The biggest concern with installing wheel spacers is the risk of losing a wheel. And proper torque is one way to avoid this risk. To torque wheel spacers correctly, use a torque wrench set to the specifications written in your manual or on the spacer. Make sure the bolts are clean and positioned properly before proceeding to torque in a crisscross sequence, a quarter at a time to ensure you tighten the bolts evenly.
Well-torqued wheel spacers are safe to use, given that their size is moderate and picked carefully. A lot of factors contribute to safety when you install spacers. It depends on the size, material, condition and, of course, installation. Usually, problems occur when car enthusiasts happen to purchase spacers of poor quality or install them carelessly.
It is extremely important to secure the wheel on a spacer using just enough torque to keep it there. Because spacers are supposed to become an extension of the wheel hub, and you would not like the connection to be too loose or dangerously tight. Both overdoing it and not tightening enough can lead to major issues in the future.
So this is how you install and torque the wheel spacers:
1. Take off the wheel and clean the surface.
This step is necessary. If there is dirt or water on the surface before you mount the spacer, this contamination can lead to oxidation and seizing.
2. Next, find the recommended lug nut torque for the spacer and set the torque wrench.
Usually, it is somewhere between 70-90 lbs. ft. Check torque specifications for the spacer and use the recommended setting. Do not exceed the limit or you risk stripping the lug bolts. And never use impact guns and sockets for torquing wheels or spacers.
3. Place and align the spacer on the hub nicely and fix it there with bolts.
Proper alignment is important to ensure that bolts go directly to the holes in the hub without damaging the thread. It also helps with even weight distribution.
4. Start torquing in a crisscross sequence (in a star shape, each next lug nut must be across, not next to the previous one).
Do not tighten them to the limit at once. Go slow one by one and then follow up with another round or two. This way, all the bolts will be tightened properly.
5. Install the wheel and take a short drive before retorquing the spacer.
Lug nuts can get a bit looser when you drive, and this extra step will help you be absolutely sure that everything is tightened enough.
How Often Should You Torque Wheel Spacers?
We have previously touched upon the fact that driving and temperature fluctuations can make the lug nuts get loosened up. Best practice suggests that you should check and retorque wheel spacers after 50-100 miles of driving after you install them. After this brief check, you can leave them alone for another 6 000 miles. For your safety, it is best if you check the way the wheel spacer is torqued every 6 000 miles.
The main reasons why you should not neglect this routine check-up are vibrations, potholes and temperature fluctuations. All these natural factors can lessen the torque and loosen up the fasteners. This is far from ideal since loose lug bolts can cause lots of damage. And preventing issues is always much cheaper than dealing with their consequences.
What Happens if You Don't Torque Wheel Spacers?
Aside from the obvious outcome, a loose wheel, this can result in other unpleasant issues. If you do not torque the wheel spacers well enough, the vibration from driving will make them rub against the thread and socket in the hub. This friction leads to overheating and mechanical damage.
Over time the space between the spacer and the wheel hub will accumulate moisture and dirt. This environment is a perfect breeding ground for all sorts of issues, from rust to faster deterioration of the metal itself.
What Happens if You Apply too Much Torque to Wheel Spacers?
In the case of torquing wheel spacers, more is not better at all. If you overtighten the spacer it will pull on the bolts too hard. This can shear off and stretch the bolts and even damage the hub itself. Extra stress from too much torque can lead to irreversible damage in some cases.
Both too much and too little torque can potentially lead to catastrophic consequences. This is why we insist on using a torque wrench to tighten the bolts on wheel spacers correctly.
Avoid Costly Mistakes When Torquing Wheel Spacers
Wheel spacers are an amazing customization tool in the right hands. They can create a great look for the vehicle by altering the offset and allowing larger wheels. There are more benefits of spacers than some people might think at first. But they can all be canceled out with a poor installation technique.
Here are some of the most common spacer torquing mistakes:
- wrong torque (too much or too little);
- poor alignment;
- using an impact gun;
- applying anti-seize products on the bolts.
Using the right torque setting is crucial, and we already know why. But the trick with applying just enough torque lies in the tools. The only thing you should use to torque spacers and wheels is a trusty torque wrench. It allows you to set the exact amount of torque the lug nuts require without overdoing it. Do not use impact guns for this task. They are too strong and fast. Impact guns can easily strip the thread and cause a poor connection.
Another thing you should avoid like the plague is using anti-seize oils and other products on the bolts. It is okay if you put some on the hub to prevent rust. However, for bolts, it creates more issues than benefits. Grease makes the bolts too slippery, completely warping the torque value for the wrench. This way, you will overtighten the lug nuts without realizing it.
How Do I Keep My Wheel Spacers Tight?
The best way to make the spacer stay tight is to torque each lug nut properly and then come back for a quick retorquing. When the wheel spacer is properly torqued according to the recommendations, it usually stays secure for a long time. However, checking every 6 000 miles will be a good idea.
If you do everything correctly while installing spacers, your vehicle should be all set. A responsible approach to selecting and installing wheel spacers is the best way to ensure their safety.
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