Installing wheels spacers is common within the tuning scene. They are a cheap and easy way to improve wheel fitment and increase the track width of your car. However, they are also a fast and easy way to ruin the geometry of your car and can badly affect your handling.

The Negatives

The main issue with a wheel spacer is that it moves the wheel to a wider position whilst the rest of the suspension arms remain in the same place. In particular, the king pin inclination axis remains in the same place. Therefore, fitting a wheel spacer moves the wheel outboard and alters the scrub radius of the car. It is important to know whether your car currently has negative or positive scrub radius and ideally how much it has. Fitting a wheel spacer will increase the positive scrub radius at the front wheels which has some unfavourable consequences.

If your car already has a bit of positive scrub radius then the wheel spacer will increase it. An increase in positive scrub radius increases the forces on the steering rack under braking conditions. Any bumps in the road will also be amplified through the steering wheel, making the steering jerky and more unpredictable. Twitching wheels when braking can cause the tyre to lose grip and ultimately can cause the wheels to lock up and slide. An increase in positive scrub radius also causes the wheel to gain positive camber when the wheels are being turned, reducing grip in corners on the front wheels and producing understeer.

If your car has the more favourable set up of negative scrub radius then installing a wheel spacer can cause bigger issues. The outward movement of the wheel can make a negative scrub radius become zero. This is the worst position for it to be in. A zero scrub radius can cause squirm. This is where a scrubbing action occurs on both front tyres in opposite directions which can create unpredictable handling in corners and can lead to understeer too.

Secondly, installing wheel spacers on a car increases the leverage on the wheel bearing. The larger the spacer, the larger the leverage becomes. This reduces the life of the wheel bearing as they are not made to take leverage forces and can therefore wear faster, increasing rolling resistance and power loss of the car.

Finally, the wheel spacer moves the wheel further away from the damper mounting point. This means that the wheel will have a larger effect upon the damper and will act upon it with more leverage. This effectively makes the spring and damper softer and less effective on the wheel. This means that the car can roll more on corner entry and exit and feel generally softer out on track or on the road.

The Positives

However, there are some positive aspects to fitting wheel spacers to your car that can prove beneficial. Moving the wheels outboard increases the track width of the car. The increase in track width also lowers the roll centre of the car and therefore increases the amount of cornering force that the car is able to carry through its tyres. Due to being able to manage an increase in cornering G force, it means that it is possible to corner at higher speeds.

Installing the spacer on the rear wheels means that the negative aspects take less effect because the scrub radius effects are not present at the rear wheels. Therefore if your car is suffering from oversteer then installing wheel spacers might be a quick and cheap way of reducing that.

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50 Comments

  1. Interesting read and backs up what I have said about wheel bearing pressure. Two things, one, will altering the offset of wheels do this same thing?
    And two, how would you suggest effectively increasing track width without compromising the handling?
    Thanks and look forward to your reply

    1. Hi Stig, thanks for the comment. Yes increasing your wheel offset without increasing the tyre width will act the same as a spacer. The best way we can suggest to increase track width is by installing adjustable length arms to move the wheel and hub assembly outboard, increasing track width. However, if you must be willing to check your geometry settings after doing this as further adjustments and modifications may be required when this is done. Thanks

  2. Hi. I have a Ford Focus year 2015, sligthly oversteering. Installing only on the rear wheels the spacers, 5mm or 10mm, can I reduce oversteer? Thanks.

    1. Hi Cesare,

      Thanks for your comment. Installing a wheel spacer could help with the oversteer as it will increase your rear track width helping with LLT. However, you would be better observing your tyre behaviour and trying to solve the oversteer by optimising rear camber, toe or damper settings.

      Thanks

      Suspension Secrets

  3. Hi. Thanks for reply. I see that my car has a rear track large 1559mm, front track 1544mm. Can be this one of the reasons for its oversteering behaviour? If I install spacers only on the front, in order to equalize the rear and the front track, can be a valid solution?
    Excuse me for my English.

    Regards.

    1. Hi Cesare,

      Installing spacers on the front will provide more track width and therefore likely reduce understeer and increases the tendency to oversteer. However, it is worth noting that installing spacers will affect multiple other aspects of your geometry so you should try to solve the problem using roll bars, dampers and geometry before installing spacers.

      Thanks

      Suspension Secrets

  4. Hallo,
    nice article there. One question: would a positive scrub radius of 7-8 mm on the REAR axle be noticeable or too much? Car in question is a BMW 6 series running 275/30/20 wheels with an original ET of 44 whereas the upgraded wheels would have an ET of 37. I guess for the rear axle this variance is not so problematic correct?
    Look forward to your advice. Thanks and Regards

    1. Hi Christian,

      Yes the effects upon the rear axle are not as bad as the front axle. The main negative for installing on the rear axle is the increased loading on the wheel bearing. However, you will benefit from increased rear track width.

