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Chassis Heeltoe Explains

Wheel Hub Spacers & Hub Adapters (w/ Video Content)

Why you want wheel hub spacers

Heeltoe has done the homework and found that there are three main reasons why you would want wheel spacers:

  • Looks
  • Handling
  • Brake Clearance

If you are trying to fit different bolt-pattern wheels on your car, you might be needing Hub Adapters instead, which we’ll explain a little further down.

That stance!

Bumping out the wheels on a car to widen the track is a great way to make the stance appear more aggressive. Car manufacturers leave ample room for wheels and tires to move and articulate to avoid rubbing in extreme situations, but this clearance can result in a “sunken-in” look to the wheels as they often sit far inside the fender arches with a fist-full of unsightly fender-gap; hardly a flattering stance for a dialed-in Heeltoe ride.

Getting the tire snuggled up to the fenders makes a car look a little lower and meaner. When sized properly, wheel spacers will complement the look of factory or aftermarket wheel and tire combos without much worry about rubbing. Of course, there is a tasteful limit to how far you push out the wheels, so act in moderation if you want to stay classy.

Flatter in the turns

Back in the 90s, Pontiac had a “Wider is Better” campaign promoting the wide-track design of their Grand Prix model. Contrary to the name, the Grand Prix is no “grand prize” of performance engineering, but the concept is true. A wider track–the distance between the left and right wheels, measured from the centerline of the wheel–will tend to improve the roll-resistance of the chassis. A little wider stance can help the car feel flatter and more stable in turns.

Brake clearance

Another main reason a car would need wheel spacers is to provide more space for aftermarket brake upgrades. Big Brake Kits sold by Heeltoe, or BBKs, often feature 4-, 6-, or more caliper pistons; a performance benefit with a side effect of to get much fatter than standard calipers. The additional size of aftermarket brakes oftentimes leaves little or no clearance to the backside of the wheel. Wheel spacers move the wheel away from the hub which makes for a more comfortable fit of larger brake calipers behind even a standard wheel.

So, how do they work?

This video helps you understand a little more about how these bolt-on spacers work.

You may have seen different kinds of wheel spacers and here we are explaining how the “bolt-on” kind work. Viable spacers below 10mm (0.4″) in thickness do not have studs in them and require extended studs to be installed to allow for enough thread engagement for the lug nut after the wheel is installed. There is no major rule of thumb for how thick is safe to go on a standard wheel spacer, but 5mm (0.2″) is the max that we would ever go, assuming you have even enough thread on the studs to begin with. If in doubt consult a technician.

Get Fitted

Getting the right size spacer for your needs is all about taking a simple measurement with a tape measure or ruler.

If you are trying to move the tire closer to the fender, measure the distance from the sidewall or tread blocks to the edge of the fender to approximate the width you need. Keep in mind that the tire will camber-in away from the fender as you drive so you may have a little more room than you think.

If you are trying to make clearance for brake calipers, the measuring can be a little more tricky. Ideally, you will have the brakes installed on the car’s hub & knuckle, and then put the wheel on over them. The risk here is that if there is contact between the spokes and the caliper, you can scratch the caliper, so first cover the caliper with blue painter’s tape. Then, add washers to the wheel studs to stand the wheel away from the hub until there is sufficient clearance to the calipers to spin the wheel without hitting the caliper, being sure you sung the wheel down onto the washers to get a true idea of the spacing needed.

Wheel spacers are available in fixed widths, so once you know how much space you approximately need, round out to the next size. Below are the most common widths of spacers you will find in millimeters with the approximate English unit conversions. For the most part, spacers of 15mm thick or greater will have studs in them already, where smaller ones will need longer studs installed in the hub, which, depending on the kit you get, may or may not be included.

Avail with Studs in Spacer? mm Size Approx Inch Size
w/o studs in spacer3mm1/8″
5mm3/16″
8mm5/16″
10mm25/64″
w/ or w/o studs in spacer15mm19/32″
w/ studs in spacer20mm3/4
25mm1″
30mm1-3/16″

There are more sizes than the above available, many with or without hub ring options. This chart just gives you an idea of how spacers are sized out. The difference between “rubbing” and “not rubbing” is as small as 1-2mm (1/16″) so don’t be afraid to get close but definitely round-up.

Spacer or Adapter

Spacers and Adapters are fundamentally the same thing, with one important difference. The difference between a spacer and an adapter is that a spacer moves the factory wheel out with the same bolt pattern. An adapter will act as a spacer but also change the bolt pattern, allowing you to use a 5×100 wheel on a 5×114 hub, for example. So if you have a 5×100 set of wheels that you truly love, you can put them on your 5×114 hub, provided you have room at your fenders for the extra 15mm-minimum spacing you’ll see.

