Steel vs. Aluminum Wheel Spacers? Which One Should I Use?


Are steel or aluminum wheel spacers better? Does the type of wheel spacer make any difference at all? These are a few questions many people have when considering the purchase and installation of aluminum and steel wheel spacers. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons associated with each of them.

Steel vs. Aluminum Wheel Spacers? Which One Should I Use?

In short, it doesn’t matter whether the wheel spacers are steel or aluminum. Both materials can be purchased in a variety of brands at different price points. These brands range from low cost to high quality. High-quality wheel spacers should be used regardless of the material to ensure safety.

Let’s get into the differences between steel and aluminum wheel spacers. Then we can figure out what sets them apart and answer some of the most common questions people have.

Steel Wheel Spacers

Steel is a very strong and heavy metal. This can make steering slightly more difficult, but it can also improve the spacer’s durability. This is a common metal used for wheel spacers, but it does have a higher tendency to corrode. This is largely due to natural oxidation. Luckily, this can be prevented.

The corrosion can be prevented by coating the spacer in a black oxide coat or something that offers a similar effect. With this coat, the strength of steel holds could allow steel wheel spacers to last a lot longer.

Aluminum Wheel Spacers

Aluminum is a much lighter metal. The metal is still fairly durable, but less-so than steel. The light-weight aspect of aluminum wheel spacers makes vehicles that have them easier to control. A well produced wheel spacer will promote durability and light-weight.

Aluminum is less likely to corrode than steel, This could make aluminum wheel spacers a great choice because it enables the wheel spacer to last longer.

A common issue with aluminum wheel spacers is that they can attract a lot of wear and tear. The bolts will need to be tightened frequently because of the softness in the material. The bolts will strain against the aluminum and wear down the metal.

What’s the Difference?

There are really only a few key differences. The first is that steel is more likely to corrode, but this can be reduced by covering the spacer with an anti-oxidation coat. 

The second difference is that aluminum is much more lightweight than steel. This makes the maneuverability better for steel wheel spacers, but the quality of the spacer can also play a role in this feature.

The final difference is that steel is more durable than aluminum. This fact alone would allow steel to last much longer. Again, this feature is highly based on the quality of the wheel spacer. That’s why it’s better to purchase great quality wheel spacers than focus on whether the spacers are steel or aluminum.

Wheel Spacer Pros

People like wheel spacers for a variety of reasons. For some people, they serve a necessary purpose, for other people they represent toughness and masculinity. Aside from this, wheel spacers offer quite a few convenient uses.

Wheel spacers are great because they improve the appearance of a vehicle. The addition of wheel spacers also provides more space around the tires, this could prevent excessive knicks.

Wheel spacers also enable the vehicle’s owners to utilize tires that normally wouldn’t fit. Wheel spacers also provide the benefits of smoother turns around corners and prevent body roll.

Wheel Spacer Cons

There are a few negatives associated with wheel spacers. The addition of them changes the distribution in the weight of the vehicle. There is also some concern regarding the legality of wheel spacers and their safety.

Wheel spacers do put some additional strain on a few of the vehicle parts and systems. This is because the wheels are placed father out on the vehicle.

The addition of wheel spacers can also make it more difficult to hire a mechanic to work on your car. They may be unwilling to provide you with certain services.

Why Do Wheel Spacers Affect Vehicle Services

Wheel spacers were originally thought to be unsafe. Larger companies especially fear the liability issues associated with work that is related to wheel spacers.

Many smaller shops, especially the individually owned ones, will still work with your wheel spacers. They are not as afraid of liability and need the business. Therefore, they are more willing to take the risk.

Which Costs More, Steel, or Aluminum?

In general, steel wheel spacers cost more. The material is more durable and much heavier. This drives the cost up. Aluminum is more affordable, but high-quality aluminum wheel spacers will still cost you a large sum of money.

The important thing to remember is that better quality products usually cost more money. The plus side is that better quality wheel spacers will last longer than the cheaper alternatives. This is assuming you take care of them and receive regular maintenance.

Is There Additional Maintenance Associated with Varying Wheel Spacers?

Whether the wheel spacers are aluminum or steel does not matter in terms of regular maintenance. Carefully read the manufacturers’ manual to ensure the wheel spacers are receiving proper maintenance.

The most important thing is to torque the spacers at regular intervals. These intervals are usually every two-thousand to four-thousand miles. It will vary depending on the manufacturer.

There is only one major difference in regular maintenance between steel and aluminum wheel spacers. This difference is that the bolts will need to be tightened more frequently with aluminum spacers.

This is due to the softness of the metal. The bolts will need to be tightened with steel spacers too, just not as frequently.

Which Spacer Is Better for Heavy Towing?

If you are towing heavy loads on a regular basis, you will want to make sure you purchase high quality wheel spacers. Because steel wheel spacers are heavier and more durable, you should probably stick with steel.

Aluminum could possibly bend when towing a heavy load. Towing heavy loads will likely wear the wheel spacers out more quickly, but it will do so even more if you have aluminum wheel spacers.

Does the Size/Width Matter?

In some cases, the size does matter. For starters, the size and width of the wheel spacer have a large role in the legality of the equipment. Another fact to consider is that depending on the purpose behind installing wheel spacers, you will likely need a specific size.

In terms of aluminum versus steel. It would take thicker aluminum wheel spacers to provide the same strength as steel wheel spacers. This could be a key factor in determining whether you should use steel or aluminum wheel spacers.

Do the Metals Need to Match?

Another thing to consider is what kind of metal is in the tire hub. Is there a lot of aluminum or steel? Are the tire’s rims aluminum or steel? Most people believe that the metals should match. This is because mismatching metals can cause faster corrosion.

It is also important to keep in mind that aluminum is not as tough as steel. This means the surface will scratch and break down easier. If you purchase steel wheel spacers and they rub against another metal in the hub. That steel will scratch the metal if it is aluminum.

Overall, Which Is Better?

Overall, neither is ‘better’ than the other. It all comes down to the wheel spacer’s quality. A high-quality wheel spacer will put in more work and last longer than the cheaper alternatives.

If you really need strength from your vehicle, steel would be the right choice for you. If that’s not the case, aluminum will work perfectly fine.

The best thing you can do is purchase high quality products, regardless of the type of metal. Take care of the parts and maintain a maintenance schedule.

Matching the metal of the wheel spacer with the metal in the tire hub can enhance longevity. These tips will allow you to get the most out of the vehicle and the parts.

Kern Campbell

I've had a passion for four-wheel-drive vehicles since I was a kid riding in the back seat of my Grandfather's Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I have owned a lot of vehicles over the years. They each have their pros and cons and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you so you can find the vehicle that's just right for your needs.

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