Lowered car showing what is wheel clearance

Clearance refers to the amount of space between the wheel and tire assembly and different parts of your vehicle, such as the fenders, suspension, brakes, and chassis. Each of these areas has specific clearance considerations that can significantly impact both the functionality and aesthetics of your car. Below are key aspects of clearance in wheel and tire fitment, detailed to help you navigate through this vital component of vehicle customization. From ensuring your tires don’t rub against the fenders to maintaining the right gap between your wheels and brake calipers, these points cover essential clearance considerations for a safe and successful fitment.

Fender Clearance

This is the space between the tire and the vehicle’s fender or bodywork. Insufficient fender clearance can lead to the tire rubbing against the body, especially when the suspension is compressed during bumps or turns. This not only damages the tire and the vehicle’s body but can also negatively affect handling and safety.

Suspension Clearance

This involves the space between the tire and the vehicle’s suspension components, including struts, springs, and control arms. Wheels and tires that are too large or improperly offset can interfere with these components, leading to reduced suspension travel, altered handling characteristics, and even mechanical interference.

Brake Clearance

Particularly important when upgrading to larger wheels, brake clearance refers to the space between the wheel and the brake components, including calipers and rotors. Larger wheels usually provide more brake clearance, but this must be carefully calculated to avoid issues.

Brake Clearance Spoke Issue
Brake Clearance Barrel Issue
Brake Clearance No Issues

Factors Affecting Clearance

Several factors influence the clearance between your vehicle’s wheels and its bodywork, including wheel offset, tire size, and suspension setup. Adjusting any of these elements can significantly alter the space available, impacting both aesthetics and functionality.

Wheel Size and Width

Larger or wider wheels can impact clearance. Wider wheels may protrude more towards the fenders or suspension components.

Tire Size

Larger tires, both in diameter and width, can affect all aspects of clearance. It’s crucial to match tire size with wheel size and vehicle capacity.

Suspension diagram showing wheel clearance problem spots

Suspension Modifications

Lowering or lifting a vehicle significantly impacts clearance. Lowered vehicles may have reduced fender and chassis clearance, while lifted vehicles might have issues with suspension clearance.

Wheel Offset and Backspacing

These dimensions greatly affect how the wheel and tire sit in the wheel well, influencing fender and suspension clearance.

Ensuring Adequate Clearance

Clearance is a multifaceted aspect of wheel and tire fitment that affects the vehicle’s aesthetics, functionality, and safety. Ensuring proper clearance is not just about avoiding physical interference; it’s also about maintaining the vehicle’s designed performance and handling characteristics. Careful consideration, measurement, and sometimes modification are necessary to achieve the desired fitment while ensuring the vehicle operates safely and efficiently.

Proper Measurement

Before changing wheels or tires, measure the existing clearance at various points. Consider the worst-case scenarios like full steering lock or maximum suspension compression.

Consultation and Testing

Consulting with fitment experts or using fitment guides can provide valuable insights. After any modification, it’s important to test the vehicle under various conditions to ensure there’s no rubbing or interference.


Sometimes, adjustments such as rolling the fenders, adjusting the suspension, or changing the wheel offset can be made to improve clearance.

Will It Clear Series?

We’ll be taking a look at a few vehicles and test fitting wheels on them to see if the wheel and tire combinations will clear the various components. Stay tuned.

Steps to Measure Brake Clearance

Measuring brake clearance is an essential step when buying new wheels for a vehicle, as it ensures that the new wheels will not interfere with the brake components. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to measure brake clearance:

Wheel Removal

Safely lift the vehicle and remove the wheel to access the brake assembly.

Locate the Closest Point

Identify the closest point between the brake caliper and the existing wheel. This is usually the highest point of the brake caliper or the end of the caliper that comes closest to the wheel’s inner surface.

Measure the Radius

Place a straight edge across the wheel mounting face of the hub (where the wheel sits). Using the caliper or measuring tool, measure the distance from the straight edge to the closest point of the brake caliper. This measurement is the radius of the clearance circle.

Measure the Offset

Measure the distance from the hub mounting face to the inner edge of the wheel (where the wheel and tire meet). This is your current wheel’s backspacing. Subtract your wheel’s backspacing from half the overall width of the wheel to find the wheel offset.

Check the Clearance Depth

Measure from the straight edge to the back of the wheel spokes or any other protruding designs inside the wheel. Ensure this depth is more than the clearance radius you measured from the brake caliper.

Account for Movement

Remember that suspension and steering movement can alter the amount of clearance needed. It’s wise to allow for some extra space beyond your measurements for safe operation.

Verify Specifications

Compare your measurements with the specifications of the new wheels you’re considering. Check the wheel offset, width, and any other relevant specifications.

Consult Manufacturer Specs

If possible, check the manufacturer’s recommendations for wheel sizes and clearances for your specific vehicle model.

Consider Professional Advice

If you’re unsure or if the measurements are close to the limits, it’s advisable to seek professional advice. A tire and wheel expert can provide insights based on experience with similar vehicles.

Additional Tips

  • Be precise with your measurements. Small errors can lead to significant issues.
  • When in doubt, opt for more clearance rather than less to avoid any contact with the brake calipers.
  • Consider any future modifications you might make to the vehicle, like upgrading brake components, which may require additional clearance.

Big Brakes?

Do you have Brembo brakes? You better check at least twice when buying new wheels. The last thing you need is to get your set and for the brakes to hit the spokes or the barrel of your new wheel.

How Do You Know If Your Wheels Will Fit Your Car?

