Dangerous Wheel Spacers

I was looking over an 8th-generation Honda Civic in the shop, and was finding quite a few issues with it. There were some fluid leaks, the brakes were almost worn out, and there were broken springs in both the front and rear suspension. But those weren’t the most dangerous problems.

As soon as the car had come into the shop, I had noticed that the wheels weren’t original. I recognized them as originally coming from a 9th-generation Civic Si. I’ve seen people put newer wheels on older cars before, so I didn’t think much of it, until I took them off to check out the brakes. The front lug nuts came off surprisingly easy, but I didn’t realize why until I took the wheel off the hub.

That’s when I found that the car owner had used wheel spacers on the front hubs to make the wheels not rub against the suspension. The problem with this is that the wheel studs were stock. With the extra thickness of the spacer, there’s less contact area for the lug nuts to engage the studs.

There was so little stud left for the lug nuts due to the spacers that I couldn’t go even two full turns by hand before the lug nuts were snug to the wheels. That means that there’s barely anything holding the wheels on. It should be obvious why that’s unsafe. I made sure to document on the repair order, both the physical copy and on the computer, that the car was not safe with the wheel spacers.

Wheel spacers can be safe if they’re used right. There are bolt-on spacers with their own studs, but those can be hard to use on a thinner application like this. The other option is to install longer wheel studs in the stock wheel hubs so that there’s enough stud left for the lug nuts with the spacer on. You also want the center of the hubs to fit nicely so the studs aren’t taking all of the force. But even with all that, the safest thing to do is to buy wheels that fit properly, so you don’t need spacers.

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