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Fox Body 5-Lug Wheel Conversion

Fox Body Mustang 4- to 5-Lug Wheel Conversion

There is no end to the number of upgrades you can make to a Fox body Mustang. With well over two million units sold over a span of 15 years (1979 to 1993), the Fox body carried the Mustang legend to new heights. The best-selling sports car of all time, the Mustang has always respected several basic rules: 2-doors, front-engine and rear wheel drive. By the 3rd generation Fox body model (so named thanks to its use of the existing Fox platform), the Mustang had solidified its place atop the pony car podium.

One of the most common Mustang upgrades is installing custom wheels. Here at CJ Pony Parts, we do our best to offer as many great wheel designs for your Mustang as possible. This is made difficult, however, by a peculiarity of the Fox body platform: It carried 4-lug wheels. More commonly seen on compact cars of the era, 4-lug wheels were nowhere near as popular as the 5-lug pattern offered on most other cars. As a result, aftermarket wheel companies tend to design and build more 5-lug than 4-lug wheels. This is why Mustang enthusiasts often upgrade their cars to 5-lugs, giving them access to many more wheel options, either from the aftermarket or from later-generation Mustangs.

We have put together this guide to teach you the steps necessary to install 5-lug wheels and to open up a vast choice of attractive and high-performance rims. If you’ve never swung a wrench and aren’t sure where the dipstick for your oil is, we suggest you solicit the help of a professional. But if you’re reasonably handy and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you’ll find moving to 5-lug Fox body wheels is fairly easy, and it can be done in an afternoon with a bit of planning and some help from CJ Pony Parts!

Choose Your Wheels

choose your fox body wheels 

While it isn’t necessary to start by choosing your wheels, we say why not? Take a look at the great selection of 5-lug Mustang wheels available in our catalog and start getting excited about your project. Nothing motivates as well as having an image in your head of what the end result will look like. Our online store is easily searchable, and you will find pictures, details and pricing for every wheel.

It’s always a good idea to check back often, as we frequently update our catalog with new designs, finishes and colors. Once you have an idea of the type of wheels you want to install, it’s time to order the parts and accessories you need to make the swap.

We carry full kits for front and rear 5-lug conversions, including rear brake upgrades from drum brakes to disc brakes. This is a popular swap, as it combines the change to 5-lug wheels and the increase in braking performance of 4-wheel disc brakes (like you find on modern Mustangs). We also carry individual components if you want to include some big braking modifications while you’re also upgrading to 5-lugs. Our goal is to give you the flexibility and selection every Mustang enthusiast demands and to help you with every possible project.

What You’ll Need

For the front end 5-lug swap, all you really need are the rotors. These usually come with new grease seals, though you may also choose to change your wheel bearings while your hubs are off. This is the quickest and easiest swap, and it gets you into 5-lug wheels in no time.

fox body stopping power

Many of our customers like to upgrade their stopping power while they’re at it. When you’re making other upgrades to your engine, suspensions and steering, increasing your braking power is a good idea.

For the rear end, you need a few extra parts. The 4-lug hubs are part of the rear axles, and they include 28-spline ends to fit into your rear end. There are also the components necessary for the rear disc brake upgrade, as well as new parking brake equipment. To take away the guess work, we carry complete kits that come with every major component, along with every last line, washer and bolt you’ll need to upgrade to 5-lugs.

As you can see, it’s easy with CJ Pony Parts to choose the exact type of 5-lug wheel upgrades you want. You can keep it simple with just the necessary 5-lug components, or you can include a brake upgrade and rear disc brake swap. This will fully overhaul your ‘Stang wheel and braking system and bring it up to modern standards.

You might have questions about certain kits or 5-lug wheels, so we encourage you to give us a call or contact us online. We have a helpful and knowledgeable sales staff ready to answer any questions you might have. We can also help you place your order. We have a fast and secure online checkout, and in just a few clicks, we can be sending you your 5-lug conversion kits and hot new rims. Now it’s time to prepare your installation!

Replacing Your Front Wheel Hubs

simple swap

Upgrading to 5-lugs on the front of your Fox body is a simple swap — and we’re not exaggerating. You simply pull the 4-lug rotors and install 5-lug rotors in their place! Just in case you’ve never replaced your rotors, we’ll walk you through the steps just to be sure:

  1. Raise the front end of your car. Always install jack stands. You might think for simple projects like swapping rotors that it’s not necessary, but when your wheels are off, if for any reason your jack drops, you will damage your car and possibly injure yourself.
  2. Remove the brake calipers. This involves removing the retaining bolts with a socket. These can be tight if you haven’t changed your brake pads or rotors in a long time, so you might need some lubricant. When the bolts are out, take care not to let the caliper hang by the brake lines. This can damage them and cause them to leak. Use a rope or strap to tie the caliper to the strut while you’re working. Also remember not to push the brake pedal when the calipers are off, as it makes reinstallation difficult.
  3. Remove the rotor dust cap and cotter pin, and then unbolt the bearing retaining nut. Pull the rotors off. If you haven’t replaced them in a while, they might be tight, but a bit of a wiggle back and forth is all it should take. While they’re off, inspect your brake pad wear. Many people use this opportunity to replace their pads.
  4. If your kit comes with a bearing seal, you’ll need to remove the old seals and install the new ones. Be sure to avoid getting any dirt in the bearings.
  5. Install your 5-lug hubs / rotors. Simply slide them back into place, reinstall the bearing nut, cotter pin and dust cap.
  6. Carefully put the brake caliper back in place and reinstall the two retaining bolts.