      Thanks

      Suspension Secrets

  5. Are 15mm spacers go8ng to cause issues for my 2014 Audi RS5?

    1. Hi Mark,

      Wheel spacers will always affect geometry and alter handling and response slightly. However, the smaller the offset the less the effect so 15mm spacers wouldn’t cause too much of an issue.

      Also you wouldn’t feel the effects of a spacer as much with general road driving as you would out on circuit.

      Thanks

      Suspension Secrets

  6. I’ve mounted 10 mm Eibach spacers in the front of my BMW 3 series F31 (from 8×19 ET36 to ET26). I’ve noticed a fraction less understeer, maybe placebo effect. :). Could these cause some long term damage on my suspension, tires,…? Thanks.

    1. Hi Jan, thanks for the comment. The reduced understeer will be a result of the now wider track width across the front wheel which will reduce understeer slightly. The installation of the spacers will have altered your scrub radius which will alter how your wheel pivots. It will likely cause slightly more scrub to your tyres and make them wear faster when turning the wheel. However, it will take a while for a noticeable difference to occur.

      Thanks
      Suspension Secrets

  7. Wrong post, sorry. Thanks for the advice, suspension secrets. Grtz Jan

    1. Hi, i had stock 205/65r16 with 6jj 50offset alloys & tires, Now i have uograded to 215/65r16 with 6.5j 40offset alloy & tyres, the scrub radius of positive 8mm has increased, its a rear wheel driven toyota body on frame MUV will it affect the handling & what about suspension life, is it going to take a toil.

      1. Hi Jeevan,

        The increase of 8mm will slightly affect handling in that the feedback through the steering when applying brakes will increase. Furthermore, any bumps in the road pushing back on the tyre will be amplified through the steering wheel. The increase will slightly increase the load upon the wheel bearing too but this should be quite negligible.

        Thanks

        Suspension Secrets

        1. Thank you very much.

  8. Hi
    I was thinking of fitting 15mm spacers front and rear on my RS250 Renault Megane. Being FWD would it be a problem..

    1. Hi Carey, thanks for the comment. Fitting the 15mm spacers will affect your scrub radius and will therefore provide more feedback through the steering wheel when braking and hitting bumps out on track and the road. The extra load on your bearings will be minimal though. If you are going to go for wheel spacers then make sure to get hub centric spacers as this will remove any unwanted wheel wobble.

      Thanks

      Suspension Secrets

      1. Hi, wanted to know what would be scrub radius of stock oem vehicle without alteration.
        For example toyota kijang or innova MUV scrub radius of this stock vehicle would be ?

        Thank you

  9. Hello there thanks for the info. I have a Ford mustang with twenty inch rims bit I don’t have the muscle look that I thought it would give. Was planning on putting a maybe a three quarters of an inch spacer on the rear. Will that affect anything

    1. Hi, Thanks for the comment. If your car is used mainly for road use then you wont feel much difference and the extra strain on the wheel bearing should be minimal with that size of spacer. If you use the car for track use then you might feel some difference with regards to steering and feel at the front end.

  10. Hi there

    I have a s line Audi A4 Avant with 245/40/18 the rear sits further in than the front wheels and look a bit lost in the arches. I wanted to bring the rears out about 20mm and leave the front as is.
    Would this create much issues? And should I consider the front as well or stick with just the rear?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Paul, thanks for your comment. Spacing the rear wheel as less negative impact on geometry than on the front wheels so that would be the best case. You might experience a slight increase in load on your wheel bearing but you will benefit from a wider rear track width having more rear grip in corners.
      Thanks

      1. Cheers for the advise

  11. Hi there,

    I’m driving A200 sedan. i’m using 19″ ET49 with 8.0J. I added 10mm spacer for the fwd and 15mm for the rear. Will there be any problem?

    1. HI Ostar, the only issues caused will be the same mentioned in this article. See if you notice the differences when driving but for road use the effects are less noticeable.

      1. Hi, thank you for your reply. So far I don’t see any abnormalities. You mentioned the only issues caused will be the same mentioned in this article. So I will be expecting premature wear of the wheel bearings and absorber? I’m driving just for normal road usage. Thanks!

  12. Would front wheel spacers cause the steering wheel to shake. Just put on rims and tires from another vehicle and 1/2 inch spacers for clearance. I am having vibration at about 65 mph. Not sure if it’s the spacers or wheel balance. The car is a Chrysler 300 rear wheel drive. And wheels are off a Dodge Magnum AWD.

    1. HI Gary, the wheel shake is more than likely the wheel and tyre being out of balance. Check your wheel bearing condition and also check that the wheel spacers and wheel bolts are all torqued up properly too.

