If you thought choosing the best looking design and colour was hard enough when buying rims for your car, think again. Imagine saving all those pennies to buy those dream set of wheels only to discover it does not sit properly on your car. Yes, offset matters!
Often overlooked by the excitement of new shiny rims, wheel offset is actually one of the most important factors that determines how wheels will fit and look on your car. Too much offset and the wheels will scrub against the inner suspension (and look weak), yet too little offset and your wheels will poke out and be demolished by your guards (but will get awesome dish or concave).
Offset is measured in millimetres (mm) and is simply the “offset” measurement between the vertical centre of wheel to the mounting hub of the wheel. Here’s a diagram to make it easier to understand:
One simple yet not entirely precise way of thinking of how offset works is that the less offset you have, the more dish on the wheel you will get as the centre hub is pushed further inside the wheel. Different cars will have different offsets from factory as manufacturers will choose the optimal setup to match the stock suspension and body. Generally speaking though, cars will have a positive offset of 30mm or more so that the stock wheels sit snug underneath the guards. But since when did stock wheels ever look good?
In our effort to make our rides stand out or to fit wider wheels, we will embark down the hellaflush or hellafunctional path.
Now part of the U.S Fatlace website and brand, Hellaflush started off as an automotive website in 2004 and was a term used to describe a car that had wheels as close (flush) to the guards as possible. Lowered to the ground with low/negative offset wheels (spacers optional), stretched tyres and impractical camber angles were a must to achieve this “stance”.
Here’s how a hellaflush setup would look like:
Particularly popular with smaller cars (usually hatchbacks) which originally came with narrow width rims and small guards, it made the car look wider and “phat” especially when lowered to the ground. It even became a common theme amongst certain car brands due to their high offset setup from factory (namely Honda and VW who have 40mm+ offsets from factory).
Hellafunctional is the direct opposite to that train of thought and is a parody to the term “Hellaflush”. It describes cars that have wheels with functional offsets and camber allowing them to use the full width inside the guard for the widest tyres as possible, usually for a purpose like circuit racing or drags.
Why wouldn’t you want to get the widest possible tyres for your car?
More tyre contact with the ground means more traction. More traction means more speed! And on top of that you get the aggressive look.
Here’s how a hellafunctional setup would look like:
But whether you choose the light or dark side is completely up to you and your intentions for your car, but first and foremost you need to do your research and find out what wheel setups are possible for your car model. Lets use Pearl as an example.
A Stock Nissan 200SX S15 comes with 6.5” width rims fitted to 205 width tyres with an offset of +45mm resulting in very skinny wheels and a weak look. Thankfully Nissan engineers thought ahead and left plenty of room under the guard to shelter wider wheels (not as much as the S14 though).
General forum consensus suggests the factory S15 guards can shelter 8-8.5” wide at the front and 9-9.5” wide wheels at the rear without major guard work.
Headed down the Hellafunctional path, wheels in those widths with 30-35mm offset for the front and 35-40mm for the rear are the sensible option. This allows you to run a maximum 255mm width tyre at the front and a maximum 275mm width at the rear (provided they clear the struts and have some camber) compared to the stock 205… that’s a massive 30%+ of extra tyre!
But if you’re jumping on the bandwagon to pursue the “phat” and slightly impractical Hellaflush look, you could realistically run any width rim and then just dial out the camber out to make it fit… just don’t expect much tyre contact with the ground.
I love dish, so I’m guilty of my street wheels partly falling into the Hellaflush look. Measuring 18×8” +18 front and 18 x 9” +19 at the rear, they were pushed beyond the guards. This forced me to put on narrower tyres (225 and 235 width), run -3 degrees camber and get my guards rolled in order to fit them reasonably under the stock guards (ahh the memories when I first bought them here).
Here’s a comparison with my more sensible Nismo LMGT4 wheels which reflect the illustrations earlier:
Sure I could have gotten the Volks in a higher functional 35+ offset but they just don’t look the part… Am I right?
So after all that, hopefully you have a better understanding on what wheel offsets are and what part it plays on the stance of your ride.
Next time you’re reading through those wheel specs, make sure you take into consideration those “+” or “-” numbers.
Which team do you side on? Do you prefer form over function? Or function over form? Or like me… why not have both?
There is more to this topic like discussing wider track, spacers and the lesser importance of offset on wide wheels… but we’ll leave that for next time.
If you need help calculating how much space you will gain or lose for different width/offset wheels, check out the very useful 1010tires.com calculator. And lastly and most importantly, don’t forget to do your research on factory and aftermarket setups of your car to discover what works and what doesn’t!