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Wheel Offset and Backspacing: Enhancing Performance and Style


Why change wheel offset and backspacing? Two main reasons: improved handling and aesthetics. Wider tires and a wider track width enhance traction and control, while upgrading your wheels and tires can significantly boost your car's appearance. Especially for those aiming for a more aggressive look. There are plenty of reasons you might want to depart from the factory wheel standards, whether you're enhancing your car's appearance or adjusting its suspension for the racetrack. The crucial part is understanding why these changes are important. We'll guide you through how to take those measurements and determine what you actually need, plus, we'll explore the advantages and disadvantages of each adjustment. That should provide you with a solid foundation to choose the perfect wheels for your car.

Wheel Offset and Backspacing Explained

Wheel Offset and Backspacing, though distinct measurements, are equally crucial and are interrelated. Knowing one allows you to calculate the other, making it vital to grasp both when selecting the optimal wheel for your vehicle.

Wheel offset denotes the position of the wheel mounting surface relative to the wheel centerline. Measured in millimeters, it can be positive, negative, or zero. A positive offset occurs when the mounting surface is toward the wheel face or outside of the wheel, while a negative offset occurs when it's toward the back or inside of the wheel. Zero offset indicates the mounting surface is even with the centerline.

Wheel Offset
Wheel Offset

Most wheels feature the offset measurement stamped into them, often preceded by the letters "ET," derived from the German word for offset, "Einpresstiefe." For example, "ET20" signifies a positive offset of 20 millimeters.

Backspacing measures the distance between the back or inside edge of the wheel and the mounting surface. Usually measured in inches, it's always indicated as a positive number.


You might wonder why there are two different measurements. Backspacing remains a common term, especially for wheels designed for older American cars and trucks. During the growth of the American car industry from the 1950s through the 1980s, suspension and steering technology saw minimal change. With most vehicles featuring solid rear axles and A-arm front suspensions with spindle-mounted drums or rotors, modifications were typically limited to installing wider wheels and tires in the rear for better traction. As such, measuring inside clearance sufficed, and American aftermarket wheel companies provided backspacing measurements for fitting purposes. The term "offset" has long been standard in Europe, where cars prioritize handling characteristics due to the continent's twisty, narrow roads. As European car technology gained popularity in America, along with a preference for superior handling, it was adopted by the USA, making "offset" a part of the everyday language among Americans.

For a practical application of the concepts of wheel offset and backspacing, the chart below catalogs a variety of common measurements.

Wheel Offset and Backspacing Quick Reference Table
Wheel Width \ Backspacing 3.25" 3.50" 3.75" 4.00" 4.25" 4.50" 4.75" 5.00" 5.25" 5.50" 5.75"
5.5" 0 +6mm +12mm +18mm +26mm +30mm +36mm +42mm +48mm +54mm +60mm
6.0" -6mm  0 +6mm +12mm +18mm +26mm +30mm +36mm +42mm +48mm +54mm
6.5" -12mm -6mm  0 +6mm +12mm +18mm +26mm +30mm +36mm +42mm +48mm
7.0" -18mm -12mm -6mm  0 +6mm +12mm +18mm +26mm +30mm +36mm +42mm
7.5" -24mm -18mm -12mm -6mm  0 +6mm +12mm +18mm +26mm +30mm +36mm
8.0" -30mm -24mm -18mm -12mm -6mm  0 +6mm +12mm +18mm +26mm +30mm
8.5" -36mm -30mm -24mm -18mm -12mm -6mm  0 +6mm +12mm +18mm +26mm
9.0" -42mm -36mm -30mm -24mm -18mm -12mm -6mm  0 +6mm +12mm +18mm
9.5" -48mm -42mm -36mm -30mm -24mm -18mm -12mm -6mm  0 +6mm +12mm
10.0" -54mm -48mm -42mm -36mm -30mm -24mm -18mm -12mm -6mm  0 +6mm
10.5" -60mm -54mm -48mm -42mm -36mm -30mm -24mm -18mm -12mm -6mm  0
11.0" -66mm -60mm -54mm -48mm -42mm -36mm -30mm -24mm -18mm -12mm -6mm
12.0" -78mm -72mm -66mm -60mm -54mm -48mm -42mm -36mm -30mm -24mm -18mm

Calculating Wheel Offset and Backspacing

Knowing the wheel backspacing and width allows you to determine the offset, and vice versa.

For instance, let's take an example where the wheel width is 10 inches and the backspace is 5.5 inches. We calculate that the wheel centerline is at the 5-inch mark. Since backspacing is always measured from the inside edge of the wheel, we deduce that the mounting surface is 0.5 inches past the centerline toward the wheel face, resulting in a positive 0.5-inch offset. Converting inches to millimeters (25.4mm per inch), we multiply 25.4 by 0.5, yielding a positive offset of 12.7mm.

Deciphering Wheel Offset: 10" Width, 5.5" Backspace
Deciphering Wheel Offset: 10" Width, 5.5" Backspace

Consider an alternate scenario where the wheel width measures 9 inches and the offset is a positive 38mm. It's established that the wheel's centerline resides at the 4.5-inch mark. By dividing 38mm by 25.4, we ascertain an increment of 1.5 inches. Adding 1.5 inches to 4.5 inches, we calculate a backspacing value of 6 inches.

