Wheel Spacers - yes or no?

Wheel Spacers - yes or no?


Wheel Spacers – Yes or No?

You may have noticed that Balance Motor Sport don't actually list Wheel Spacers for sale on the website. I thought it about time we address this product, and look at the reasons why we usually don't recommend them.

It probably helps to start by trying to understand why people want to fit them. The usual reason goes something like “I just want to give it a better stance”. A stance is a viewpoint you take, or a fighting position, it has nothing to do with the position of your wheels on your car. In fact on the contrary, two of the best looking cars ever made, the Jaguar E Type and the Lamborghini Miura, have their wheels well within the arch.

So why this obsession with trying to make the wheel stick outside the arch? I think a lot of the time people think it makes the car somehow look tougher. I beg to differ. The manufacturer has spent a great deal of time developing a car that not only looks good but that works well. Most modern cars have something called negative scrub radius. This is where the intersection between the Steering Axis Inclination (SAI) and the centreline of the wheel, puts the SAI outboard of the wheel centreline. Manufacturers do this so that the car has a consistent steering feel, but is also safe in the event of an accident, whereas positive scrub radius can cause a lot of movement from the steering often described as a tram lining and following ruts in the road.

Fitting a wheel spacer changes the scrub radius – the effects vary depending on the amount of negative scrub in the original design. A typical side-effect of fitting wheel spacers to a front wheel drive car, will be shimmying under power – torque steer from side to side, as well as steering wheel fight and tram lining.

Furthermore a positive scrub radius, in the event of an accident, can cause the steering wheel to violently kick back possibly resulting in a broken wrist.

There are other issues at foot, adding wheel spacers will increase load in wheel bearings when driving in a straight line. They can also change the effective spring rate of the suspension, softening it.

Apart from the debatable aesthetics is there anything good about them?

I think arguably, if you have a wide arch kit and use spacers to fill the arch, in mock tribute to a properly engineered race car, then perhaps they earn a space in this application, to make the car look like it's a genuine wide track article. Unfortunately in the majority of situations, the downsides are such that they can really spoil the way the car drives.

One of the applications where Wheel Spacers are most unwanted is more modern cars. They already have massive brakes, massive wheels and tyres, and too much horsepower, the last thing they need is a wheel spacer. The worst possible combination is when you see a FWD vehicle with large spacers on the rear axle.

So in short, please don't want Wheel Spacers. But what if you need them?? What if you just can't live without them – will you sell them to me? I suppose if you are that desperate we can price up some Eibach wheel spacers for you.

We clearly can't ban wheel spacers here, neither can we ban SUVs, even though that would be rather nice.

Where do Spacers have a place?

Reducing weight transfer by having a wider track can help tune a chassis, in addition they can increase outright cornering grip due to a wider track. Fitting a spacer to use a wheel which has the wrong offset is justified, or perhap using a small spacer to get clearance on a big brake kit. Just be aware though – they often make things much worse.