If you’re getting bigger tires or installing tire chains on your ATV, you might need wheel spacers to resolve clearance issues. Or maybe you’re just looking to make your ride a bit more stable, and are willing to accept the potential downsides that come with wheels spacers.
Regardless of why you want them, here is a simple 2-part guide that helps you choose which spacers to get and then afterward: how to install them.
This guide will focus mainly on ring spacers as these are the most common and the best alternative for ATVs. This type of spacer acts as a shim that’s bolted between your wheel hub and rim.
At the end of the post, we’ll be taking a quick look at some alternative ways to increase track width.
How to choose ATV wheel spacers – which ones should you get?
There are a few things you should consider when choosing what wheel spacer to get. Some aspects may be more relevant to you than others.
A set of four spacers will set you back anything from $50 to $250 or more. The set I got for my Polaris was about $100, and I have no complaints about the quality, even after a couple of years of rough use.
If the price is not a big issue for you, you should go for the best quality product available, and you can’t go wrong. For all the others, I recommend steering clear of the cheapest alternatives out there.
When it comes to wheel spacers, it pays off to get a decent quality set from a reputable brand or dealer.
The bolt pattern of the spacer should match the one that’s on your ATV. It is quite easy to measure if you don’t know it already.
- 3 lug: Measure the diameter of a virtual circle that’s passing through the center of all three bolts. If you measure 90mm, the bolt pattern is 3×90.
- 4 lug: Measure the distance from center to center of two bolts that are across from each other, measured across the middle of the wheel hub. If you measure 110mm, the bolt pattern is 4×110.
- 5 lug: Measure from the center of one bolt and to the outside of one of the bolts that are the furthest away. If you measure 110mm, the bolt pattern is 5×110.
I generally recommend that you avoid any “universal” spacers that are made to fit several different bolt patterns, as the fit will likely not be optimal for your machine with these.
What thickness you should choose depends on how much you want to widen your ATV, or how much extra clearance you need to gain.
A set of one-inch spacers will add 2 inches in total width to the ATV. But you will get only one-inch additional clearance at each wheel with the same spacer.
You can get spacers from 0.5 inches and up to 2 inches wide. Some even offer three-inch models, but that’s pushing the limit. If you need more than two-inch spacers, I would look for a wider aftermarket lift kit instead.
Best practice when it comes to choosing wheel spacers is to get the thinnest ones that still will be thick enough to achieve what you want.
You need to make sure that the diameter of the spacer is sufficient. Ideally, it should be the same diameter or larger than the mounting surface of the wheel hub. More surface in contact means better distribution of the push/pull forces that are involved.
As with most other things, you get what you pay for in wheel spacers as well. For most ATV applications you will most likely be just fine with just about any spacer available on the market. But I would still not cheap out and go for the lowest priced products out there.
Manufacturing tolerances in the cheapest ones may not be as good, and you risk getting vibrations. Billet aluminum spacers are preferred over cast aluminum as the accuracy of the former is generally much better than the latter.
And just as important as the quality of the spacer is the quality of lugs and nuts. The bolt-strength should be listed in the product specifications. If they are not listed, and if the dealer cannot answer when asked, choose someone else.
Aluminum is the most common, but other materials as titanium, urethane and other composite materials are also out there.
If you still don’t feel sure that wheel spacers are the right choice for you, have a look at my post about the pros and cons of wheel spacers, and when you need them.
Guide: How to install ATV wheel spacers
After you’ve made sure you have got the correct spacers for your specific ATV and for your specific need, it is time to install them. This is how you do it.
Tools you will need:
- Floor Jack
- Lug wrench
- Torque wrench
- Plastic Mallet
1. Place the ATV on a firm and level surface
Never jack up or remove wheels from an ATV unless you are doing it on a firm and level surface. It makes the whole process a lot safer, faster and more comfortable.
