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Do wheel spacers really damage wheel bearings?

81266 Views 63 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  KonLegend
Im wanting to add wheel spacers to my WJ which has std wheels (17in), upcountry suspension and 3/4 in spring spacers. Two reasons for wanting to do this. The first is cosmetic...I think the wheels would look better not so sunk into the wells. Secondly a lot of the tram line tracks in the trails around here seem to have been made by cars slightly wider than mine and I find the Jeep climbing up the inside of the ruts so the car is always trying to jump from one side of the car in the rut to the other so hopefully a couple more inches of track will make this a bit better!
Im only looking for 1 or 1.25 inch spacers max (would look at one and a half inch spacers if nothing will rub on full lock or when hitting big lumps...anyone know?) but have read on here and elsewhere that running wheel spacers will damage or shorten the life your wheel/hub bearing. Is this true and does anyone have first hand experience of this happening to them (rather knowing a friend of their cousin who may have had it happen to someone they knew!.....and it was def the spacers that caused the bearing to fail on his 190,000 mile truck;))
I have just replace both rear bearing due to failed seals and dont want to be doing it again anytime soon....also the fronts are real expensive this side of the pond.
Any help comments gratefully received. Thanks.
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While wheel spacers will cause extra wear on you wheel bearings, they aren't any more harmful that wheels with less backspacing...

I've had 1.5" wheel spacers on my WJ for a year and haven't had any problems so far (knock on wood). Just be sure to install them properly and check the torque often. Oh and also, with your tire size, you shouldn't have any issues with rubbing. Wheel spacers can increase rubbing but I doubt you'll experience any.
Hey D, what are you up to now.. stop tinkering and enjoy will ya!:thumbsup:

There is another problem, increased track will cause tramlining over here and with the quality of tarmac roads over here and the already wooly steering I can't say that it would be too comfortable..I had this on a 7 series BM with 17" rims and it wasn't comfortable because of the steering set up i.e steering box as opposed steering rack.. Racks are more positive.

;) :cheers2:
Hey D, what are you up to now.. stop tinkering and enjoy will ya!:thumbsup:

There is another problem, increased track will cause tramlining over here and with the quality of tarmac roads over here and the already wooly steering I can't say that it would be too comfortable..I had this on a 7 series BM with 17" rims and it wasn't comfortable because of the steering set up i.e steering box as opposed steering rack.. Racks are more positive.

;) :cheers2:
Its all very tame for me and I can't help tInkerIng!...and this is the most std vehicle ive owned in a long time...wife going part time since my lad was born has restricted funds somewhat. Recent toys before son have inc;
A bright orange Yamaha XJR1200 with under seat exhaust and Nitrous,
a Alfa 156 V6 (red of course) with race cams, full twin exhaust...and nitrous again!
a BMW 528i dropped to the floor on 20s
an Audi 20v Quattro coupe with twin exhaust and a DIY supercharger conversion using a VW G60 Corrado blower! and a Mitsubishi GTO twin turbo pushing out nearly 500 dobins .All built by me although I bought the GTO at about 400bhp so alot of work had been done!
....so I dont think a set of wheel spacers is pushing the boat out too far!!

Anyway back to subject...anyone had bearings fail as a direct result of spacers or have their life shortened alot...although difficult to prove what really made them fail of course!!
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since were on the subject of wheel spacers, ive also been considering buying some. but im cheap and have been debating if i should get some from the parts store, or just order some "good" ones online?
Don't even look at multi fit ones. If they not hubcentrIc they are not safe (unless really thin) and you will have the unbalanced wheel feel forever due to the wheels not being centred properly. Hubs hold wheels central and support most of the weight. Bolts just hold the wheel tight to the hub.
Don't even look at multi fit ones. If they not hubcentrIc they are not safe (unless really thin) and you will have the unbalanced wheel feel forever due to the wheels not being centred properly. Hubs hold wheels central and support most of the weight. Bolts just hold the wheel tight to the hub.
ok. glad its been said now :cheers2:
i was just curious about them because design wise, they look exactly the same as some ive seen online that are highly praised. i figured "whats the difference?"
Wheel spacers multiply the amount of stress on the bearings and other components in your suspension, adding force as a lever. IIRC, the angle in wheel bearings is designed to cancel or counteract this force in stock configurations, but if you move the center circumference of your tire away from stock, you add stress. Technically speaking, these forces are acting on your axle, axle U joints, and differential as well, but to a lesser degree as the percent change in lever length is much less.

