Many people wonder whether they might need wheel spacers for their own truck – after all, there is much conflicting information on the internet about their benefits, safety, legality, and risks.
There are many questions that can be raised: Will my truck benefit from wheel spacers? Are wheel spacers safe? Are they even legal? What are the risks?
In this article, we will tell you everything there is to know about wheel spacers and answer the question: Are wheel spacers bad for your truck?
What Are Wheel Spacers?
Wheel spacers are used to increase the offset of the wheel from the rest of the vehicle. It creates space between the stock mounting hub of the vehicle and the wheel itself. Usually, this will be a very noticeable difference.
These products are made from either all-aluminum, billet aluminum (a mixture of aluminum and other metals or materials), or steel. There is a difference between these types of wheel spacers that depend on the materials used for them. Steel wheel spacers are cheaper, which may make a difference for a consumer.
However, generally, aluminum wheel spacers are considered to be safer, making them more bang for the buck. Meanwhile, there are also billet aluminum wheel spacers, which are considered to also be high-quality and are just as strong as the wheels they are used for.
There are also different types of wheel spacers: Hub-centric bolt-on, slip-on wheel spacers, and lug-centric bolt-on spacers.
Hub-centric bolt-on spacers are bolted to the hubs of the vehicle, creating more offset for your wheel. These are bolted very tightly against these hubs, ensuring that the installation of said wheel spacers is secure.
Meanwhile, slip-on wheel spacers slip onto parts of your vehicle. The part depends on the slip-on subtype; hub-centric slip-on spacers have their grooves attached to the hub, as per their name. On the other hand, lug-centric slip-on wheel spacers are attached to the lug nuts instead.
Finally, there are lug-centric bolt-on spacers, where the wheel spacers are bolted directly to the studs of the wheel. This creates a concentration effect, wherein all the torque exerted by the wheel is put into the studs, essentially putting all the weight of the vehicle onto its studs.
As seen above, there are many different types of wheel spacers, applicable for all sorts of vehicles. Some people may be interested in these wheel spacers for a variety of reasons, which is why you may want to consider them for use in your own vehicle or truck.
Why Might You Want or Need to Use Wheel Spacers?
Wheel spacers are a way to increase the track width of any vehicle. They can also reduce tire rubbing or help with break management.
By increasing the distance between the wheel and the stock mounting hub, there may be more benefits that can be obtained from the product, such as keeping your wheels the same even if track width is increased, as well as matching the track width of the rear and the front stock axle.
There are also more driving benefits that the truck can benefit from when installing a wheel spacer. For one, vehicle handling may be improved, making the car more stable and making it easier for a driver to corner.
Second, the space given by the wheel spacer can provide more space for larger brake calipers. This, in turn, can improve the performance of the brakes by replacing the existing stock brakes of the vehicle.
Aesthetically, there is also a benefit. Wheel spacers allow drivers to replace the stock wheels with something wider or larger. Having a wider wheel can look unique on the road, while larger tires than normal are more useful for vehicles driving off-road. Therefore, if you are looking to replace your wheels with a larger or a wider one, wheel spacers can be something you can consider.
From these benefits as well, you would think that wheel spacers are very expensive, but you’d be wrong – wheel spacers are usually inexpensive, with a set only running for a few dollars.
If any of these benefits sound good to you, with the many different types of wheel spacers, these benefits might vary from type to type, so make sure to do diligent research before finding the right type for you.
Why Might You Want to Avoid Wheel Spacers?
However, when looking at wheel spacers, we must also look at the many risks that wheel spacers have.
First is the safety component. Wheel spacers might make your vehicle more unsafe. Because they place more stress on the spindles and studs on both the front and back axles, this might make turning at slow speeds more dangerous. This, in turn, will change the handling of the vehicle, making it more prone to accidents.
Furthermore, the more parts there are in the vehicle, especially parts that were not meant to be installed by the manufacturer, there is an increased chance of vehicular failure for the truck or for any vehicle with the wheel spacer installed. It’s not just the wheel spacer itself; it’s also the bolts used to tighten it to the axle, and the nuts too.
The suspension components might also be subjected to more wear and tear if wheel spacers are installed on your truck. As one might recall, wheel spacers are used to add more distance from the wheel to the stock axle.
This also, in turn, adds more space between the wheel and the suspension components of the vehicle. Because of this, the parts of the vehicle used for suspension might break down more easily, just because it needs to exert more effort due to its distance from the wheel.
It’s not just safety that might be a con for wheel spacers, it could be the driving experience, too. Adding wheel spacers might decrease the responsiveness of the vehicle to the steering wheel.