Visualizing Backspacing: 9" Wheel Width, +38mm Offset
Visualizing Backspacing: 9" Wheel Width, +38mm Offset

To measure backspacing, place a straight edge across the inside edge of a wheel, then measure straight down to the wheel mounting surface. If you're unsure about your wheel's offset, simply measure the backspacing, and you can calculate the offset.

Wheel Backspacing Measurement Technique
Wheel Backspacing Measurement Technique

Adding the Formulas for Clarity

When we talk about determining backspacing from known wheel width and offset values, the formula to use is straightforward:

Backspacing = ((Wheel Width + 1) / 2) + (Offset / 25.4)

This formula calculates backspacing by first adding one inch to the wheel width (accounting for the extra space needed for tire mounting), dividing the result by 2 to find the centerline of the wheel, and then adding the conversion of offset from millimeters to inches (since 25.4mm equals 1 inch).

Conversely, if the aim is to determine the offset given the backspacing and wheel width, the formula adjusts slightly:

Offset = ((Backspacing - ((Wheel Width + 1) / 2)) * 25.4)

Here, the process involves subtracting half of the wheel width plus one inch from the backspacing to find the offset from the wheel's centerline, and then converting this value back into millimeters by multiplying by 25.4.

Understanding the Impacts of Adjusting Wheel Offset and Backspacing

While there are advantages to adjusting wheel offset and backspacing, there are also significant disadvantages. Installing wheels that do not fit a vehicle correctly can cause various problems, including safety concerns. Let's delve deeper into these aspects to ensure comprehensive understanding and safety.


  1. Enhanced Handling: Adjusting the wheel offset and backspacing can lead to increased track width, which in turn enhances the vehicle's handling capabilities. A wider track width provides more stability, especially during cornering and high-speed maneuvers.

  2. Improved Traction: By decreasing the positive offset, there's more room inside the fender for wider wheels and tires. This increase in tire width results in improved traction, particularly in adverse road conditions or aggressive driving scenarios.

  3. Aesthetic Appeal: One of the most noticeable advantages of adjusting wheel offset and backspacing is the enhancement of the car's visual appearance. Achieving a more aggressive stance or a flush fitment can greatly improve the overall look of your vehicle.


  1. Increased Steering Effort: Altering the wheel offset and backspacing may require the steering system to work harder, resulting in increased steering effort, especially at lower speeds or when parking.

  2. Accelerated Tire Wear: Changes in wheel offset and backspacing can affect the alignment of the tires, leading to uneven tire wear patterns and reduced tire lifespan.

  3. Heightened Sensitivity to Road Shock: Adjusting the wheel setup can make the steering system more sensitive to road imperfections, resulting in a rougher ride quality and increased feedback from the road.

  4. Potential Variations in Traction: Different offset and backspacing configurations may cause variations in traction between the left and right sides of the vehicle, affecting overall stability and control.

  5. Elevated Bearing Wear: Modifications to the wheel setup can put additional stress on wheel bearings, leading to accelerated wear and potential failure over time.

  6. Increased Stress on Suspension Components: Changes in wheel offset and backspacing can place additional stress on suspension components such as ball joints, tie rod ends, and suspension bushings, potentially leading to premature wear and failure.

  7. Clearance Issues: Adjusting the wheel setup may result in clearance issues with fenders or inner wheel wells, particularly if the new wheel and tire combination is significantly larger than the stock setup.


Most frequently asked questions about wheels, offset and backspacing:

  • Q: Does altering offset and backspacing affect turn diameter?
    A: Yes, changing these dimensions can impact the turn diameter, as they adjust the wheel's stance and angle of turn.

  • Q: What happens to braking when offset and backspacing are extensively modified?
    A: Considerable changes here may influence brake efficiency, due to a shift in the wheel's position relative to the brake system.

  • Q: Can offset and backspacing adjustments affect a car's electronic stability features?
    A: Indeed, such changes can have repercussions on the vehicle's electronic stability systems by altering wheel geometry.

  • Q: How do changes in offset and backspacing impact tire dynamics?
    A: Adjustments in these areas can alter tire dynamics, affecting sidewall flex and, consequently, tire performance and wear; for further analysis on performance consequences, check out our Calculator:

      Wheel Size Calculator


As you can see, offset and backspacing can really make or break the look of your car. These measurements directly impact your car’s performance and safety. By carefully considering your vehicle’s specifications, your goals, and consulting with experts when needed, you can strike the right balance between offset and backspacing to enhance your driving experience and elevate the aesthetics of your ride. Remember, safety should always be your top priority, so never compromise it for the sake of style. With the right fitment, you can enjoy the best of both worlds – a stunning look and a safe, well-performing vehicle on the road.

For a more extensive understanding of car safety and maintenance, we invite you to explore our website, where a range of articles awaits to offer you thorough insights and professional advice.

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