Are Wheel Spacers or Adapters Safe for Highway Use? [infographic]

Wheel adapters and spacers may not be safe for highway use and when they fail, the consequences can be deadly. Manufacturers and retailers all over the world, however, are failing to warn drivers about the dangers these wheel accessories present. And despite the deaths of two innocent people on a Las Vegas freeway in April 2018 and numerous other crashes in recent years, many companies continue to promote wheel adapters and spacers as safe. 

(article continues below infographic)

What Are Wheel Adapters and Spacers?

Wheel spacers are generally used to install custom wheels or larger tires on vehicles. Typically made of steel or aluminum, these accessories fit over the automobile’s holding bracket, pushing the wheel out to allow for a more aggressive stance and additional clearance between the wheel hub assembly and the wheel. 

Similar to wheel spacers, adapters allow people to mount custom wheels on their cars, trucks, and SUVs. These disks are mounted on the wheel hub assembly to change the bolt pattern so a custom wheel can be used. 

Are Wheel Adapters and Spacers Safe? 

Many retailers claim wheel spacers and adapters are safe as long as proper installation instructions are followed, alignment is performed, high-quality, parts are purchased, and the accessories are designed for the specific make and model of the vehicle. However, countless retailers and manufacturers are failing to mention the rest of the story – risking the lives of everyone on the road.

Wheel adapters are not designed to handle hard cornering or heavy hauling and they may fail under these circumstances. Since these accessories also alter the way a vehicle handles, they can be extremely dangerous for inexperienced drivers or those operating their vehicles at highway speeds. 

Uni-lug adapters, which are manufactured with slots to fit a variety of vehicles, are especially dangerous. Potholes, road debris, and even road vibration can cause these accessories to become misaligned. When misalignment occurs at highway speeds, the results can be catastrophic

Additionally,  many cheaper knock-offs are available on ebay and other auction sites. In some cases, these parts are made from less durable materials like cast aluminum, they may have manufacturing defects, and despite claims that they are made in America, many are made in other countries like China, where manufacturing regulations are not imposed. When it comes to wheel adapters and spacers, structural imperfections and parts that are even slightly out of round can cause deadly crashes.

When manufacturers and retailers make false claims or fail to warn their customers about the dangers of the wheel adapters and spacers they sell, they can be held liable for injuries and deaths that are linked to these products. 

Recent Fatality Crash Highlights the Dangers of Wheel Adapters and Spacers

In April 2018, two innocent people lost their lives on a Las Vegas freeway when a wheel flew off of an SUV that was equipped with these deadly accessories and hit the vehicle in which they were riding. 

According to news reports, the victims were passengers in a vehicle that was traveling northbound on U.S. Highway 95 in the central Las Vegas Valley. The SUV that was equipped with wheel spacers/adapters was headed southbound on the same highway when its wheel detached, bounced over the center concrete median, and smashed directly into the windshield of the victims’ car traveling the opposite direction. The wheel partially collapsed the roof of the victims’ vehicle, killing the 24-year-old front-seat passenger and a 15-year-old who was riding in the backseat. The driver of the vehicle was hospitalized.

After the crash, the Nevada Highway Patrol stated that the lug nuts on the flying wheel had been sheared off.