Technical Discussion

Tech Article: Square vs. Staggered Wheel Setups

Article | 10/30/2019 by Matt Thompson

Which one will give me more performance?

While there is no definitive right or wrong answer to these questions, there are some key variables that will help you answer these questions for yourself. Drivetrain layout, power output, suspension setup, and alignment settings can all contribute to how your particular vehicle can take advantage of the distinct characteristics that each type of setup offers.

First of all, what's the difference?

Square Fitment - All four wheels are the same diameter, width, and offset. All four tires are the same size.

Staggered Fitment - All four wheels are the same diameter. Two wheels (typically the drive wheels) are wider.

Special circumstances These situations are not common, but they will be listed in our fitment guides when recommended or required for specific applications.

  • Double-Staggered Fitment: Rear wheels have a larger width and diameter. This kind of setup is used due to limited tire selection and/or aesthetics.
  • Reverse-Staggered Fitment: Front wheels have a larger width and/or diameter. This kind of setup is used to accommodate massive front brake setups.
  • Non-Rotateable Square Fitment: All wheels have the same width and diameter, but the front and rear offsets are different to account for a vehicle design or brake/suspension geometry where it's not possible to fit the same offset on both.

Reasons to use a Square Fitment:

  • Longer Tire Life - By allowing front-to-rear and left-to-right tire rotation, a square fitment will help you get the most miles out of your tires. Drivers attending track days or racing wheel to wheel know that track layout will have a significant impact on tire wear. For instance, if a track has multiple high speed left hand sweepers, the passenger side front tire is going to experience accelerated wear. With a square setup, drivers can monitor wear patterns across all four tires, rotating as needed.
  • Neutral Handling - Equal tread width front and rear means the car will exhibit more neutral and balanced handling characteristics. This reduces or eliminates the tendency to understeer on a typical front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout with a staggered fitment.
  • Reduced Costs - By rotating your tires regularly, they'll last far longer and reduce operating costs. Track use will amplify these cost savings.
  • Simplicity - Buying wheels and tires is just easier when they are all the same size. Keeping a spare is easier since you know it will fit the front or the rear if needed.

Reasons to use a Staggered Fitment:

  • More Rear Traction - By fitting a wider tire on the drive axle, you'll have more available traction in higher-horsepower vehicles. This is most useful in straight-line acceleration from a stop and when exiting a corner.
  • Improved Aesthetics - Both the front and rear wheels can sit flush with the fenders without requiring the use of spacers.
  • Retain OEM-Like Handling - Most front-engine rear-wheel-drive vehicles come with staggered fitments from the factory. By sticking with this layout you can retain the handling characteristics of the car that you may already familiar with.

Matt Thompson

Matt became the JDM Product Expert at APEX Wheels in 2022. Prior to joining APEX, he worked extensively in automotive sales. As an enthusiast he made the shift from street driving to track driving in order to fully experience his cars at the limit without putting the public at risk. Matt has owned six Hondas (‘94 Integra LS, ‘95 Integra RS, ‘96 Integra GS-R, ‘06 RSX Type-S, ‘95 Civic VX, ‘17 Civic EX-T), two Subarus (‘15 Impreza, ‘22 BRZ), and is likely shopping for the next addition to his stable. When he’s not helping JDM owners figure out the best wheel setups for their cars, he enjoys playing racing video games and indulging his interest in automotive photography. Fun fact: Matt knows every quotable line in The Fast and the Furious by heart.

Have questions about wheels for your JDM vehicle? Use our contact form and ask for Matt.