That’s all it takes. Once you’ve finished the two front wheels, it’s time to move to the back of the car and attack the rear wheel hubs.

Replacing Your Rear Wheel Hubs

Swapping the original rear 4-wheel lugs of your Fox body Mustang for 5-lugs is a little more work than the front, but it’s still not difficult. You simply have to be sure you’ve got all the equipment and tools ready, and follow these steps:

  1. As with the front end, you need to raise the rear end of your car and ensure it is safely installed in axle stands. Remove your wheels.
  2. Remove the brake drums. If you are upgrading to disc brakes as well, you’ll need to drain the brake fluid and disassemble the brake assemblies. This needs to be done for both left and right sides.
  3. Underneath the car, drain the differential fluid, then fully remove the cover. This gives you access to the differential. You need to remove the pinion rod retaining bolt, which holds the rear axles in place. To do this, rotate the rear wheels (with the transmission in neutral), until you see the retaining bolt. With the bolt removed, push both left and right axles in slightly — this allows you to remove the C-shaped retaining ring.
  4. Remove the axles by pulling on the hubs from either side of the car. Once removed, you will see the 28-spline ends to the axles, where they mate with the differential. Take care with the splines, bearings and seals, as they can be saved and installed in another Mustang at a later date, or even sold.
  5. Slide the new axles in place from both sides, and reinstall the retaining clip. Once that is done, you will need to pull each side out slightly to lock them in place. You can then reinstall the pinion retaining bolt and replace the differential cover. It is a good idea to replace the seal at this point as well to ensure there are no leaks.
  6. Refill the differential with fluid, being careful to respect the manufacturer’s suggested level for your year and model.
  7. When you upgrade the rear to 5-lug, the stock rear brake drums will no longer fit, unless you bought the new 5-lug brake drums. This would also require new shoes and hardware.
  8. If you are upgrading your rear drum brakes to disc brakes, you need to carefully follow the instructions included with your kit. This is a popular upgrade, as it significantly improves braking performance. However, there are several steps involved, such as mounting the calipers, changing the flexible brake lines, installing new parking brake assemblies and adjusting your parking brake handle and cable.

Once your brakes are back in place (either original drum style or upgraded to discs), it’s time to bolt on your new 5-lug wheels! If your upgrade kit includes a new brake fluid reservoir, lines and proportioning valve, these should all be installed at this point. After bleeding your brakes, you’ll want to go for a test drive. Always start off slowly in the driveway, applying your brakes several times moving forward and backward to make sure everything is seated and functioning properly.

Showing off Your New Wheels

The whole point of this exercise was to get a hot set of 5-lug rims on your Mustang, so now that it’s accomplished, get out and enjoy it! With your new rims in place, your car will take on a whole new look. And if you’ve upgraded to lower-profile and/or wider tires, you’ll feel the performance benefit, too.

While the stock 4-lug hubs aren’t known to be particularly weak, if you’re doing significant work under the hood of your ‘Stang and plan to take it racing, 5-lug wheels are a useful upgrade. Simply put, 5-studs will resist the shear forces that are applied during extremely hard driving better than 4-studs.

don't forget

For the regular driver who just likes their Fox body Mustang looking its best, the move to 5-lugs opens up a world of choice in aftermarket rims. Many modern Mustang rims will fit, but you always need to check first. Don’t just assume any 5-bolt wheels will fit. You have to take into account several factors:

  • Bolt pattern: There are several different 5-bolt patterns on the market, and you need to ensure the lug diameter, spacing (compared to the other lugs) and thread pattern is the same as what you have installed
  • Brake clearance: Some newer original Mustang rims and aftermarket rims don’t have enough clearance within the wheel for the Mustang’s brake calipers and/or drums. We specify which models the rims we carry are compatible with, so you can be sure before ordering. However, if you’re still not certain, ask us, and we’ll help you find out.
  • Wheel clearance: While not directly related to the 5-lug upgrade, chances are you’ll be increasing your wheel size to match your new 5-lug wheels. Always make sure to check the clearance (both with your suspension travel and wheel well room) to ensure your new wheels won’t bottom out or scrub your fenders.

In some cases, your wheels might just require spacers to fit properly.

Enjoy Your 5-Lugs

As you can see looking through our website, your choice of 5-lug Fox body wheels is much greater than the 4-lugs. We do our best to satisfy owners who keep their cars original and still want to upgrade their 4-lug wheels, which is why we do carry many of our great wheel designs in 4 or 5-lug patterns. But for the best choice possible, and the ability to easily upgrade in the future, the 5-lug installation makes a lot of sense. It doesn’t take a lot of money or time to upgrade, and your Mustang isn’t out of commission for long.

To make this upgrade even easier, we offer fast, free shipping on most orders. We have no minimum order requirement, and orders placed before 5pm during the week can ship the same day. Start by clicking through our catalog and searching our 5-lug upgrade kits and 5-lug wheels that best complement your style. With just a few clicks, your order is on its way.


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