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Technical How to measure your bolt pattern

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by HOTRODPRIMER, Jul 1, 2017.

  1. I've had this saved for a long time and thought it might be helpful to some of the newer guys. HRP

    [​IMG]
    Have you ever bought a project car or even a completed car that was the brainchild of another hot rodder? Sometimes, you never know what type of suspension or brakes are used in a project car, but it’s pretty common to have mis-matched bolt patterns. For instance, it’s common to use a Camaro or Nova subframe and front suspension, which features a small five lug GM pattern, measuring 4-3/4 inches. And let’s say they robbed a Ford 9-inch out of an old F-100 pickup, and it still had the stock five lug bolt pattern, which measures 5-1/2 inches. If you’re unsure about your bolt pattern and you’re on the hunt for a new set of wheels.

    In most cases, American automobile manufacturers used a five lug bolt pattern, starting in the late ’20s. The five lug pattern remains a common trait for passenger cars and light trucks, even in modern automobile manufacturing, but every company has a different approach. For instance, General Motors had two common bolt patterns, 5×4-3/4-inch and 5×5-inch. The smaller pattern is extremely common, as Camaro, Corvette, Chevelle and many more GM makes and models featured the 5×4-3/4-inch pattern. The larger pattern was used for light trucks, as well as many full size cars in the Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac lines.


    On the Ford Motor Company side (including Mercury and Lincoln), it also comes down to two common five lug bolt patterns, 5×4-1/2 and 5×5-1/2, although Ford did produce a few passenger cars with 5×5-inch bolt pattern. The small pattern, again, was mainly used for mid-size and full size passenger cars starting in 1949, such as Fairlane, Galaxie, Torino and more, while the larger 5×5-1/2-inch pattern was used for light trucks. Also remember that the 5×5-1/2-inch pattern was common for early Fords, ranging from 1928 to 1948, with the exception of “wide 5” hubs, which were only available from 1936 to 1939. Wide 5 wheels are very easy to identify, because of the extremely large five lug bolt pattern–5×10-1/4 inches to be exact. Wide 5 wheels are pretty rare, and there are no reproductions of these wheels currently on the market.


    Finally, we end this bolt pattern lesson with Mopar, which used 5×4-1/2-inch bolt patterns for many of its vehicles for quite some time. The only exception is the smaller 5×4-inch bolt pattern, which was used on smaller vehicles such as the Plymouth Valiant and Dodge Dart. One difference in a typical Mopar application is the center hole is typically smaller than that of a Ford wheel, even though the bolt pattern is the same. Also, it is important to note that many Mopar applications from the ’60s and ’70s had left-hand-thread and right-hand-thread lug nuts for each side of the car.

    So, how do you measure the bolt pattern? It’s easy. Grab a tape measure and measure from the outside of a wheel stud, to the center of the third wheel stud. See the illustration for an example, as it can be tricky, since there isn’t a precise measuring point on a five-lug hub. Now that you’ve learned about wheel bolt patterns, put your knowledge to use the next time you visit a swap meet.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. tfeverfred
    Joined: Nov 11, 2006
    Posts: 15,796

    tfeverfred
    Member

    Good thread. When I was getting read to order my new wheels, I went to measure the bolt pattern and almost got the wrong wheels, by measuring wrong.
     
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  3. Always good information to have on hand.
     
    lothianwilly71 likes this.
  4. Of course I try to keep one of these handy in case my measuring skills are a little suspect.:) 20170701_141646.jpg
     
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  5. Such a simple thing so many get wrong
     
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  6. tfeverfred
    Joined: Nov 11, 2006
    Posts: 15,796

    tfeverfred
    Member

    Once I realized my error, I measured mine 4 or 5 times! THEN, one more time before I hit Jeg"s "submit order" button!:D
     
  7. 117harv
    Joined: Nov 12, 2009
    Posts: 6,589

    117harv
    Member

    Add the terms and details for what and how to measure back space on wheels to this thread.
     
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  8. slowmotion
    Joined: Nov 21, 2011
    Posts: 3,062

    slowmotion
    Member

    I've got one of those things Don pictured. Makes life easy when used wheel shopping.
     
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  9. oldolds
    Joined: Oct 18, 2010
    Posts: 2,782

    oldolds
    Member

    I have a few of these. Needed different ones at different times. 5 lugs, 4 lugs, metric, and there are ones for 6 and 8 lug.
    Like reading glasses there are some in each vehicle that might go to flea market. Then you go with your friend and have to buy more so you buy the right wheels!
     
