What is a car’s wheelbase and how do you measure it?

Updated Apr 28, 2021 | Same topic: Automotive FYIs

Determine it in three simple steps.

In simple terms, the wheelbase is the center distance between the front and rear wheels of your vehicle. When shopping for a new car, a wheelbase of a model is often included in the front specification page since it provides buyers what to expect when driving it.

The best benefit of owning a car with a long wheelbase is the interior space it offers. Cars with a long wheelbase are ideal as a family car as they can usually fit many passengers. Aside from huge interior space, cars with a long wheelbase provide a relatively comfier driving experience and a better fuel consumption rating.

Measuring a car's wheelbase

On the other hand, cars with a short wheelbase tend to be less comfortable than those with a long wheelbase. This type of configuration will have a rough on-board experience, especially when driving through speed bumps or uneven roads. The benefit of owning a car with a short wheelbase is its great maneuverability which is great in city driving.

Of note, the specified wheelbase of your car is far different from its overall length. The length of your car measures from the front to its rear end. Cars with a standard spare tire such as the Suzuki Jimny also includes the spare tire in the overall length.

Mercedes-Benz SLR side view

The Mercedes-Benz SLR comes with one of the longest wheelbases in its class

Wheelbase, on the other hand, is not affected by few extra features. Since a wheelbase is measured from wheel to wheel only, it is always shorter than the overall length. With that in mind, here are three simple steps on how to measure your car’s wheelbase.

Step #1: Straighten the wheels

You should start by straightening the front wheels of your car. By doing this, you will get an accurate reading of the center distance of your car’s front and rear wheels. A slightly turned front wheels will either increase or decrease the actual wheelbase of your car.

Step #2: Locate the points

Find the center of your front and rear wheels. You can do this on either the left or the right side of your vehicle. Be sure to measure the wheelbase of your car in the well-lit environment so you can see your actual reading.

Step #3: Use a tape measure

After locating them, use a tape measure for the last step to determine the distance between the two points. It is recommended that you do this step with someone else so you can get an accurate reading of your car’s wheelbase. You can compare the specified wheelbase from your car’s manufacturer to your reading and see whether the measurement is still the same. For the most part, it will remain unchanged.

Chevrolet Spark on the road

The Chevrolet Spark is part of ongoing production cars with a short wheelbase

Some people prefer to measure the wheelbase of their car from the axles. To do this, you can use a long stick, a creeper, and a marker. Slide under your car with a creeper then mark the stick where the front and rear axles are located. After marking the stick, pull it out and it the two ends with a tape measure to see the numbers.

Whichever method you prefer doing, both will mostly provide the same wheelbase measurement. Now that you know more about wheelbases, you have now a better idea of which car you will buy next depending on your mobility needs.

2020 Kia Sportage GT Line side shot

Long wheelbase cars offer great ride comfort

>>> Related: The basic types of car wheels and rims

Additional tips: How to measure wheelbase on a semi-truck

Measuring the wheelbase on a semi-truck is more complicated than passenger vehicles. It also requires more effort as the distance between the two axles are far from each other. Before heading out to measure the wheelbase, we recommend you bring with you someone to help you get the job done.

Blue parked truck

The measurement starts from the front axle to the center of the tandem drive axles

To measure the wheelbase of trucks with four wheels only, the steps are simple. You can do the same steps as those with how you measure passenger cars. Determine the distance between the front and rear axles using a long stick then use a tape measure to see the numbers.

For those semi-trucks with tandem drive axles, or trucks with two wheels up front and four wheels at the rear, you should measure the distance between the front axle and the space between the two rear axles. Again, not from the rearmost axle of the semi-truck but the mid-point of the two rear axles.

Yellow truck on the go

The measurements for trucks are important for a safe transport operation

If a semi-truck is fitted with cargo, then there is another wheelbase that needs to be determined called the trailer wheelbase. To find this measurement, you should start measuring from the kingpin of the cargo to the center of the tandem drive axles of the cargo.

Knowing the wheelbase and measurements on a semi-truck is relatively more important as compared to knowing those in passenger cars. Load planning is highly important so the truck can safely reach its destination with the proper weight distribution.

>>> Related: 5 things you need to consider when choosing the best wheel size

Measure car's wheelbase: FAQs

Q: What is the benefit of driving a long wheelbase car?

A car with a long wheelbase offers better ride comfort than those with a short wheelbase. This type of configuration also comes with a larger interior space which is ideal for large families.

Q: What are some sedans with a long wheelbase?

The Rolls-Royce Phantom is known to come with a long wheelbase. As such, it offers some of the best interior ride comfort features in the industry. 

Q: Why is knowing the wheelbase important?

For passenger cars, knowing the wheelbase numbers will help you determine what specific parts you can add to the car such as fuel and oil lines. And as for commercial cars, wheelbase numbers are important to determine the proper weight distribution for a safe trip.

Q: Which is better, long or short wheelbase?

The answer depends on your mobility needs on a daily. However, a car with a long wheelbase tends to be better overall than a car with a short wheelbase just by the ample space and comfort it offers.

Q: What is the difference between the length and wheelbase of a car?

The length measures from the front part to the rear end of the car. Meanwhile, the wheelbase of a car is determined by the distance between the front axle and the rear axle.

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Rex Sanchez

Rex Sanchez

Author

Rex started off his career in the aviation industry before entering Philkotse as a staff writer. Two things excite him the most: first is staying up to speed with the latest news in the industry that uses engines as their heart and soul. The second is imparting them in a well-detailed manner. His passion for anything with wheels started when he was young – from Tamiyas to family-friendly sedans, and anything in between.

Someday, Rex only wishes to drive on random highways with friends in a third-gen Mitsubishi Delica with aftermarket sunroofs, if he couldn’t get the Starwagon Super Exceed edition.

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