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Are Wheel Spacers Safe?

Spidertrax Wheel Spacers and Wheel Adapters.

Verne SimonsAuthor, Photography

What is a wheel spacer? It's just that: a mechanical component that spaces your wheel away from the original wheel mounting surface. They can be as simple as a cast or machined metal spacer that goes on the wheel hub and wheel studs before the wheel, or they can be a separate machined piece of metal that bolts to the wheel hub and wheel studs, much like a miniature wheel. Wheel spacers are used for several reasons, such as adding track width to a vehicle, helping to clear brakes, or to helping alleviate tire rubbing.

A wheel adapter is very similar, and it effectively adds width to your vehicle at the same time as a side effect of what it does. It takes one-wheel bolt pattern and adapts it to a different pattern. This article is mostly about wheel spacers, but as said, these two parts are very similar and most of the information you'll need about wheel spacers is also true for wheel adapters. The only extension on that is that not all wheel bolt patterns can successfully be adapted back and forth.

Both wheel spacers and wheel adapters need to be installed correctly, and they also must be a high-quality part that is designed to fit properly and withstand the rather large loads that these parts can see when driving down a road or on the trail. The use of both wheel spacers and adapters can be a contentious topic because there are drawbacks with their use. Still, they have a place in the off-road world. Here are some good rules of thumb to follow when using or considering the use of wheel spacers or wheel adapters. The included video gives lots of information for the installation and use of a set of Spidertrax Wheel Spacers on a 2018 Mahindra Roxor.

 

Rules for wheel spacers and adapters:

Use high-quality wheel spacers or adapters from a company that you trust. We trust Spidertrax wheel spacers and wheel adapters.

Follow the included instructions when installing these parts.

Wide wheel spacers or adapters are harder on parts and more likely to cause a failure than narrow wheel spacers or adapters.

Never use impact wrenches on wheel spacers or adapters.

Never stack wheel spacers or adapters.

Never use multi-piece wheel spacers or adapters (that means ones that have two or more parts that bolt together.

Make sure the inner lug nuts and inner wheel studs to not stick out past the outer surface of the wheel spacer or adapter.

Torque the inner lug nuts to spec and use Loctite.

Pros of using wheel spacers or adapters:

Added vehicle width makes your rig more stable in the turns and on sidehills on the trail

They can help with rubbing issues allowing for more steering throw or to prevent tire or vehicle body damage

 

Cons of using wheel spacers or adapters:

You are adding additional parts to a rotating component of your 4x4 that sees heavy loads. That in and of itself can cause parts to wear more quickly and to eventually fail. A wheel falling off a 4x4 on the road or trail can lead to disaster.

Your scrub radius will be negatively impacted (in almost all cases this is true unless you are using some strange wheels with very deep backspacing.)

Wheel spacers and wheel adapters are harder on steering parts like your axles, ball joints, tie-rod ends, and so on. You are increasing the length of the lever arm that effectively pries on these parts when you drive.

Wheel spacers and wheel adapters are hard on your vehicles wheel bearings for the same reason. You are increasing the mechanical advantage that the wheel and tire have on the wheel bearings, steering parts, and axle housing.

One of the drawbacks of wheel spacers and wheel adapters (as well as wheels with very shallow wheel back spacing) is that these negatively impact your front axles scrub radius. The idea works like this: If you draw an imaginary line through your axles ball joints down to the ground, that defines your scrub radius. If this point is at the center of the tire where it hits the ground, you have favorable scrub radius. Moving the tire outward and away from this point means the tire must move forward and rearward as it steers right and left. That increases the loads on the tie-rod ends and ball joints, and makes the steering system have to work harder.
Installation of wheel spacers and wheel adapters is simple. You remove the vehicles wheel and install the spacer one at a time per the instructions.
The Mahindra Roxor, like older Jeeps, has a 5 on 5.5 bolt pattern with 1/2-20 wheel studs. When installing wheel spacers or wheel adapters, it's important that you use the proper wheel spacers, namely those that are designed for your type of wheel hub or axle. These can be lug-centric or hub-centric, which determines how the wheels (and the adapters or spacers) are centered on the hub and axle.
Spidertrax Wheel Spacers and Wheel Adapters are machined from 6061T6 aluminum, which is then anodized to prevent electrolysis and corrosion. The wheel studs are pre-installed in the spacers, and the kit includes the lug nuts and thread lock necessary for installation. You must also check that the inner wheel studs and lug nuts sit below the wheel mating surface on the outside of the spacer. Anything protruding past this surface could cause wheel balance and fitment issues.
With the thread lock on the inner lug nuts, you will need a friend to hold the brakes while you torque these lug nuts to spec. For these wheel spacers the specification is 90lb/ft. and Spidertrax recommends checking that specification after driving the vehicle 50 miles.
This side does not have a wheel spacer.
This side has the wheel spacer installed. Note the increased scrub radius. Moving the wheel and tire out also increases the load your wheel bearings will see; this can cause them to wear more quickly.

Source:

Spidertrax, 800.286.0898, spidertrax.com/products/wheel-spacer