Hub Centering

Hub-centricity is another frequent concern with wheel spacers. The wheel of the car has an inside bore designed to fit over the snout of the wheel hub. Some wheel spacers and adapters are very nicely designed and incorporate a hub centering feature. However, this design feature does increase the cost and also limits the supply of the exact, right spacer for you right when you need it. Plus you need to know the hub bore on you car as well as the bore diameter of your wheels, and in a wheel-fitting pinch, you probably don’t know this.

It’s often claimed that without hub centering rings to fit a mismatched wheel and hub size, a vibration will be present while driving. Heeltoe’s experience has disproved this claim without exception. While having a hub centering ring is ideal for the most support of the wheel on the hub, lug nut seat design will perfectly center the wheel on the hub and prevent any vibration. As always, even and proper torquing of the wheels is critical.

Billet or cast alloy?

Most spacers are machined from billet aluminum. You should always make sure you get good quality spacers because the studs need to be OE quality or better and the spacers themselves need to be strong. This stuff holds the wheel onto the car and having one break would be a catastrophe. Spending a little more money on quality or well-known brands is generally recommended. Some spacers that don’t have studs are made of cast aluminum, which is perfectly fine, as long as they aren’t too cheap and don’t deform with the wheel torqued down.

In Conclusion

The real reason you want spacers or adapters boils down to a personal need. You either put brakes on that won’t fit the wheels you have, or you put wheels on and they don’t look perfect against your fenders, or you want to improve the look and handling of the car a little without changing the wheels for different ones. Whatever the reason we hope you know a little more about how to select a spacer for your needs and always know that #HTinyourcorner!

Categories
Exterior & Lighting You Can Do It! DIYs

How to properly install exterior car parts with 3M VHB double-sided foam tape

3M double-sided adhesive-backed foam tape–called VHB, or “very high bond” tape– is one of the greatest things to come along for car folks in a long time. It allows you to securely and permanently mount all manner of accessories to the outside of your car without making a permanent commitment.

However, amid reports of spoilers flying off, parts failing to stay put, and items being mounted crookedly, we felt the need to present some tips on how to best install items using this tape, as many items from Fastline Performance and ATLP use it for installation.

In this post, we are installing a Fastline Performance decklid spoiler on a TSX. You will use the same techniques involved with installing the spoiler in this post on any part that has double-sided tape; S2000 bumper caps, ATLP roof spoilers, A-Spec or OEM lip kits…anything that needs to mount in a specific location with double-sided tape.

Update March 22, 2020:

In recent years we have posted a video outlining the below process on YouTube! See it in living color here:

First, get all your materials ready:
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Blue Painter’s Tape
  • A clean rag (mine’s stained but clean)
  • Part with 3M tape pre-applied
Prepare the surface where the item will be mounted.

A clean, dry surface is required in order for parts to stick properly. Alcohol removes contaminants and evaporates quickly without damaging painted surfaces.

Prepare the tapes on the part for test-fit.

Here is where the special method comes in. Instead of pulling away all the backing and trying to stick the spoiler on, pull just an inch or two of backing away and attach it to the outer side of the part with the painter’s tape.

On many of the Fastline or ATLP parts, the strips terminate in the middle of the part as well as at the ends. I like to do a small section at either end of the tape strips.

Mockup the part on the car my lightly installing.

With just a small section of the backing pulled away, you can put the part where you want it to go, without having it stick in place so much that you can’t reposition it.

Thoroughly examine the positioning of your part, making sure it is centered and matches the curvature of the mounting surface.

On this spoiler we have gotten it to a good position. Now we can peel the rest of the backing away to stick it in place exactly where we have it.

Gently pull away the tape backing with the part in place.

Check out the technique here…the backing can be pulled out from under the spoiler from the side.

Here is a side view. Gently pull the backing out, putting light pressure on the part to keep it steady or in place as needed.

You can even do a double move. I am peeling from the middle here. Usually, I like peeling from the middle first, toward the edges.

Press the part in place.

Once all the backing is peeled form under the part, apply some really firm pressure for about 30 seconds in all mounting places. The 3M tape needs to bond with the mounting surface, and it needs pressure to do this. The part will seem like it is stuck on but keep pressing for at least 30 seconds.

Step back and admire.

And there you have it, mounted flat just where you want it! Now for some gratuitous shots of our Fastline Performance Decklid Spoiler for the 04-08 Acura TSX 🙂

This spoiler was modeled after the EDM Ducktail spoiler, which has a nice, low profile look but is fiendishly hard to get and is very expensive.

