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What Is Wheel Offset? What You Need To Know

Tire Offset

When you’re looking into aftermarket wheels and tires, wheel offset is something that comes up a lot. It’s difficult to understand what it is at a glance, but it isn’t that complicated. Wheel offset refers to how your tires are mounted and aligned within the wheel wells. More specifically, how much space you have on either side of the tires in the wheel well.

Proper wheel offset ensures there’s enough room between your new aftermarket package and the rest of your vehicle, like the suspension and body.

car and road divider

How Does Wheel Offsetting Work?

Depending on your vehicle and aftermarket package, there are three ways to adjust your tires to make sure they fit within the wheel wells. These three types of offsetting are called zero wheel offset, positive wheel offset, and negative wheel offset. What exactly is the difference?

  • Zero wheel offset means the hub mounting surface is lined up to meet the centerline of the wheel.
  • Positive wheel offset means the hub mounting surface is closer to the street side of the well, off to the side of the wheel’s centerline. Many new front-wheel-drive (FWD) and rear-wheel-drive (RWD) cars have positive wheel offset.
  • Negative wheel offset means the hub mounting surface is behind the wheel centerline and aligned more closely to the car. Tires advertised as “deep” or “deep dish” usually have a negative wheel offset.
Tire Offset Car
Image Credit: ArtisticOperations, Pixabay

What Happens if My Tires Aren’t Offset Correctly?

If your aftermarket tires don’t have the correct offset, you may notice numerous negative effects. Depending on the type of offset, you may notice different issues. For your convenience, we’re about to detail what these are.

Too Much Positive Offset:

  • Cosmetic and body damage from the wheel and tire rubbing against the car body or suspension
  • Problems braking
  • Tire failure may occur if the offset is too severe
  • Car may handle poorly
  • Driving or riding in the car feels uneven or unstable

Too Much Negative Offset:

  • Resistance or kickback from the steering wheel
  • May cause wear and tear on the suspension
  • Car may handle poorly

Wheel Offset Tips

To make the most of aftermarket wheel and tire kits, you should be aware of how the wheel offset affects your car and how to properly adjust the offset to install your kit. Here are some useful tips to help you avoid unintended consequences from improper wheel offsetting:

  • Unless specifically advised otherwise, you should strive to keep your new offset less than 5 millimeters or 3/16 inches away from your old offset. Too much offset can negatively impact your car’s stability.
  • Consider asking a tire professional how to make your new package fit. They’ll know whether a package is suitable for a given make and model and how to calibrate it correctly. Self-installation may be cheaper, but you risk damaging your car.
  • You can find your tire’s offset embossed on the back of the wheel. The two most common places are on the mounting plate or behind one of the spokes. Offsets are preceded by “ET”, so a 45-millimeter offset would show as “ET45.”

car and road dividerConclusion

Wheel offsets are a tricky part of tire calibration that most people don’t have to worry about, but it becomes crucial when installing aftermarket tires or wheels. Be sure to check your current offset and perhaps consider asking a professional what they advise in regard to wheel offsetting.

You may also be interested in: Are Wheel Spacers Safe? Are There Different Types?


Featured Image Credit: ArtisticOperations, Pixabay

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