There’s a lot of debate surrounding wheel spacers. Are they safe? Are there better ways to get the fitment I’m looking for? Will they destroy my wheel bearings in 3 weeks??? The web has no shortage of opinions regarding wheel spacers. But we’ll explore some of the different benefits and proper uses for them to help you decide if you think they’re right for your off-road build.
What are wheel spacers used for?
For many builds, wheel spacers are used for strictly aesthetic purposes. People use them to create an aggressive look by pushing the wheel out past the fenders. However, for those of us who are interested in lifting our Subaru, they can play an important role in fitting larger tires.
If you own an early model Subaru, you may have noticed that the rear spring perch severely limits your ability to fit a larger tire. You’ll run out of clearance there before you even come close to the fenders. So in this situation, a spacer may allow you to get an additional 1-2 inches of tire stuffed inside your wheel well.
“I’ve heard wheel spacers help with braking. Is this true?”
No, but we’ll explain how they do help. For those of us running bigger tires, strong braking on a stock setup is a thing of the past. So you may want to upgrade to a bigger brake kit. However, your current wheels may not allow you to accommodate a bigger caliper. In some cases, a spacer can help pull the wheel safely away from the braking components and give you just enough room to safely install a more powerful set of pads, rotors, and calipers.
Are they safe?
Yes. Properly installed, high quality wheel spacers are perfectly safe to use. Notice the emphasis on properly installed, and high quality. You should never install a cheap wheel spacer on your vehicle, and you should never install them without properly torquing them down and making sure they’re flat against the hub. If you’re not sure how to safely install spacers, take your car to a professional or check with the manufacturer to find out how to put them on properly. You should also perform a torque check frequently. Whenever you have your tires rotated, just go ahead and give them a quick check to ensure optimal safety and performance.
But what does high quality mean? There are different types of spacers, but we recommend looking for a reputable brand that produces a good aluminum hub-centric spacer. A high quality aluminum is more than strong enough and is light-weight. For applications larger than 20mm we suggest a bolt-on construction.
Will spacers destroy my wheel bearings?
If a properly fitted wheel spacer is correctly installed on your vehicle, you should not have any issues. You will want to make sure that your center bore matches and that all lugs are tightened down properly. Again, we recommend professional installation since this is a crucial part of your vehicle.
Now there is a serious caveat here. If your Subaru is lifted and running larger tires, you very well may begin to see a decrease in the life span of your bearings. I was running 30″ inch tires and Method MR502’s on my car with a 1 inch spacer. It started eating through bearings pretty quick with all of the abuse I was putting it through. Just keep in mind that you may want to use a wheel spacer only when it’s necessary for clearance. Otherwise, it may just be adding unnecessary strain.
What Wheel Spacers Should I buy?
The right wheel spacer will be different for everyone. You’ll need to take measurements and make sure you’re purchasing the right size. You’ll also want to check that you are purchasing the correct bolt pattern.
Here’s a few options that we recommend:
They have been creating trustworthy aftermarket parts for years. You cannot go wrong with a set of Perrin wheel spacers.
ECCP (My Pick For Best Budget Spacer):
This is a lesser known brand that is prevalent on Amazon. I typically wouldn’t be comfortable recommending cheaper products that don’t have a long standing reputation. However, I have been running these spacers for roughly 6 months now with zero issues. My only complaint is that the bolt holes could be about 5mm wider for easier access to the spacer-to-hub nuts. If you want a good set of spacers but can’t afford to spend a lot, check these out and see if they’ll work for you.
Always research your options
Before making a final decision, be sure to consult with a trusted professional and read reviews on any wheel spacers you may be considering. It’s tempting to save a few bucks on an Ebay special. But the peace of mind that comes with paying for quality, reputable parts is priceless; especially on such a crucial portion of the vehicle.
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