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What Is Wheel Offset? A Full Breakdown

What Is Wheel Offset? A Full Breakdown

When it comes to cars, there are a million things to learn. When to change your oil, rotate your tires, check your brakes—the list can go on forever. If you’re someone who gets confused about car lingo, it’s no wonder you get overwhelmed at the thought of keeping up with your vehicle in the day-to-day. 

If this is you, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Keep reading for a full breakdown of wheel offset and what you need to know.   

So… What Does Wheel Offset Mean and Why Is It Important?

Wheel offset refers to the distance from the wheel’s hub-mounting surface all the way to the center plane. There are two types of wheel offset—positive and negative—and having an uneven balance in either direction could be harmful to your vehicle. 

Wheel offset is important because it ensures the wheel is properly placed on your car. If put on incorrectly, the wheel may sit too far inside the wheel well, causing the inner edge of both the wheel and tire to rub against the suspension. This is why correct installation is vital. 

Another term you might hear is “wheel backspacing.” This is measured in inches and refers to the length from the inside edge of the wheel to the mounting surface. These measurements can get confusing, so don’t get caught in the details. Just be aware of what the term “wheel backspacing” is referring to.

More on Positive Offset Vs. Negative Offset

For now, let’s talk a bit more about the types of offset. The first step is understanding the difference between a positive versus negative offset. These terms refer to the measurement of the offset and are discussed in millimeters. 

If you hear that the offset is 0, it means the wheel mounting pad is located in the center of the wheel. 

Positive wheel offset refers to when the hub mounting surface is in front of the centerline of the wheel. The more positive the offset, the closer to the street the mounting surface is. This is frequently seen on cars with front-wheel drive or newer vehicles with rear-drive. 

Negative offset is when the mounting surface is behind the centerline and towards the suspension. This will cause the wheel to stick out further compared to a positive offset. Know the rules in your state if your offset is more negative, as some states require you cover the wheel and tire width with fender flares.

Let’s go over some pros and cons to both types of offset: 

Positive Offset Pros

  • Can fit wider tires 

  • Tires tuck neatly and don’t stick out

  • Reduced risk of your tires rubbing against your fender, as they do with negative offset

Positive Offset Cons

  • Problems with suspension components rubbing against your wheel edge and tire 

  • Clearance issues with brake parts can cause damage to your brakes

  • Higher risk of tire failure if you fail to ensure enough clearance for the tires

Negative Offset Pros

  • Creates a wider track: “Track” describes the distance between the centerline of two wheels on the same axle and provides greater stability when making turns

  • Better stance: This is for cosmetic purposes alone, but if you’re looking to fancy up your car, this is a great option for you!

Negative Offset Pros

  • Premature wear of the axle, bearings, and driveline

  • Issues with wheels rubbing the fender

Can I Change Wheel Offset Myself?

Maybe you’re looking for a way to perfect your wheel offset, and changing the offset on your own seems like it should be doable.

While you can use spacers to adjust your wheel offset, there is no other way to fully change it. If you do wish to use spacers to change wheel offset, let’s talk about how you can make sure you install any spacers correctly.

First thing’s first: you need to make sure you choose the right spacers. Generally speaking, hubcentric spacers might be the best option, as these help make sure the weight of the vehicle is distributed evenly.

Installing Spacers

Once you have the spacers you need, follow these steps to install them:

  1. Loosen the lug nuts on your wheels without fully removing them

  2. Lift your car and then lower onto jack stands

  3. Remove the lug nuts and wheels

  4. Clean imperfections off of spacers, then slide them over the lug nuts on each wheel

  • For bolt-on wheel spacers: Tighten the lug nuts on the spacer and follow any other specific instructions included with the equipment.

  •  For slip-ons: SImply ensure the spacer is placed properly up against the hub.

  1. Torque spacer lug-nuts in standard star pattern

  2. Reinstall the wheels and tighten lug nuts

  3. Remove jack stands and torque each wheel one last time.

Keep in mind that although wheel spacers are an option, it is always best to purchase the proper wheels for your car instead of trying to make adjustments to an unsatisfactory set. The right set of wheels will not need their offset to be altered.

