What Is Offset On Wheels? – An In-depth Analysis

Car owners are motivated to change some of their car’s components occasionally. Whether you’re changing your vehicle’s wheels due to a challenge or for more beautification, wheel offset is a critical factor to consider.

This operation determines whether you’ll enjoy your new wheels peacefully or not. However, it is a straightforward exercise that may not require much. So, if you’re wondering, “What is offset on wheels?” this article is specifically for you.

What Is Offset On Wheels?

Offset on wheels is the distance from a vehicle’s wheel centerline to the surface where the wheel mounts to the hub. This is a concise definition if you’re asking, “What does offset mean on wheels?”

Wheel offset is very vital when replacing the components with new ones. However, performing the appropriate wheel offset is even more important. This is because a wrong offset can mess up the wheel replacement and cause your new wheels to rub against the car’s brake calipers, fenders, suspension, and other car body parts.

Of course, this is not going to be a nice experience at all. It can cause serious damage to the braking system, suspension, and other related components.

Therefore, it is essential to understand the different kinds of wheel offset operations to enable you to stick to the best option. The following are wheel offset examples in a vehicle.

Read Also: Top 10 Best Rim Brands

Negative Offset Wheels

Negative Offset Wheels

A negative offset is a situation whereby the wheel’s mounting face is located behind the centerline. In this case, the mounting surface tucks inward to the suspension away from the centerline.

This wheel offset position comes with its pros and cons. However, it is not the ideal kind of wheel offset for a vehicle because of the problems associated with it. Some of the problems are unveiled in the next section.

Problems With Much Negative Offset Wheels

Excessive negative wheel offset is a big challenge after replacing new wheels. The problems can damage your car within a short period. Some of the problems with much negative offset wheels include the following.

Rubbing fenders

A negative offset can cause a vehicle’s wheels to position in a way that they rub against the fenders consistently. This is because of the way the wheels pop out wider than they ought to be. So, when you turn the wheels to lock, it will establish close contact with the fenders and rub against them.

Axle, bearing, and driveline wear and tear

Although the wider tracks that result from negative wheel offset can mean more leverage for you as you drive; however, it can lead to quicker wear and tear for your car parts. This is because the axle, bearing, and driveline are usually stressed, especially when you carry heavy loads.

Reduced backspace issue

Backspacing and offset go hand-in-hand. While positive wheel offset gives room for increased backspace, negative wheel offset reduces a vehicle’s backspace.

In this case, the reduced backspace will hinder the proper functioning of the car’s steering, suspension, and braking system.

Positive Offset Wheels

Positive Offset Wheels

A positive wheel offset is a situation whereby a vehicle’s wheels are positioned with the surface toward the street, further away from their centerline. Here, the vehicle’s hub mounting surface is positioned in front of the wheel’s centerline.

This kind of wheel offset is better than the negative wheel offset. As a matter of fact, most front-wheel drive and modern rear-wheel-drive cars come with positive offset wheels. However, they have their own peculiar challenges.

Problems with Much Positive Offset Wheels

While it seems there are lots of pros and cons of negative offset wheels, the positive offset also has its own share of disadvantages you must look out for before opting for this operation. Some of the problems of positive offset wheels are:

Clearance and brake interruptions

Clearance challenges occur when a vehicle’s brake calipers are extremely close to the rim. For instance, having a measurement of 0.3mm may be seen to be enough.

However, the rim has a tendency to flex when braking hard to a corner. This will automatically result in brake damage due to the clearance issue.

Tire failure problem

Excessive rubbing is one of the common culprits of a vehicle’s tire tearing during motion. Meanwhile, this would not be a challenge if not for the constant contact between the wheels and the brakes, suspension, and other parts. Of course, it also correlates with the insufficient clearance issue.

Upper control arm rubbing

Wheels replacement requires ascertaining the entire movement areas that are required for the new wheels before setting them up. For instance, every front wheel must engage the operation of turning corners, thereby moving sideways.

Also, a car’s wheels will eventually move in a vertical order when engaging bumps as you drive. Unfortunately, positive wheel offset hinders these operations due to the wheels rubbing against the upper control arm.

