When you work at a Jeep retailer, questions become part of your everyday life. Will this fit, or how does that piece work? But besides all the usual questions regarding things like soft top installation or lift kit fitment, one selection of products also does seem to generate its fair share of concerns.
Wheel spacers and adapters.
These are not flashy products. They won’t light the way at night, or air down your tires with one press of a button. But for those looking to upgrade tires or purchase new wheels with a different bolt pattern, wheels spacers and adapters can help accomplish these goals without slamming your Jeep budget.
So what exactly do these products do, are they really worth installing on your rig, any legalities, are they safe, and what are some of the recommended brands.
Let’s get to work.
Wheel spacers, quite simply, are devices made of metal, normally aluminum. They mount to the wheel studs in place of the wheel and then Loc-tite is used to ‘lock’ the new lug nuts to the threads on the studs. Once installed, these lugs must be torqued to spec and checked again at the manufacturer’s recommended mileage.
Your Jeep’s wheels then mount to the studs built into the wheel spacers, thus pushing those wheels and tires further out from the Jeep. Why is this important? Well, it allows for clearance of wider tires if you’ve upgraded your rubber, while letting you retain those factory wheels (thus saving money by not adding new rims) without having to worry about rubbing issues.
Another form of wheel spacers are wheel adapters. This product, instead of pushing wheels out from the Jeep, actually converts the stock bolt pattern on your vehicle into a different version. Popular wheel adapter conversions for Jeep applications are:
- 5x4.5” to 5x5” which converts YJ, TJ, XJ, ZJ to a JK bolt pattern
- 5x4.5” to 5x5.5” which converts YJ, TJ, XJ, ZJ to a CJ bolt pattern
- 5x5” to 5x4.5” which converts JK to a YJ, TJ, XJ, ZJ bolt pattern
- 5x5” to 5x5.5” which converts JK to a CJ bolt pattern
Whether wheel spacers or adapters are worth installing on your Jeep is a matter of personal preference and budget. Purchasing all new wheels with a better offset will allow you to easily add larger and wider tires, but there definitely is a cost factor to consider. And if that cost is not in the budget, or if you love your factory wheels, then you’ll need to consider wheel spacers. Additionally, if you do choose new wheels, you may find some you really love that are only available in a different bolt pattern. If so, adding wheel adapters to convert that bolt pattern is an economical choice.
One thing to consider when installing wheel spacers or adapters are your local inspection laws and regulations. These laws do vary from state to state, but most states have some form of vehicle inspection. So if your state does employ a vehicle inspection law, then we definitely recommend checking with your local inspection station on the legalities of running wheel spacers/adapters.
One important question that often comes up regarding wheel spacers/adapters is ‘are they safe?’
The simple answer is - yes. High quality spacers made from billet aluminum are just as strong – if not stronger – than the wheel they attach to. But adding spacers is adding another component on at the end of that axle, so make sure to properly tighten and torque all of the spacers’ bolts and nuts. The important thing to remember, like any other installation job, is to follow instructions and do not take on something past your level of expertise.
As far as recommended brands, there are many wheel spacer/adapter options and Spidertrax or Synergy tend to be the most popular. Other brands to consider are Teraflex, Rugged Ridge, G2, Alloy USA, Crown Automotive, Mountain Off-Road and Accel.
Here is a list of all our wheel spacers and adapters.