Wheel spacers and wheel adapters are very similar items, but in fact, they are two very different things. Both of them are installed between the brake rotors and wheels so that they push your existing wheels out to fill bigger wheels or larger brake calipers. By increasing the track width, they give your car better cornering, aerodynamics, and appearance. Every vehicle is distinct, sometimes even from the front to the rear wheels, so knowing the difference between wheel spacers and adapters is important to make the right discission. Here is a brief explanation of the wheel spacers and wheel adapters. Hope this guide can help you know which parts suit your car best.
What Are Wheel Spacers?
Wheel spacers are kinds of metal rings that would only create more clearance on the inner portion of the wheels for suspension clearance problems. A wheel spacer is often machined to fit the specific vehicle hub and the corresponding wheels. For example, the 5×130 Porsche Cayenne wheel spacers are made to fit exactly to the Porsche Cayenne that runs the 5×130 bolt pattern. The center bore is designed to be 71.6mm which is the diameter of the hub flange where the wheel seats to the hub. They won’t change the bolt pattern or other things.
If they are slip-on types and the thicknesses are normally below 4/5″, then they are certainly wheel spacers. At this point, they will need extended wheel bolts to achieve proper thread engagement. In summary, wheel spacers are only used to give a slight clearance for improving the overall handling and looks. If PCD or CB conversion is not involved in your project, then you will probably need wheel spacers.
What Are Wheel Adapters?
Wheel adapters have all the advantages that wheel spacers can offer. But they are more flexible. Unlike the spacers, they are not wheel-specific. Apart from adding the clearance between wheels and vehicle hub, they can change the bolt pattern, center bore, or even the stud thread to allow you to mount wheels that are not designed for your car. They 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.
With wheel adapters, it is not always necessary for a specific vehicle to use specific corresponding wheels. For example, if you want to install 5×150 wheels on a Toyota Land Cruiser 300 Series, 6 lug to 5 lug wheel adapters will be the solution. The hub side of the adapter is machined to a 6×139.7 bolt pattern to fit your LC300 and the other side is built into a 5×150 lug pattern to fit the 5 lug wheels. Then, the wheel adapter becomes an extension of your vehicle hub, letting you vastly expand the number of available wheel choices.