Bolt pattern diagram.The Truth About Wheel Bolt Patterns And Wheel Spacers

Bolt patterns.

You might have an idea of what a bolt pattern is. You might even know exactly what a bolt pattern is.

But do you know why you should care?

We do. And you might want to listen to this.

If you ever plan on buying rims for your truck other than exact factory replacements, you need to know what your bolt pattern is or at least what it means. If you decide to order a set of rims from a website or pick up a used set from someone local, it’s really important that you know your truck’s bolt pattern. If you don’t, you may be wasting a whole lot of money.

The wrong bolt pattern will not fit on your truck no matter what you do. The wrong bolt pattern on the wheels means your only option is to return the rims or sell them, but they ain’t fitting on your truck.

Don’t waste all that money. Learn what your bolt pattern is and how it’s different from other vehicles.

What Do You Mean “Bolt Pattern”?

First of all, when we say “bolt pattern” we mean the actual bolts (lugs or wheel studs) where your rims are mounted on your truck’s suspension. That would be the studs where your lug nuts go. They make a circle and consist of 4 to 8 bolts. You’ll notice on a rim that in the center, there are 4 to 8 holes where these bolts slide through to fit the lug nuts on.

The bolt pattern comes in when you measure the distance between those bolts. You’ll find a lot of trucks have a 6-lug bolt pattern. That’s great. Must be easy to exchange rims between them, right? Nope. Just because they all have six bolts down there doesn’t mean those bolts all line up. Even one millimeter of a difference means two different 6-lug rims won’t fit on your 6-lug truck. So no, those 6-lug Chevy wheels will NOT fit on a 6-lug Ford.

How Do You Find Your Bolt Pattern?

You can break out your ruler and find your bolt pattern, but since the differences are so small, it’s hard to measure the pattern without a bolt pattern gauge. Yes, that’s an actual tool.

The way you measure a bolt pattern varies depending on the number of lugs you have.  You measure a 4-lug, 5-lug, and 6-lug vehicle differently.  We didn’t invent this system so don’t blame us. We’re just explaining it to you.  Bolt patterns are measured directly across, from one bolt to another. For a 5-lug pattern, you’ll measure from one bolt to the space directly across from it. The easiest way to find your bolt pattern is to get your Google on. There are tons of websites dedicated to the predicament many wheel buyers find themselves in when asked, “What’s your bolt pattern?” It’s easy to search by your make, model and year. 

What Can You Do?

The most important thing to do when you decide to buy a new set of rims is to check the bolt pattern and match it to your specific truck. If you happen to have bought a set of rims from a friend of your neighbor’s cousin and now there’s no way to get your money back, you could get a set of adapters.

But we don’t recommend it.

Why not? They just aren’t safe. Yes, we sell them (only the good ones, not the cheap junk you find on eBay), but we don’t install them and we don’t recommend you put them on your truck.

Adapters take your bolt pattern and “adjust” it to let you fit a rim with a slightly different bolt pattern. The thing is, they create a weak spot that just isn’t as strong as bolting on a set of rims that fit directly on your truck. If you have a vehicle that’s just for show, go for it. If you have a daily driver you want new rims for, go ahead and get the correct bolt pattern.

What Are Wheel Spacers?

Wheel spacers are pretty much what they sound like – they create space between your suspension and your wheel. Maybe your custom wheels aren’t available in the exact offset you want or need.  Or maybe you just want them to stick out from under your ride just a bit more. Wheel spacers will do that. Spacers fit on your wheel hub (that would be behind the wheel) and then you bolt the rims on. This adds about ¼ inch of space to push your rims out just a little bit. This could be helpful if you’ve got a bigger set of brakes installed, or have a lift kit or lowering kit and just need a little more room. Or maybe you like your rims to sit out a little more from where they currently do for a different look.  Spacers will do that, but typically only about ¼”.

When you put a spacer on and then bolt your wheels on, the lug nuts don’t fit down on the stud as much as they do without that spacer. Common sense tells you that since the lug is grabbing fewer threads on the bolt, it’s not as strong as it was meant to be.

There are special lug nuts you can get that’ll fit further down into the spacer, but again, we recommend getting the right part for the job and get the right size wheel for what you need. Read more to see how safe wheel spacers and adapters really are.

So there you have it. The mystery of wheel spacers and bolt patterns explained. If you have more questions give us a call, send an email, comment here or come by one of our Kansas City locations. We’d be glad to help you find the exact right size rim for your vehicle whether you’ve got bigger brakes, an odd bolt pattern or have questions about anything.