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Bolt Pattern Basics   Lug Nuts 101   Backspace vs Offset

 

Wheel selection can make or break a vehicle’s looks. Select the wrong custom wheels and everyone is pointing at your ride for the wrong reasons. However, select the right custom wheels and you’re the star of the show when you come rolling into the parking lot. We also know some aftermarket wheels aren’t purchased for their looks. In some types of racing, toughness and durability are more important than outward appearance. That’s when recognizing the difference between alloy wheels and steel wheels comes in handy, and we’re here to help you decipher all your options.

What Is the Best Method to Measure Wheels?

When it comes to measuring for custom wheels, your best friend is a measuring tape. To know if you have 15x7 wheels or 15x8 wheels, or if you want to add 15x9 wheels or even 15x10 wheels, you first need to know how to measure wheels. First off, the width of the wheel is measured from what is called the wheel’s bead seat. The width is measured from the inner bead seat to the outer bead seat. In other words, don’t measure from actual wheel lip to wheel lip, measure at the spot where the tire seats on the wheel on each side.

The diameter of the wheel is measured across the face of the wheel and uses the tire bead seat as the measuring point, not the lip of the wheel. Using a measuring tape, go from bead seat to bead seat across the front of the wheel, remembering to not use the wheel lip as the measuring point.

Then you have to take wheel offset and backspacing into account. A wheel’s backspacing is the measurement from the mounting face to the wheel’s rear lip. Use a straight edge across the back of the wheel, and then use a measuring tape and measure the distance between the wheel’s mounting surface to the straight edge. This measurement is important when deciding on new wheels for you ride, but you will also need to know the wheel’s offset. You have negative, zero and positive offset custom wheels. A positive offset means the wheel’s mounting face is toward the front of the wheel, while a negative offset puts the mounting face toward the back, or inside of the wheel. Finally, a zero offset means the mounting face is right in the middle of the rim.

Are Aftermarket Wheels Worth It?

Most aftermarket wheels are aluminum wheels (or alloy wheels if you prefer) which do offer a performance advantage over steel wheels. Aluminum wheels not only offer improved looks, but their lightweight construction can help reduce parasitic loss, which means more horsepower makes it to the wheels. Yes, custom wheels are available in steel, but most period factory wheels were steel wheels, whereas on average, most aftermarket custom wheels are in the form of aluminum wheels or alloy wheels. If for nothing else, custom wheels are usually better looking when compared to most factory wheels. There are exceptions to this rule, but on the average, custom wheels are better looking than factory wheels. 

How To Choose Aftermarket Wheels?

So, there are tools you can use to measure for the right size wheel for your vehicle. We offer the Wheel Fit measuring tool for example. It provides a way to measure backspacing, offset and wheel size. It bolts to your vehicle and helps you decide what size wheel and tire will work on your vehicle. That is the first step in choosing aftermarket wheels for your vehicle. Because of the Wheel Fit tool, figuring out the ideal wheel size is probably the easiest part. After figuring out what size wheel to add, then it comes to bolt pattern, which we go over for you, and then all you need to do is figure out the perfect custom wheels for your ride. Using the Wheel Fit tool, you can figure out backspacing, offset, width and diameter in minutes, but if you’re like us, it will probably take six months to decide on a wheel design. After all, that is the toughest part when it comes to adding custom wheels.

Are All Wheels the Same?

No, not all wheels are the same. You can’t take a Ford wheel and put it on a Chevy, the bolt patterns are different. It would be cool if all wheels had the same bolt pattern, but it just doesn’t work that way. Then we talk about different backspacing, offsets, and wheel size. For all these reasons you rarely can just take a set of wheels off one vehicle and bolt them to another. First, you have to make sure the wheels have the same bolt pattern, and even if that is the same, the offset and backspacing could keep the wheels from even bolting on. Knowing a wheel’s bolt pattern, offset and backspacing, and more importantly, how to measure all these parameters will help you the next time you’re at the salvage yard or swap meet.

What Are the Most Popular Wheel Bolt Patterns?

The most common wheel lug patterns come in 4 lug wheels, 5 lug wheels, 6 lug wheels, and 8 lug wheels. Figuring out the number of lugs is easy but knowing the lug pattern is key. With 4-, 6- and 8-lug wheels you measure from the center of one lug hole to the center of the lug hole directly across from it. For a 5 lug wheel, it’s a little different. In this instance, place your measuring tape in the middle of one lug hole, and then measure to the outside of the lug hole across from it. Older Ford and Dodge 5 lug wheels are classified as 5x4.5 wheels. Meaning, it’s a 5 lug wheel and lug spacing is 4.5 inches. Some Ford trucks have a 5x5.5 design, but most Ford passenger car 5 lug wheels feature 5x4.5 wheels. For GM applications, these use 5x4.75 wheels. Most often referred to as Chevy bolt pattern 5x4.75 wheels, many GM vehicles use the same bolt pattern. Now you see why we said you can’t usually just bolt wheels on from another car.

In our Toolbox section on our website, we have a tutorial showing everything we talk about here (the guide is linked at the top of this page). Plus, we have a handy wheel bolt pattern tool to remove the guesswork of finding the correct wheel lug spacing for your ride. If you’re in the habit of swapping wheels or working on a variety of wheel designs and applications, this tool needs to be in your toolbox. Once you figure out the lug pattern, you’ll need to figure out the backspacing and offset you need, like we point out above, and get to shopping. We have so many wheel designs to choose from, and not just for your street car. We have circle track wheels in conventional bolt patterns and Wide 5 patterns as well.