I've always heard wheel spacers aren't safe, but if I were going to add them anyway, I'd plan on checking my wheel bearings every few thousand miles, and replacing them more often. The correct way to solve the problem, I think, would be replacing your axles, which is obviously more costly.

I should add that it's possible the additional length of lever caused by wheel spacers is still within the tolerance for your components.

Good luck.
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Wheel spacers multiply the amount of stress on the bearings and other components in your suspension, adding force as a lever. IIRC, the angle in wheel bearings is designed to cancel or counteract this force in stock configurations, but if you move the center circumference of your tire away from stock, you add stress. Technically speaking, these forces are acting on your axle, axle U joints, and differential as well, but to a lesser degree as the percent change in lever length is much less.

I've always heard wheel spacers aren't safe, but if I were going to add them anyway, I'd plan on checking my wheel bearings every few thousand miles, and replacing them more often. The correct way to solve the problem, I think, would be replacing your axles, which is obviously more costly.

I should add that it's possible the additional length of lever caused by wheel spacers is still within the tolerance for your components.

Good luck.
No different what so ever from a wheel with less backspacing.
No different what so ever from a wheel with less backspacing.
Right.
Wheel spacers multiply the amount of stress on the bearings and other components in your suspension, adding force as a lever. IIRC, the angle in wheel bearings is designed to cancel or counteract this force in stock configurations, but if you move the center circumference of your tire away from stock, you add stress. Technically speaking, these forces are acting on your axle, axle U joints, and differential as well, but to a lesser degree as the percent change in lever length is much less.

I've always heard wheel spacers aren't safe, but if I were going to add them anyway, I'd plan on checking my wheel bearings every few thousand miles, and replacing them more often. The correct way to solve the problem, I think, would be replacing your axles, which is obviously more costly.

I should add that it's possible the additional length of lever caused by wheel spacers is still within the tolerance for your components.

Good luck.
Just like Whiteout said, wheel spacers cause no more damage than a wheel with less BS.

They are just as "dangerous" as anything else you do when modifying a vehicle. Not using the correct hardware, improper torque, no maintenance, and many other factors all have effects on the safety the product offers.

There is also a difference between say a VatoZone generic wheel spacer, and a Spydertrax wheel spacer that you have to take into consideration.

Not sure how a wheel spacer effects steering either?
changing your scrub radius is bad m'kay
children , changing your scrub radius is bad m'kay
You do realize you change your scrub radius when you add larger tires, right? :thumbsup:
You do realize you change your scrub radius when you add larger tires, right? :thumbsup:
larger tires , off set rims yeah i realize that

i also realize 98% of people just had to google scrub radius too :laugh:

and that i mixed southpark lines
But still no one has said that THEIR bearing failed because of spacers or less back spacing (same thing)....so maybe its just all hearsay.
970001zj said:
larger tires , off set rims yeah i realize that

i also realize 98% of people just had to google scrub radius too :laugh:

and that i mixed southpark lines
90%......there's some here with a little more know how than you think.

Just get the smallest wheel spacer you can that still allows you to articulate properly and give it a little meaner stance, and no they won't kill your wheel bearings.
My take on it is that the added positive scrub radius from the spacers will increase the leverage the tire puts on the steering a bit. This may be noticeable when the tire hits bumps piles of snow etc.

Taller tires reduce the scrub radius again which counters this effect.
I'll be buying spacers my self soon too. I see the ball joints giving more fuss then the bearing, but by buying better ball joints should offset the issue (Moog).
OK so thanks for all your thoughts and advice......next question. What thickness can I use with std 17 inch wheels with std (but AT) tyres..so 235-65/17). I was thinking maybe inch or inch and a quarter. Will 1.5 inch go without the tyres touching anywhere? Looks as though it will be close to the top of the rear arches at full compression....
Here's mine stuffed with 1.5" wheel spacers (4.5" total backspacing) and 245/75R16 tires on the OME HD lift:

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