2. Put the transmission in park
Put the bike’s transmission in “P” or put the park brakes on to prevent it from rolling any time you are working on the ATV.
3. Loosen the lug nuts slightly
Before you jack up the bike, loosen the lug nuts on the wheel you are working on. They are harder to loosen when the wheel is up in the air. Do not remove them entirely yet tho.
4. Elevate the wheels using the floor jack
Place the jack on a flat and stable spot of the bike-frame, directly under the center of the bike, either at the front or rear.
You will be lifting two of the wheels at the same time as that’s considered the most stable method for elevating an ATV. Raise the lift until the wheels you are working on is no longer touching the ground.
After elevating, place two jack stands under the frame, one on each side of the jack, then lower the jack down until the frame rest on the two jack stands.
5. Remove the wheel from the hub
Finish unscrewing the loose lugnuts and remove the wheel from the wheel hub. Put aside the lugnuts, you will be using them to attach the wheel to the wheel spacer later on.
6. Mount the spacer to the wheel hub
With the lugs on the spacer facing outwards, mount the spacer to the lugs that are attached to the wheel hub.
Make sure all lugs are entering the holes in the spacer at the same time keeping the spacer level to the hub all the way in. Failing to do so may cause binding issues.
If needed, gently tap the spacer with a plastic hammer until it is completely seated. If you get stuck, use a crowbar to gently remove the spacer and start over.
Then use the nuts provided with the spacer kit and thread them on the wheel hub lugs.
7. Tighten the spacer nuts according to specifications
The instructions provided with the spacer kit should tell you how much the nuts need to be torqued down. Most accidents involving wheel spacers happen due to not using the right type of bolts, or not tightening them down according to spec.
Ask a friend to borrow a torque wrench if you don’t yet own one yourself. If you don’t know any that has one, now is the perfect time to get one yourself (link to a budget-friendly Amazon bestseller). I promise that as a home mechanic and ATV owner, you will need it sooner than later!
8. Mount the tire to the spacer
Thread the tire onto the spacer studs. Use your stock lug nuts, but just snug them down for now.
9. Lower the ATV back down to the ground
No need to elaborate on this step!
10. Tighten the wheel nuts (lugnuts)
The nuts should be tightened just as tight as you would without the spacers. Always tighten in a crisscross pattern.
Remember that ATV lugs cannot be tightened as much as the ones that are on cars before they break. Use the torque wrench now that you have one, and follow these guidelines:
- ATV steel rims are typically torqued at 30 – 40 ft. lbs. (41 – 54 Nm).
- ATV cast aluminum rims should be torqued at about 50 – 60 ft. lbs. (68 – 81 Nm).
If you use anti-seize on the threads, remember to reduce the torque with about 20%. Lubricated bolts are easier to turn and therefore won’t need as much torque to get where they need to be.
Note that some user manuals say that cast aluminum should be torqued at as much as 75-90 ft. lbs. (102 – 122 Nm). But both my personal experience and stories from ATV forums show that going this high may result in stripped threads and broken lugs.
You have now successfully installed a wheel spacer. Follow the same procedure on the remaining wheels.
11. Inspect the spacers regularly
Make it a habit to have a look at your spacers after each ride. Bolts may break or come loose, or the spacer may crack, especially if you bought cheap ones.
Every 20-30 miles you should take out your trusty torque wrench and make sure that no bolts are starting to come loose.
Other ways to increase track width
ATV wheel spacers vs spacer studs
ATV spacer stud bolts are a cheaper alternative to ring wheel spacers. They are however not as strong as the ring spacers. For most ATV applications, spacer studs will be strong enough. But for racing applications and any high speed riding on paved roads, it is recommended that you use ring spacers.
ATV wheel spacers vs offset rims
Both wheel spacers and offset rims on an ATV will have the exact same effect on steering and stability. The biggest difference is the cost and installation time. As long as you use a quality set of spacers, they should be just as durable and safe as offset rims.