  13. Start with Congrats for the information. I have 2009 SLK gave me insight and understanding geometary of staggard wheel setup.
    Front 225/45 R17. Wheel 7.5J x17 ET36
    Rear 245/40 R17 Wheel 8.5J x17 ET30
    The front wheels sit well in while the rear wheel position just on the edge of the rear wing arch.
    Since i want to leave the geomatrical set up, i was planning to increase front tyre size to 235/45 or 245/45. on the same front wheels
    What i would like to know if wider tyre size is going to create body suspension fouling. Since the wheel size is same ET will remain same.
    Am i correct in thinking that without altering front wheel ET i will only be putting another 1 inch or2inch of extra rubber on the road and front wheel will still appear sitting -in. I use my car mainly for love and pleasure. My car SLK is Face Lift 1. model year 2008/09. To date
    it has only covered nearly 33,500 miles
    Would appreciate your comments and advice.

    1. Hi Dave, thanks for your comment. If you fit a wider tyre then you might have a situation where the bodywork is contacted. You would be best measuring this first. If you are suffering form understeer then you could install a different tyre on the front with more grip.

  14. Hi
    Great article,

    I am planning to install 30 mm wheel spacers on my rally car all round. Is this going to cause me a particularly detrimental affect cornering on the bumpy stuff at high speeds?

    1. Hi Stu, 30mm is quite a substantial sized spacer. You will get a softer wheel rate with those installed so you might want to consider a slightly stiffer spring to compensate. Also your front scrub radius will be increased which will affect handling slightly.

  15. All details on why we should not fit wheel spacers is given.Here we read some of ways to make the understanding easy.it is a simple yet much effective article for us. This is a great post; I will share as much as I can.

  16. So if I put lower wheels offset with wider tires, will it effect the suspensions and bearings same as the spacers?

    1. Hi Aziz, Thanks for the comment. Yes if you fit different offset wheels that change the track width of the car this will produce the same issues as the wheel spacers.

      Thanks

  17. Hi, I have a Land Rover Discovery 2 (V8) and I’m thinking about fitting terrafirma wheelarch extensions. If I do so I will fit 30mm spacers to increase the track and improve the look. However my car has all optional extras such as air suspension, hill descent control, and active cornering enhancement (ACE). How will the spacers affect that set-up? Would you advise against it?
    Thanks,
    Steve.

    1. Hi Steve, thanks for your comment. installing 30mm wheel spacers will certainly have effects upon your geometry. However, due to the low speed conditions of most off roading you will likely not notice the side effects. You will need to pay attention to the wheel bearing loadings more than anything with your application.

      Thanks

  18. Thank you. Actually I don’t go off road at all. I have some protection gear fitted to the Disco but its because I live and work in the Lake District and head up the fells in all weathers, sometimes deep snow. So my driving is a mix of everything from Hardnott Pass to the M6. How will my car be on the twists and turns of the A66 at 60mph? Will the ACE be badly affected?
    Really appreciate your input on this!

    1. Hi , I’ve got a Mercedes slk 55 AMG r171 , I’ve put 1inch wider amg wheels but would like to put 5mm hub centric spacers all round to create a better stances, will this be detrimental to the handling?

      1. Hi Adrian, thanks for the message. The combination of 25.4mm wider wheels plus 5mm spacers will certainly generate the issues mentioned in the article particularly at the front wheels. However, if the car is used mainly on the road then the issues will be less pronounced.

        Thanks

  19. I want to go big like 35mm maybe even 50mm spacers or is this a waist of time

    1. Hi Ash, you would have to weigh up the positives and negatives mentioned in the article and make the best decision for your case. 50mm is quite large though.

      Thanks

  20. Hi, I was thinking of putting 20mm spacers only on the rear of my wrx sti Subaru Impreza 2004 model, I be interested in your thoughts of this? IE and Pros and cons

    1. Hi Ian,

      The pros and cons would be the same as mentioned in the article. You will have to decide whether the positives outweigh the negatives for your case.

      Thanks

  21. Hi,
    I have a Hyundai Coupe Siii and I plan to fit a set of Calibre Motion 17” wheels.
    As the stud centres are slightly different I am thinking of fitting a set of custom made wheel adapters . 20mm thick.
    Is this likely to cause me any problems.
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Neil, You will generate the issues mentioned in the article but if there are no other wheel options for your car then they might be necessary.

      Thanks

  22. hi I have a standard bmw e90 m sport 61 plate. not lowered. I would like to put hub centric 10mm on the front and 12mm on the back to try and give car a more aggressive look. I only use car on road and not track. what would your advice be. leave alone or go for it.

    1. Hi Clint, for just road use and a spacer as small as 10-12mm you will likely not notice the downsides. Just make sure they are definitely good hubcentric spacers.

      Thanks

  23. I agree, doing this will have a negative impact on ones bearings.

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