We are proud of this part. It is definitely a cut above eBay quality, for sure. Also available in carbon fiber.

Thanks for reading!

Categories
Drivetrain Heeltoe Explains

Honda/Acura Axle Vibration Issue found and fixed, with video

You are reading one of the most popular articles published on Heeltoeauto.com to date.

Your support over the years has been much appreciated! Note the following section headings with dates of updates in descending date order.

Update: March 22, 2020:

This article continues to be a runaway success, but nothing stays the same over time. This block update is to supplement the information below with the latest we know today.

How to install a new inner joint kit:
The right-side debacle

The right side inner joints are an issue. As far as we are learning, most all aftermarket right-side axles and axle joints have some attribute that causes them to have a vibration. It is not the same vibration that comes from the wear-pattern outlined in this video.

What happens regularly, we have seen, is the following series of events:

  • Hondacar driver notices vibration on acceleration, somewhere between 40-60 mph, give or take.
  • Finds our article and buys an aftermarket axle for both sides of their car, because they are a lot cheaper than Genuine OEM axles, and in many cases are even cheaper than our Genuine OEM joint kits.
  • Installs aftermarket axle–regardless of or brand, cost, or supplier–and experiences a shaking at 20-30 mph.
  • Customer needs to circle back and buy a new Genuine OEM inner joint from Heeltoe to properly repair their old original axle, or if they tossed the original axle, they buy a complete new Genuine OEM axle.

We would LOVE to sell you an aftermarket axle or inner joint at a lower cost than the Genuine part, but as of this writing, we don’t have one to provide that we can promise will be perfectly vibration-free. This has been true for DSS, Insane Shafts, Raxles, AutoZone, so many other brands we can’t name them all. Even though we posted an update in 2015 (below) that we have one, it just doesn’t work on the right side.

The left side does not seem to have this issue. The right side is just a really particular area of the car for this concern. You won’t save time, money, or stress by getting an aftermarket axle.

Wait, right or left?

More on right versus left in our blog article, Car 101: Right Side Left Side, Driver Side Passenger Side

Update: August 31, 2015:

Since this writing on January 6th, 2012, we have had drivers of Accords, Civics, TLs, and TSXs of all generations contact us for our solutions for inner joint replacement. As of today, we have released our new, stronger solution to Honda/Acura vibration on acceleration. Read more about how we’ve solved the problem below, here: New Fastline Performance Inner Axle Joint Kits

Original Post: January 6th, 2012

There have been numerous instances of vibration in the Acura TSX front end when accelerating. Usually, at lower or more moderate speeds, the shimmy in the steering wheel can also be felt throughout the front end of the car. We’ve recently heard this issue is prevalent on S2000s as well.

The issue was attributed to an axle shaft problem very early on, but even replacements of axles have not proven to be a reliable solution to the problem. In fact, Heeltoe had sold for at least a year a new replacement aftermarket axle we believed to solve the problem. However, when the issue arose in our own HTSpecTSX, said axle failed to resolve the issue. In fact, the inexpensive aftermarket axle we (an most all others) were using proved to exhibit worse vibrations that the factory units!

On a hunch, we purchased some new inner joints to install on our TSX’s original axles. When we removed the old joint cup, we were impressed to see the problem so blatantly in front of us!

See the wear are there? We’ll zoom in for you…

The joint bearings ride on this surface and put a torsional load there to transmit power to the shaft then to the outer joint. When there is a load on the axle it forces the joints bearings against this pulverized area of the joint causing a really nasty vibration! There is wear on the other two loaded surfaces as well but we are showing the worst one here to save space.

So there you have it. Replace the inner joint and you will be set!

Right or Left Side?

We have not determined a great method for knowing what side, left or right, is the culprit side but it seems like more people have an issue with the right side (USDM passenger side) so we suggest starting there. The joint and boot kits are available through Heeltoe.

About lowering…

While we were in the joint we noticed something else that you might want to be aware of. You know how mechanics tell you the lowering your car is bad for the axles? They usually tell you this when you have an outer joint noise or problem. However, lowering the car has little or no effect on the outer joints. Rather, the inner joints can experience some abnormal wear.

The axle has a tripod on the inner end that mounts three bearings that ride in the cup of the inner joint. This is so the axle can vary in length as the suspension articulates. When you lower the car, you are actually making the axle compress all the way when you hit large bumps, and this can cause the bearings to bottom out in the base of the axle cup. See the image below. We’ve highlighted some witness marks on the inside of my inner joint cup.

We have not yet seen this result in an actual failure of the axles, but it is something to be aware of.