For example, if you want a more aggressive look for your car, you can simply purchase wheels with a negative offset so that they extend further out from under your vehicle. This way, you get the wheel offset you desire without having to do any of the work to achieve it.

Ensuring Your Offset Is Correct

When it comes to adding spacers for wheel offset, consider some of the following tips and tricks to ensure you complete the process successfully:

Do Your Research

If you don’t know how to complete the process correctly, don’t attempt to do it blindly. Instead, look up videos on Youtube, Google the questions you have, or seek help at a wheel and tire location. Better yet, purchase wheels with the correct offset in the first place so you don’t have to worry about using spacers to change it.

Ask a Friend for Help

Working with cars can be risky. Even when displaying extreme caution, injury is still possible. Consider asking a friend or family member for help when installing wheel spacers. This way, in the case of an emergency, you have someone there for assistance. Hopefully, though, this doesn’t end up being necessary. 

Have Someone Check Behind You

Because of the risks regarding too much positive offset or too much negative offset, it’s not a bad idea to have someone check your work once you’re finished. Whether this is a mechanic or tire guy, a friend who knows about cars, or even someone learning alongside you, a second look decreases the risk of damage to your vehicle caused by improper offset.

RAW Wheels + Tires

While we’re on the topic of wheel offset, you may find that RAW Wheels + Tires is the perfect go-to for your newest wheels, tires, rims, or even accessory needs. You have a variety of options when it comes to replacing or upgrading your wheels, such as buying them outright or setting them up on a rent-to-own plan.

Whether you have a street, luxury, off-road, muscle, or specialty vehicle, RAW Wheels + Tires is available to meet all your needs. If you aren’t sure of the specifics of your purchase, you can seek help at a local store, call for assistance, or use the online chat feature. 

Purchasing Options With RAW

Do you have a preference when it comes to making your purchases in a physical store versus online? Luckily, there are options for both with RAW Wheels + Tires.

If you want to make your car purchases at a physical location, you can choose from 130 locations spread out over 15 states. 

When making your purchases, consider the difference between “in-footprint” and “out-of-footprint” for each location. 

“In-footprint” refers to a general vicinity in which rent-to-own (RTO) payment plans can be set up. If you hear the term “out-of-footprint,” this means rent-to-own is not available in that area, although you can still make your purchases outright with good prices and wide inventory.

Do you prefer online purchases over being in-person? This is also an option for you! If you come across questions while making your final purchasing decisions, you can use the handy chat box to message one of RAW’s associates. 

Some Benefits of  RAW Wheels + Tires

The benefits for RAW Wheels + Tires will depend upon the route of purchase you choose to take. For instance, you’ll find different benefits if purchasing your wheels outright versus choosing the RTO option. There are, however, a number of benefits that apply to any purchase being made:

  • Ability to shop online or in-store

  • Largest RTO retailer of wheels and tires in the country: ~130 locations + Online 

  • Top 10 largest independently owned tire dealer in the country

  • Over 1,000,000 satisfied customers

  • Largest in-stock inventory & over 1,000,000 wheel and tire package options online

  • All Top Brands/Styles 

  • Cash prices in-line or better than anyone’s advertised price

The Take-Away to Wheel Offset

From oil changes to tire rotations to other maintenance, there is much upkeep when it comes to your vehicle. Even if you love cars, this can be overwhelming!

Whether you need to adjust your wheel offset for functional purchases or you’re aiming to improve the look of your vehicle, understanding this concept is important. Hopefully, this article assists you in better understanding wheel offset, knowing why it’s important for your vehicle, and understanding how to adjust it based on your personal needs. 

Take advantage of the many benefits and excellent customer service that RAW Wheels + Tires has to offer. Now that you know everything you need to know about wheel offset and the best establishment to visit for your car needs, it’s time to put your knowledge to work. Let’s check out the wheel offsets on your vehicles!


What does changing wheel offset do? | MVOrganizing

Understanding Wheel Offset: Negative vs. Positive Offset Explained | Low Offset 

Wheel Offset Calculator | Tire Size

Wheel Spacers Overview: Hub/Lug/Wheel-Centric | XterraNation

How To Install Wheel Spacers Correctly | Low Offset