When determining if a set of wheels will fit your car, especially in terms of clearance, several critical factors must be considered. Firstly, it’s essential to check the wheel size and diameter against your current setup, ensuring the new wheels have dimensions that won’t interfere with fenders or suspension. The bolt pattern of the wheels must match your vehicle’s wheel hub for a proper fit. Wheel offset, the distance between the wheel’s centerline and its mounting surface, is crucial too. A significant deviation in offset from your current wheels could lead to clearance issues with the fender or inner wheel well. Additionally, the wheels should accommodate tires suitable for your vehicle without rubbing against the fenders.

Brake clearance is another vital aspect. Measure the space between your brake calipers and the existing wheels, ensuring the new wheels provide at least this much clearance. It’s also important to check inner clearance by turning the steering to full lock in both directions and observing any contact points between the tire and suspension components. Consider suspension travel, especially if the car is lowered, to ensure the tires don’t contact the wheel well during compression. The load rating of the wheels should also be compatible with your vehicle’s requirements, and ideally, the wheels should be hub-centric to your vehicle for a smoother ride.

Before finalizing your purchase, it’s highly advisable to consult a tire and wheel professional for expert advice. They can offer valuable insights based on experience with similar vehicles. If possible, conduct a test fit to physically check all the clearance points, including during full steering lock and suspension compression. Various online tools and calculators can assist in determining the suitability of a particular rim size for your vehicle. Remember, while technical compatibility is critical, ensuring that the new wheels do not negatively impact the vehicle’s handling, safety, and road legality is equally important.

Steps to Check Wheel Clearance

Checking wheel clearance involves several key steps to ensure that the new wheels and tires you plan to install on your vehicle won’t interfere with other components such as the fender, suspension, or brake calipers. You’ll need a measure tape or digital caliper and a ruler.

Vehicle Preparation

Park your vehicle on a level surface and ensure it’s safely supported. If you’re checking clearance for new wheels and tires that haven’t been installed yet, you’ll need to install them first.

Full Suspension Compression

This can be checked by either physically compressing the suspension or using a jack to simulate the wheel moving upwards into the wheel well, mimicking the suspension compression that happens during driving.

Check Fender Clearance

Measure the distance between the tire and the fender lip at the closest point. Do this both at the front and rear of the wheel well, as the clearance may vary. Remember to check clearance during steering lock-to-lock turns for front wheels.

Suspension and Inner Clearance

Turn the steering wheel to full lock in both directions and check for any contact between the tire and suspension components. Check for clearance between the tire and any inner parts of the wheel well, including liners and inner fenders.

Brake Caliper Clearance

Ensure there is sufficient space between the wheel’s inner face and the brake caliper. A minimum of 3-4 mm of clearance is often recommended, but more is better for safety.

Check Under Load

If possible, check the clearance with the vehicle loaded (passengers, cargo) as this can affect the suspension height and therefore the clearance.

Repeat for All Wheels

Perform these checks for each wheel, as clearances can vary around the vehicle.

Driving Test

Finally, if everything seems clear, conduct a careful driving test to ensure there are no clearance issues during normal driving conditions, including bumps and turns.


  • Suspension Type Matters: Different types of suspensions (independent, solid axle, air suspension, etc.) can affect how the wheel moves relative to the body. Make sure to understand your vehicle’s suspension dynamics.
  • Consider Aftermarket Modifications: If your vehicle has been modified in any way (lowering, lifting, aftermarket suspension components), this can significantly impact wheel clearance.
  • Professional Help: If you’re not confident in your ability to check clearances or interpret the results, seek assistance from a professional mechanic or a tire and wheel specialist.
Wheel and Tire Experts

Our Specialized Expertise in Wheel Clearance

With over two decades of unwavering dedication to the wheel and tire sector, our expertise extends far beyond the general knowledge, delving deeply into the crucial aspect of wheel clearance. Our zeal for achieving the ideal wheel clearance is not merely a professional endeavor; it embodies our commitment to the pinnacle of automotive customization and performance.

Our team is composed of car enthusiasts who share your passion and wield the technical acumen to transform that passion into precise guidance, customized to your individual requirements. This is particularly true when it comes to determining the optimal wheel clearance for your vehicle.

The team has driven anything and everything that requires us to measure clearance non-stop. From completely slammed, to trying to stuff the largest tires under a stock Jeep, we’ve done it all.

  • Two Decades of Specialized Experience: Our journey, spanning over twenty years, has been enriched with experiences focused specifically on wheel clearance. This specialized concentration has equipped us with a profound understanding of the impacts of wheel clearance on vehicle dynamics, aesthetics, and performance. Our expertise spans retail, distribution, and manufacturing, covering every aspect of the wheel and tire industry, with a special focus on the nuances of wheel clearance.
  • Rigorous Precision in Clearance Measurements: Precision is paramount in our approach, particularly concerning wheel clearance measurements. Our team consistently collaborates with wheel manufacturers and employs sophisticated wheel sizing guides. This approach ensures that our recommendations are not just compliant with, but often exceed, the prevailing industry standards, thus offering the most reliable and precise clearance information.
  • Extensive Hands-On Experience with Diverse Fitments: Our expertise is rooted in practical experience, encompassing a broad spectrum of fitment scenarios. This ranges from standard configurations to highly specialized custom projects, involving intricate clearance specifications for both lowered and lifted vehicles.
  • Continual Advancement in Wheel Clearance Knowledge: We are committed to remaining at the cutting edge of wheel and tire technology, particularly focusing on the evolving trends and methods in wheel clearance. This commitment ensures that our guidance and solutions are always based on the latest and most advanced information available.
  • Verifying Data for Accuracy and Reliability: Our confidence in our data is reinforced through cross-verification with industry leaders, ensuring precision and reliability in every detail. This diligence is exemplified by our alignment with authoritative sources, like the detailed insights from Modern Tire Dealer on Wheel Clearance.