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Bolt Pattern BasicsBolt Pattern Basics
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Backspace vs. OffsetBackspace vs. Offset

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Lug Nuts 101Lug Nuts 101

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Interest-Free Financing on WheelsInterest-Free Financing on Wheels

After years of working, saving, hoping, and wishing, you finally have that dream muscle car or street rod in your garage. Immediately, you start thinking about modifications and updates you wish to make. Maybe you want to keep the stock wheels on your pre-war street rod but add modern brakes. Or maybe you scored a great deal on a Ford 9-inch rear for your Camaro and need to convert the Ford bolt pattern to match the Camaro’s original GM pattern. Whatever the reason, you are going to need to investigate wheel adapters and if they are right for your project. Helping you find the answers to your questions, such as what wheel adapters are and the benefits they offer, is crucial information needed to help you decide which wheel adapter is right for you. Whether you want to upgrade your wheels to something bigger or want to keep the stock wheels for a period-correct look, knowing what wheel adapters are and the role they serve is key. Let us answer some of the most common questions encountered when buying a set of wheel adapters.

What are wheel adapters?

Simply put, wheel adapters allow you to run wheels with a different bolt pattern than the one found on your vehicle. Since the early days of the automobile, owners have swapped wheels. While some may have done it for functional reasons, many of us do it to stand out. Whatever your reason may be, wheel adapters are the easiest and most cost-effective way of mounting a set of wheels with different bolt patterns.

Wheels have several different dimensions that affect their fitment, including offset, backspacing, diameter, and of course the wheel bolt pattern. Just because both the brake rotor/drum and/or axle have five studs and the wheel has five bolt holes, does not necessarily mean they will match up. The distance between holes (known as the center-to-center measurement) will vary depending on the application and this is where a 5-lug adapter would solve the problem.

Are Wheel Adapters Safe?

A wheel adapter is a spacer that allows you to utilize wheels with different bolt patterns than the one found on your car. It has been proven again and again that having a wider stance will improve both cornering and overall handling on a vehicle.

However, some will argue that installing wheel adapters will end up causing havoc on suspension components as they were not designed to handle a wider track and will mess up the overall geometry. If choosing a quality set of wheel adapters for your bolt pattern conversion, there should be minimal, if any, negative consequences. A simple wheel alignment will further reduce any adverse effects.

Your handling will be greatly improved by widening your vehicle's footpath. Couple that with a wider wheel and tire combination and you are sure to see and feel the difference!

What are the benefits of wheel adapters? 

Wheel adapters will allow you to fit almost any wheel to any vehicle by way of a machined spacer that bolts onto your brake rotor/drum or axle and provides an alternative, secondary wheel bolt pattern. In addition to allowing your favorite wheel to fit on your car, a wheel adaptor will also widen your overall track width, as we have already mentioned above.

Another benefit of quality wheel adapters are that they allow you to keep your existing wheels when upgrading to modern brake packages and aftermarket suspension or axle assemblies. Often a modern brake package will necessitate new wheels due to the bolt pattern differences. A lug adapter is a great way to retain your existing wheels, which are often a major investment you would rather not purchase a second time, by simply slipping them in between your current wheels and your new brake package.

What is the difference between wheel adapters and wheel spacers? 

A wheel spacer does not alter the bolt pattern of the vehicle, it only widens the track. While this might work in certain situations, there is nothing that can be done to fit wheels to your muscle car or street rod when one or the other has a different bolt pattern.

A rim adapter has several benefits. First and foremost, they will allow you to fit wheels with a different bolt pattern than to that of the car in question. Additionally, wheel adapters act as a wheel spacer as well, allowing your wheels to sit flusher with the body lines for a great stance, while also making your vehicle handle better due to the pushing of the wheels out. That wider track we mentioned earlier. Sure, there are other ways of getting wheels on a car when there is a different bolt pattern in question, such as re-drilling or re-machining the rims, but that will hurt the resale value and dimmish the integrity of the rim itself and really is only possible on wheels with a covered center hub. If your wheels are on the traditional side, like a polished 5-spoke with exposed lug nuts, there is really no way to make the new drilled pattern look good.

One of the safest and fastest ways to change your car’s bolt pattern is by getting a set of custom wheel adapters. Unlike wheel spacers that are often made to fit several bolt patterns, most quality wheel adapters will not negatively affect the vehicle and are securely bolted to the brake rotor/drum or axle and utilize new studs in the proper location to fit the wheel in place.

How do I know which wheel adapters to use?

Determining your bolt pattern and that of the wheels you are planning to use will give you all the information needed to help you choose the correct wheel adapters. In case the bolt pattern is not known, we have an in-depth guide on how to measure wheel bolt patterns to help you figure it out.

After you have figured out the bolt pattern of your vehicle and that of the wheels in question, it is time to start thinking about the width of the adapters themselves. Even though a wider stance may be better in theory, it physically may not work with the dimensions of the vehicle. This may be due to several factors such as wheel offset, vehicle height, tire dimensions, and so on.

Doing your homework before pulling the trigger on a quality 5 lug conversion kit adapter will save you time and most importantly money when it comes to mounting your wheels. Luckily, Speedway Motors has a backspace vs offset guide intended to help educate you on choosing the right wheel adapters for your project. Whether looking to update your car’s looks, get a set of better-performing wheels, or solve the age-old hot rod dilemma of mixing and matching driveline parts, there is no doubt that a good quality set of rim adaptors is essential. Fortunately, changing the bolt pattern has never been easier or safer.

Updated by Mark Houlahan