point in the cylinder wall.

This is an example of our front wheel assembly:

Image
(Note the lip and the amount of space between it and the studs)

Here is an example of our rear drum brakes for most GM trucks (if you have a GM truck when they tried the ridiculous caliper brakes on the rear (I believe 1999-2003) then refer to the hub in the previous picture):

Image

Once the drum cover is placed over the brake assembly, a lip is left. In this picture you can see the line against the hub flange where the cover resides.

And this in an example of the average wheel spacer on eBay.com for a GM truck:
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(eBay is the devil sometimes)

Reference for theory:

Image
(While this is not the same spacer as the picture of the black spacers, the outcome is the same, only worse because not even the holes from which the studs protrude is tight)

The problem here is that the diameter of the “normal” spacer design is larger than the lip diameter; about one half inch. Where this creates a problem is that once the spacer is tightened to the hub flange, the spacer is only being held by the lug nuts putting all the pressure of downward force on the studs because the inner ring is not resting on the lip also. 4 Wheel Parts will not put spacers on a GM truck here in OKC. I would suppose that this is procedure across the board for all of their stores, but I can’t be positive. It is because of the diameter of the ring which dictates their choice to not use spacers; they are looking out for your safety and the safety of your occupants (actually it is probably more of a liability thing).

Our 4 Wheel Parts is, from what they told me, in constant contact with their home office to research and test different brands of what they consider “good” quality (some type of metal density) that they will use for our GM trucks. They are in search of quality and strength of a spacer ring that is the same diameter of the lip we currently possess. IF you can find a spacer that is made of good enough (strong enough) material, that will rest on the lip (spacer having a smaller diameter than the one shown above), then I my only advice at that point would be to make sure that you tighten the spacer to the hub with Loc-Tite, and then going through and attaching the wheel. Otherwise, you have an accident waiting to happen with the excessive pressure placed on the studs only.

Duallies

Now while we are on the subject of spacers, let me cover this point that was brought up the other night in shop-talk; spacers on a dually. If memory serves me from my good old days of working at a tire shop when I was younger, a GM dually comes with a spacer between the inner and outer tire. I would almost imagine that these are put in place to make sure the tires don’t rub each other while under a load. Theoretically, that would be either while driving straight under a really heavy load (rubbing at the bulge (has a sexual aura about it…hmmm, maybe I could have described that better)), or when cornering (not drifting your dually (although, I’d pay good money to see someone try that feat)).

As with anything, there is the ability to mod a truck, and a dually is no exception. People can put a wider tire on a dually as long as the tires aren’t more than 11.5” wide (then you start rubbing suspension components). You can remedy the potential rub between the inner and outer tire by adding a thicker spacer between the wheels. In this case, the spacer is just an 8-hole ring that will slide onto the hub, which is far more stable than ‘lip’ for a single wheel assembly.

***Special note*** ***Width of spacer***

If you decide that you have found the perfect spacer that uses the perfect density of metal for your truck, there are still limits to what you could or shouldn’t do. Do not use a spacer as a cheap remedy for a different amount of backspacing. Too many times, people have tried to take the cheaper route by using a wheel spacer in lieu the correct wheel for the application they desire. Changing your backspacing by adding a 1.5” to 2” wheel spacer is not the answer. The studs are only so long and you need to have enough thread in order to grab the stud and turn the lug nut 10 times. If it means that much to you to have your wheels stick out to a certain point, save your money and buy new wheels that are designed with a specific amount of backspacing to give that effect. The common thought across the board for truck and jeep applications is no more than 1.25” spacers if you have the correct spacer for your truck with the correct inner ring diameter.

Further Reading:

Beware: This is What Can Happen When You Buy Cheap Wheel Spacers

Additional note:

Procomp Suspension Lift Kits do not use a thicker knuckle, allowing you to retain your factory wheels after installation.
Last edited by Onlyina_Chevy on Apr 18 2013, 7:35pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Wheel Spacers

Postby #32 » Apr 18 2013, 6:58pm

Well Done Vinny!

Thanks for posting.
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Re: Wheel Spacers

Postby lilmagoo1 » Apr 18 2013, 7:11pm

long read and i agree with all the points...but in the case of the lift you definetyl need rear spacers to make it even n you need at least a 1.75" spacer to clear your studs so you dont have to trim the ends of them off prior to application. but i do agree dont buy cheap ones...n really u shouldnt buy cheap anything for a vehicle!
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Re: Wheel Spacers

Postby ricka182 » Apr 18 2013, 7:23pm

Well written!! I had a set of spacers, 2" I believe.. I loved the look, even though I wanted a bit more. But over time, I noticed an uneven wearing on the tire edge. 2 alignments later and it still looked uneven. I had the spacers pulled, and within a week or two, the tire edge started to even out again.

I don't know what caused it, but I'll stay away from them in the future. For now, my truck is mod'ed enough. I may have a wedding this year, so I'll need to save as much moolah as possible. The only thing I've been "pre-authorized" to purchase is detailing supplies(provided I also detail her car), and required repairs. No more mods or lifts..she curses every time I drive, because even with steps, her little 5'2" frame has trouble stepping up and into the truck.. I showed her a picture of a truck with a 4" lift riding on 35's..she gave me "that" look.. LOL..
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Re: Wheel Spacers

Postby dbrandt2009 » Apr 18 2013, 7:43pm

Great write up Vince as with all of your write ups. Long and detailed and a great read. I know we were talking about it this morning before I left for school about the body lift and center of gravity with my wheels being +18 offset.
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Re: Wheel Spacers

Postby Machster69 » Apr 18 2013, 8:56pm

Ill tell yah... Hes good for a sticky that man!
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Re: Wheel Spacers

Postby nvycrmn » Apr 19 2013, 6:39pm

Agreed, very good write up. I do have a question though. So I ordered the RCX 7.5 and I am going to run 325/65/18 on my stock 18x8 wheels, which have a backspace of 5.7. The instructions for the kit say to have a backspace of 5.0-5.5. WIth the kit pushing the wheels out anyhow, do you guys really think I will need a spacer? If so, I planned on just getting a 1/2" spacer for the front and a 1.5" for the rear. Thoughts?
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Re: Wheel Spacers

Postby olliepop2500 » Apr 19 2013, 7:14pm

Good write up one note maybe to add if you can buy steel spacers the aluminum ones arent as strong as the steel and have a been known to break easier p
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Re: Wheel Spacers

Postby Onlyina_Chevy [OP] » Apr 19 2013, 11:02pm

Overall yes, 'steel' has grades that are far beyond that or the strongest aluminum but, there are aluminum alloy grades that are stronger than some grades of steel. It is going to be dependent upon the application for which it is used.
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Re: Wheel Spacers

Postby olliepop2500 » Apr 19 2013, 11:12pm

They say for the diesels its better to go steel because of the hp & tq numbers the aluminum ones have been known to break
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Wheels/TiresDiscussion about wheels and tires also called rims and rubber. Tires come in low profile radials, all-terrain passenger tires, sport or off-road tires and even swampers or mud boggers. Talk about backspacing, aluminum or alloys, inflation and wear.
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