Thursday, September 5, 2013

Using Wheel Spacers to Widen the Stance of Your Car

Wheel spacers are used to widen the track of a vehicle, giving it wider wheelbase. They can be used for a variety of reasons on domestic & foreign cars, dual-wheel trucks and high-performance street rods. They enhance handling characteristics, but there are a few things to consider and understand before installing wheel spacers on a vehicle.

Wheel spacers are commonly made of circular aluminum billet metal and come in a variety of thicknesses, ranging from 1/4-inch on up to a full 4-inches in width. The spacers fit between the vehicle hub and the inside of the tire rim. They are manufactured to fit vehicles with any wheel stud configuration or number of studs, such as 4, 5, and 6 lug nut patterns. They can adapt a 4 lug nut to a 5 lug nut design, with several other possible options. The smallest spacers like the ¼ and ½ inch thicknesses do not require bolt-on accessories, but are slip-on in construction, requiring them to be sandwiched between the axle hub and the wheel rim.

Wheel and rim spacers are easy to install, requiring the removal of the wheels, bolting the spacers to the axle hubs and then reinstalling the wheels. A torque wrench is recommended to apply the correct amount of tightening pressure for the adapter and the wheel tightening sequences. Upon lowering the vehicle, the clearance between the tire and fender should be checked, as well the turning radius to insure free and unobstructed movement. Advantages of using wheel spacers 

  • Handling Performance - Wheel spacers provide some notable changes in the handling performance of the vehicle. Since they provide a wider stance, the center of gravity is more evenly distributed. This results in more stable cornering and sharp turns where the inertia of the vehicle is less likely to produce wheel lift or roll-overs. Cornering grip is also improved, reducing side-slip. In some cases where larger wheels have been added, braking stability response is elevated. The vehicle will perform better in directional straight-line tracking and will have a tendency to swerve less under rapid acceleration.
  • Visual Aesthetic - The aesthetic appeal of wheel spacers, along with the inclusion of wider tires, gives the vehicle that hot-rod look, similar to that found on formula race cars. The vehicle's stance looks stable, surefooted and aggressive. 
  • Adding Clearance - Wheel spacers are the perfect remedy for adding clearance between the suspension or frame and the tire. By bringing the wheel away from the suspension or frame during full-right or full-left turns, clearance is provided which keeps the tire from hitting or rubbing. They also aid in providing the needed clearance if over-sized tires are used, keeping tire contact away from the frame and suspension. 
  • Warning! - When spacers are used on domestic or foreign cars or trucks which have standard wheels, the movement of the tire outward can sometimes bring it directly under the fender lip. Such a condition is dangerous since hard bumps and sharp turns can push the fender into the top of the tire and cause a blowout. Suspension height can be altered and accommodate this condition by installing air shocks, knuckle spring boosters or leaf spring blocks to raise the body up and provide clearance. In severe instances, a lower portion of the fender can be cut away to allow clearance, and this practice is seen with hot rods and race track vehicles. 

A slight difference in increased steering pressure will be noticeable with the addition of spacers, giving it a heavier feeling. There is an increased risk of premature wear to the wheel bearings, tie rod ends and spindles, and this depends upon the amount of extension outward from the axle hub. For instance, it would not be advisable to use 4-inch wide spacers on a smaller compact car. Under some circumstances, the cheaper spacers will crack from repeated pounded or excessive loads. Using billet spacers designed from aircraft grade aluminum will vastly reduce the risk of cracking under pressure and repeated use.


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