Wheel spacers and wheel adapters? You may think that they are identical objects. As a matter of fact, they are two distinct things. Even though they look similar, these two items are very different when it comes to the functions. In a short explanation, every wheel adapter is also a wheel spacer, but a wheel spacer is not a wheel adapter. Since there are several differences between wheel spacers and wheel adapters. Choosing the right one may be better than the other for your specific vehicle.
Wheel Spacers vs. Wheel Adapters
Wheel spacers are a kind of wheel accessories which are used to create necessary distance on the inner portion of the wheel for clearance problem with brakes, tie rods and other suspension components. By pushing out the wheel, you can gain a small amount of clearance for bigger wheels instead of rubbing against the fender. Having your wheel brought out ideal distance allows for mounting larger brake calipers without wheel scratching. Furthermore, hub-centric wheel spacers can transform a lug-centric wheel (one that centers by tightening the wheel lugs rather than a hub-specific mounting surface) into a hub-centric wheel. A wheel spacer is usually a single piece of aluminum alloy, thickness less than 4/5″. They are sandwiched by the wheel and vehicle hub. In most cases, they will need extended wheel bolts to achieve proper thread engagement. But you need to make sure the length of the bolts is correct for installation. In summary, wheel spacers are only used to give a slight clearance for improving the overall handling and looks.
Wheel adapters do all the same things as wheel spacers do. However, they can change the bolt pattern (and possibly center bore) to allow you to bolt up wheels that are not made for your car. One of the common uses for wheel adapters is PCD conversion. For example, Honda Civic Type R uses Mercedes wheels. Honda Civic Type R has a 5×114.3 stud pattern. People will put a wheel adapter on the Type R that has a 5×114.3 stud pattern on the hub side (that will fasten with the matching lug nuts) and the wheel mounting side of the adapter will have matching studs on it in a 5×112 bolt pattern. This allows 5×112 Mercedes wheels to be attached on a 5×114.3 Type R. Wheel adapters are usually thicker that are built with their own lug studs/nuts. The adapters lug nuts to the factory studs, then the wheel is secured to the studs on the adapter with the stock lug nuts. Two sets of bolts pattern hold the adapter in place. The adapters are usually made to offer space greater than 4/5″ (some adapters that are even 2 inches thick). In summary, wheel adapters do the spacers work but more specifically allows for a change in bolt pattern.
In most cases, car manufacturers will leave contain space for tire chains. Both wheel spacers and wheel adapters push your existing wheels out more to fill the wheel-wells or your custom wide-body fenders properly. They also give your car better cornering, aerodynamics, and look. However, every vehicle is distinct, sometimes even from the front to the rear wheels, so please carefully check each item for safe installation. Know the difference between wheel spacers and adapters and choose the right one, you will be happy for a while.