If you’re looking to get some new alloys then you’ll notice that your choice will be limited according to whether your car has a 4-lug or 5-lug design. In this article, I’ll explain why different cars have different bolt patterns, the pros and cons of 4 and 5 lug designs, and whether it’s possible to switch from one to the other.
The Quick Answer
The advantage of 5 lug nut wheels compared to 4 lug nut wheels, is that they can handle more pressure so are better suited to higher performance and heavier cars, and they are more stable if a lug becomes loose. However, cars with 4 lug nut wheels have less unsprung weight and are cheaper to manufacture.
Why Do Cars Have Different Bolt Patterns?
Wheel bolts (lugs) are designed to keep the wheel secured to the vehicle. They do this by screwing onto the studs which are fixed onto the wheel hub.
Most modern cars have a 5-lug pattern, however some cars from Japanese brands like Mazda and Honda have a 4-lug pattern. In general, heavier cars with more power will have a higher number of bolts, whereas smaller cars are more likely to have the 4-bolt design.
Lug nuts are designed to handle a certain amount of pressure, and the more pressure there is, the more lug nuts are needed. That’s why an MX-5 can get away with a 4-bolt pattern, whereas a truck may need an 8-bolt pattern.
On some cars, manufacturers give you the choice between a 4 and 5 bolt stud pattern. For example, the Honda Integra Type R offered this choice. The 5-lug was the upgraded version as it came with a bigger calliper and rotor. This also meant that the alloy diameter needed to be larger to compensate for the larger calliper and rotor.
There are several advantages and disadvantages of 4 and 5 lug designs which we will take a look at now.
A 4-lug stud pattern has the benefit of being lighter than a 5-lug stud pattern. Cars with a 4-bolt pattern have less unsprung weight. Unsprung weight is everything underneath the car’s suspension such as the wheels and brakes.
The more unsprung weight a car has, the harder the suspension has to work to keep the wheel on the road and results in poorer handling and comfort. Thinking back to the earlier example of the Integra Type R, additional unsprung weight would also be added due to the larger brakes.
If There is a Missing Lug
A 5-bolt stud pattern is more stable if it loses a lug compared to a 4-bolt stud pattern. The pattern distributes the force of the car evenly across each lug nut. In the event that one of the lugs became lose, the 5-stud design is safer than the 4-stud design.
In all cases, it’s essential to get the lug fixed immediately and the car should never be driven with a loose or missing lug though.
One of the main reasons why manufacturers still use 4 lug designs is to keep costs down. A 4-bolt stud pattern requires less material and is less complicated to construct compared to a 5-bolt stud pattern, meaning some brands will go with the 4-bolt design to reduce manufacturing costs.
Depending on the design of the alloy, a 4 or 5 bolt stud pattern may look more aesthetic. For example, if a 5 spoke wheel had a 4-bolt stud pattern, it would look a bit asymmetrical compared to if a 5-bolt stud pattern were used.
Of course, this is not a reason to select one stud pattern over the other, as this decision is due to the suitability of the car. However, it does give a potential reason why some brands always go with a 5-bolt stud pattern over a cheaper 4-bolt design.
Can you Convert Bolt Patterns?
Many owners with a 4-bolt stud pattern car would like to convert it to a 5-bolt stud pattern because many aftermarket wheel companies only make alloys designed for 5-bolt stud patterns.
It is possible to convert a car with a 4-lug pattern to a 5-lug pattern (or vice-versa) by changing the hub. This is a significant modification to the vehicle which should only be performed by a professional to ensure everything is fitted properly.
There are also wheel adapters which allow the conversion of a 4 lug to a 5 lug design. However these are not recommended because they lead to additional wear on the vehicle, heavier steering, and even safety issues especially if they are not of the highest quality.
If you have a 4-bolt stud pattern, it’s best to stick with this unless you’re willing to make major modifications to your car.
Which Alloy Manufacturers Make 4 and 5 Bolt Stud Patterns?
Most alloy wheel manufacturers make models with a 5-bolt stud pattern, however a much smaller proportion also make alloys for cars with a 4-bolt pattern. Here’s a list of some of the brands which cater to a 4-bolt stud pattern.
- Japan Racing
- Fox Racing
- GMP Italia
- OZ Racing
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