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  10. 3oldcars
    Joined: Oct 27, 2014
    Posts: 73

    3oldcars

     
  11. bundybiker
    Joined: Jul 29, 2006
    Posts: 69

    bundybiker
    Member
    from australia

    very helpful information , thanks for posting it up HRP
     
  12. tfeverfred
    Joined: Nov 11, 2006
    Posts: 15,796

    tfeverfred
    Member

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  13. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 25,659

    Mr48chev
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I'm like Lothiandon1940 in that I found this little plastic gizmo on the table that a swapmeet cheapie tool vendor had. He had several different combinations be they 4 , 5. 6 or 8 lug. about 4 bucks.
    [​IMG]
    I've got an aluminum one I got off Ebay a few years ago that slides right in my hip pocket to carry when I might check the lug pattern on a wheel or axle.
     
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  14. Don has it....you can buy those at just about any swap meet...those little red plastic wheel bolt space make nice X-mas gifts....missed a few.... Chevy was six bolt early on - for cars and trucks....cars to about 1948....others that ran the 5 on 5 1/2 - Lincoln / Imperials and Willis/Jeep.....
     
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  15. This one is great. No mistakes.

    [​IMG]


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  16. Dave Downs
    Joined: Oct 25, 2005
    Posts: 848

    Dave Downs
    Member
    from S.E. Penna

    Learn something everyday - on 5 lug wheels I always thought the 'bolt circle' referred to the ACTUAL diameter of the circle not the the center-to-center of the furthest apart lugs!
     
  17. 117harv
    Joined: Nov 12, 2009
    Posts: 6,589

    117harv
    Member

    It does refer to the circle on 5 lug wheels. center to center on 4, 6 and 8 lug wheels.
     
  18. kmrumedy
    Joined: Dec 6, 2009
    Posts: 123

    kmrumedy
    Member

    Cool! Just ordered one only $10 CDN shipping included from Amazon Canada.
     
  19. ............Just to clarify, it's not the center-to-center of the furthest apart lugs, but the center-to-outside edge of the furthest apart lug hole. Look closely at Danny's examples above.:)
     
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  20. This is sort of a worksheet some might find useful when trying to determine what backspace or offset you might need for your particular application. It could help when you call up a wheel company with your needs. Taken from an old Wheel Vintiques catalog. 07022017.jpg
     
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  21. slowmotion
    Joined: Nov 21, 2011
    Posts: 3,062

    slowmotion
    Member

    Exactly, and there-in lies the reason for years of confusion. It just goes against common measurement fundamentals we were taught as pups...o_O:D
     
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  22. Dave Downs
    Joined: Oct 25, 2005
    Posts: 848

    Dave Downs
    Member
    from S.E. Penna

    OK.....I learned TWO things today!!! :)
     
  23. Gman0046
    Joined: Jul 24, 2005
    Posts: 5,650

    Gman0046
    Member

    The tool Don pictured on his post is really useful. Ordered the 5 lug US one off the auction site today for $7.50 including shipping. Easy to carry and cheap insurance against mis-measuring and buying a wheel you can't use. Thanks for the heads up guy's.

    Gary
     
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  24. Like everything else in this world even the cheap swap meet tools are more costly,I looked at the one I bought at the swap meet at least 20 years ago and I believe I paid a dollar for it,the guy had a big box full of them. HRP
     
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  25. safari-wagon
    Joined: Jan 12, 2008
    Posts: 1,457

    safari-wagon
    Member

    Good FNG lesson, HRP.

    Singlefinger Speed Shop,
    still lurking around Detroit
     
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  26. slowmotion
    Joined: Nov 21, 2011
    Posts: 3,062

    slowmotion
    Member

    Inflation Danny. I think I payed $3-$4 for mine 5 or 6 yrs ago.:D
     
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  27. From axle or hub center to stud center using my Steve Austin eye. But in my case, I need a tape measure because my eye wasn't equipped with a measuring software. [​IMG]
     
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  28. Hot Rods Ta Hell
    Joined: Apr 20, 2008
    Posts: 3,893

    Hot Rods Ta Hell
    Member

    As "1940" mentions and illustrates in post #20, the pattern on 4, 6, 8 lugs are measured center of lug to center of lug, whereas 5 lugs are measured center of lug to outside of lug (as illustrated in Danny's O/P.
    When going to swap meets, I always carry a small pocket tape measure and a paper stock lug pattern folded up in my wallet because it's easier to pocket than the plastic disc.
    You can print one on heavy paper stock here;

    http://www.easternmarine.com/tech-info/wheel-hub-bolt-circle-template/

    (click on the pictured template for a full size PDF)
     
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  29. Engine man
    Joined: Jan 30, 2011
    Posts: 3,476

    Engine man
    Member
    from Wisconsin

    It does refer to the circle at the center of the studs but since there aren't two directly across from each other, center to outside of those two is nearly identical to the circle diameter. Different size studs change the measurements slightly but they are close enough.
     
  30. lamaison
    Joined: Oct 21, 2006
    Posts: 80

    lamaison
    Member
    from Canada

    On 5 lug bolt patterns, I just measure center to center (or edge to edge) and then add 1/4" to arrive at the lug bolt spacing diameter. Find this the easiest way to remember.
     
    Speedys Garage likes this.

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