As the wheel is pushed farther from the stock axle, its friction radius will increase, resulting in higher steering power needed for the same amount of work it would have taken if the tires did not have wheel spacers.
However, take note that modern cars do have the technology required to account for errors in steering power, and therefore this disadvantage might only be minuscule depending on the age of one’s truck or one’s car.
Finally, due to a combination of these factors, the inner workings between the different components of the manufactured car or truck might be disturbed, resulting in an overall harder and bumpier ride for your wheel spacer-installed vehicle or truck.
Are Wheel Spacers Space?
As stated before, a wheel spacer’s main function is to add space between your wheel and your truck. Depending on the type, size, and main material of the wheel spacer, the effect of the product on the amount of space between the stock axle and the wheel will be different.
Because of this, one might consider the reason why wheel spacers are being installed in the car in the first place.
Is it to make space for other parts of the vehicle to be installed, such as larger wheels or brake calipers? Is it to change the handling of the vehicle, therefore changing its feel and driving experience? Is it to just increase the track width of your truck, changing it to your specifications?
Aside from these questions, one should also think about their tolerance of the risks of installing a wheel spacer.
The different cons, such as a faster wear down of the truck’s suspension and internal parts, an undesired change to the truck or car’s handling, or a decrease in the overall driving experience of the vehicle, might not be worth to the buyer of the wheel spacer, so make sure to think of these risks and cons first before deciding on buying a wheel spacers.
Consider as well if wheel spacers are even legal in your area. For example, Australia bans the use of wheel spacers. Period. It should be checked if wheel spacers can actually be installed in your car, 4×4, truck, or any other vehicle before even considering buying the product.
Your car manufacturer might also require you to bring the vehicle in for more maintenance, or even void your car insurance if they find out that your vehicle was modded and fitted with a wheel spacer.
Finally, if one has already decided on buying the product, make sure to pay attention to the different types of wheel spacers there are. Different types, builds, materials, sizes, and price points contribute to what exact effect the wheel spacer is going to have on your vehicle.
For example, wheel spacers made of steel tend to be cheaper than most wheel spacers, but they also are weaker, therefore giving more points of failure to the vehicle. On the other hand, aluminum and billet aluminum wheel spacers give more security and strength of material for a higher price point.
The type also matters: lug-centric bolt-on spacers and lug-centric slip-on spacers might be more unsafe than hub-centric bolt-ons or hub-centric slip-ons because the lug-centric spacers put more weight on the studs of the wheel, something that it was not designed to do.
Do Wheel Spacers Hurt Your Truck?
As mentioned before, there is the risk that the wheel spacer you will install in your truck, 4×4, car, or any other vehicle will hurt it more than benefit it. There are many cons to consider and while there are benefits to installing a wheel spacer, it will all depend on your case use as well as the exact product that you bought.
Aside from the cons mentioned above, spacers can cause the body of your vehicle to deform. Specifically, the arc edge of your vehicle next to the wheel could deform because of the extra weight exerted on the wheel. This might cause some aesthetic issues with your truck, car, or vehicle.
This also means that the vehicle might have less running clearance. The truck or vehicle might have difficulty traversing rough terrains such as mud, clay, or sticky soil. This is because of the aforementioned deformity to the wheel arc edge.
Be aware as well of the quality of the wheel spacer, as it can literally decide if your truck will be hurt from an accident or not. For example, instead of being made from aluminum or alloy aluminum, your spacer might be made from junk parts that do not have the same quality as other wheel spacers.
Expert Tip: Your product might be cheap, but it might also cost your vehicle, your truck, and quite possibly, your life.
Furthermore, this can also affect the properties of the car. The car might lose insurance if it is modded since any potential mishaps or accidents might be caused by a product that you installed, that was not sanctioned by the company.
Remember that insurance agreements are very comprehensive, and it might be written in the fine print that modifying the car in any way, shape, or form that is not intended by the manufacturer can void the insurance of the car.
Ultimately, it will be up to you whether you think the wheel spacer will hurt your truck or your vehicle more than it would benefit it. It would also be dependent on the installation process and the installer of the modification to your vehicle: make sure to hire a professional, someone who really knows what they are doing, to do the job for you.
Whatever you decide on, whether you buy that wheel spacer or not, remember that research and due diligence cannot hurt.
Make sure to comprehensively review the pros and cons, make sure that what you’re about to purchase is legitimate, make sure that the installer is also legitimate, read the fine print about the policy of your government or your car manufacturer about modding vehicles, more specifically modding them with wheel spacers, and always check if the product is working properly after use. It’s better to be safe than to be sorry.