Zero Offset Wheels

Zero Offset Wheels

Zero offset wheels are simply the best for vehicles. It ensures that the wheel mounting surface positions exactly at the wheel’s centerline. Zero wheel offset is a neutral position that does not feature the setbacks of positive offset wheels or negative offset wheels.

Car owners may decide to replace their car tires with better or new ones when they become old or get damaged. However, you must realize that there are several kinds of tires with varying offsets to choose from. So, if you’re in this situation, it would be best to go for zero offset wheels.


Q: Does wheel offset matter?

Of course, wheel offset is a necessity. A vehicle with a wrong wheel offset will eventually rub and result against the brakes, suspension, and body parts (especially the bumpers and fenders). This can lead to severe damage to these components.

Driving a car without a proper wheel offset is not ideal for you and the car’s safety. Any malfunction that hinders the proper functioning of the brakes and other vital components can cause unexpected crashes. So, it would be best to put this point in perspective.

Q: What does 20 Offset mean on rims?

A 20 offset means 20 millimeters wheel offset. This offset position places the face of a car’s wheel outwards from the car. It is well-positioned outside the car than a 1-millimeter wheel offset.

The importance of a proper wheel offset cannot be overemphasized. Therefore, you must ensure that you get this right in your vehicle. You may want to contact an expert auto mechanic to help perform a perfect wheel offset when you need to do so.

Q: Are Offset rims better?

Yes, offset rims are better because of their safety benefit. They ensure enough space around the wheel area such that they can avoid rubbing against your car’s brakes, bumpers, suspension, fenders, etc.

Also, if you’re looking forward to getting stiffer, stronger, lightweight, and more compliant wheels, offset rims would be ideal for your car. However, if you’re wondering, “What is rim offset?” It is the distance between the hub mounting point and the centerline of the rim.

Q: How do I choose wheel offset?

Choosing wheel offset is quite straightforward. Simply ensure that the new offset is within 5 millimeters, especially when the wheels are of the same size. But ensure not to get too positive offset if it must be substantially different.

Also, if your car’s new wheels are wider than the existing wheels, ensure to carefully calculate backspacing when choosing a proper wheel offset. You may want to follow a proper wheel offset guide to choose perfectly.

Q: What is better negative or positive offset?

Neither positive nor negative offset is better. Either of these two operations has its pros and cons, especially in rubbing against or hitting one or more components in a car.

Now, if your vehicle’s offset is extremely negative, the tire’s outside will eventually rub against the fenders and other body parts. On the other hand, having an extremely positive wheel offset will make the inside part of the tire hit the suspension while you drive.

So, the best way to resolve this challenge is to change the offset and bring it down towards zero. This will enable the tire to move outward a bit to balance its position.

Q: How much wheel offset do I need?

Ideally, you need around 5 millimeters wheel offset on your new wheels. However, this is best when the new wheels have a similar width as the old ones. Ensure not to perform extremely positive offset on the wheels as it may come with some challenges.

Also, an extremely negative wheel offset can introduce a couple of setbacks. However, if the new wheel happens to be wider, ensure to engage a calculated backspacing approach. In any case, if you’re contemplating, “What offset do I need?” ensure to stick to the recommended 5mm for your wheel offset.

Q: How do you know if offset will fit?

Offset wheels calculator is a simple way to find out whether the offset will fit or not. However, in order to know if your wheel offset will fit, take a moment to manually measure the distance between the center of the wheel and the mounting point. This is referred to as the offset.

After that, add the offset to half of the width of the wheel to get the backspace. Conversely, in order to get the front space, subtract the offset from the width. Once you obtain the details above, compare it to the vehicle’s wheel well to know if the measurement fits.

Final Words

Sometimes you can be tempted to change specific vehicle parts for the sake of beautification without considering their operational limitations. A classic example is a vehicle’s wheel replacement.

That’s why the issue of wheel offset has been addressed in this article. Therefore, if you were puzzling about the question – “What is offset on wheels?” All the information you need has been unveiled in this article.

So, ensure you follow the recommendation and stick to engaging zero-wheel offset in your car. You can also check a rim offset chart online for more details.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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