Can Wheel Spacers Cause Issue with Wheel Bearings?

jimdaug

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I did rotors, pads, and wheel bearings about 5 years ago and I put 5th gen Camaro wheels and 1" spacers on a couple of years ago. There's a thread on here dedicated to 5th gen wheels on lowered trucks.

Anyway, The truck doesn't get driven much. Mostly weekends and my mom takes it to Home Depot every now and then. So it's only had like 2000 miles on it since I did the bearings. On her last trip out, the inner bearing on the passenger side pretty much exploded. We had it towed to the shop that normally works on it and he said since I was going to go ahead and lower it to take it home. He doesn't do aftermarket parts like that.

I didn't take the rotor off that spindle yet, but I took the other rotor off and it took me hammering it to get it to move so I could get it to come off. Looking at the outer bearing, it was pretty mangled and was probably getting ready to come apart. I don't think the hammering caused it because there were some chunky bits in the grease on the inner bearing.

So ultimately I think my main question is does it sound like I mucked up the original wheel bearing install, or could the spacers have caused an issue? I don't think I've seen anyone say that spacers have messed up their bearings before. But I also have not run spacers on anything before.
 

Nad_Yvalhosert

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Spacers can cause bearings to fail. You have to think about the leverage of moving the tire/wheel weight out the extra distance.

2000 miles doesn't seem like alot of miles so it could have been more than one issue.

That only depends on the scrub radius. When these suspensions and wheel offsets were changed, it became more important. If the new wheels have more positive offset than stock, and are spaced out so the scrub radius is the same as stock, theres no difference.

Scrub radius is this: an imaginary line, through both ball joints, to the ground. The center if the tire should then intersect with this point. If it doesnt, you'll get more tire wear.

Now, let's get simplistic with measurement. Suppose the OE tire has a 6" contact patch and the scrub radius is 0. If the new tire is 8" wide, and offset 2" more positive, if you space it out 1", the center of the tire is back at 0. Pretty much a wash.

So how much negative offset does the new tire/wheel have beyond stock? The wider the stance is, the more leverage it has over the bearing, and the less life you'll get from the bearing.

5th Gen Camaro wheels have a LOT of positive offset, and a 1" spacer sounds awful positive still.
 
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618 Syndicate

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Spacers push the contact face of the wheel away from the hub, which is where the bearing is located, resulting in a change in the load on the bearing, potentially causing premature wear and failure. Wheel offset does not change this.
 

Nad_Yvalhosert

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Spacers push the contact face of the wheel away from the hub, which is where the bearing is located, resulting in a change in the load on the bearing, potentially causing premature wear and failure. Wheel offset does not change this.
OK, then what is the backspacing difference between an OE wheel, and a 5th Gen Camaro wheel?

Your explanation only works if the original wheel is reused.

If the truck has a 4.5" backspacing on the OE wheel, and the Camaro is 7", tell me how the wheel is gonna put more leverage on the bearing if its 2.5" further inward than the OE wheel?
 
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618 Syndicate

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Backspace is the relationship between the face and barrel of the wheel. Spacers move the face away from hub, irrespective of that relationship. The face of the wheel is where the load is transferred to the bearing.
 

Frank Enstein

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You do need a small amount of scrub radius. The last generation Corvette as an example had 3/8" positive scrub radius.

A bit of scrub radius takes any play out of the steering linkage and provides a bit better on center feel.

A far as spacers an bearings go look at a 4x4 dually. the dually has a stupid amount of positive offset and a ginormous spacer to go with.

Remove the spacer and replace the wheel with one with near zero offset and you will find both the scrub radius and the bearing wear to be similar.

Now mount the dually wheel inside out and you would need to be Superman to steer it and the wheel bearings would last a week!

I love duallies! Haul the whole family and serve as an example! :biggrin:
 

Hipster

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The farther out board the more load the smaller outer bearing takes. So yeah, it can take it's toll

On bearings, always put in a matched bearing and race whatever brand you use. If you want to run timken bearings put them on timken races, knock the chinesium races of questionable metallurgy out of the new rotor and put the one matched to your bearing in.

There can be dimensional differences in diameter and width of rollers from brand to brand so brand x races aren't always the correct specs for brand y bearings.
 
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