Beadlock wheels are a great addition to any trail vehicle, but quite often the high cost of purchasing a completely new set of wheels is just too steep for most enthusiasts. If you have the ability to weld and a bit of time on your hands though, you can obtain low-cost beadlocks by converting a set of steel wheels using a do-it-yourself beadlock kit such as that available from Rockstomper of Firestone, Colorado. The conversion can be completed for under $100 per wheel doing it yourself, but this figure will climb a bit higher if you opt to have a shop install the bead rings as installation is somewhat time consuming, and you can figure on at least a day's labor charge and maybe more. This will significantly reduce the cost effectiveness of a do-it-yourself kit, not to mention it goes against the whole idea behind do-it-yourself.
Rockstomper's DIY beadlock kits are designed to weld onto the outside wheel lip without a need for additional wheel modifications. The fact that your existing wheels can be used for this conversion will be a bonus for those who have already purchased steel wheels with custom backspacing. Installation of the beadlock kits will widen wheels by 1.5 to 2 inches. For example, the 15x8 Pro Comp Series 51 Rock Crawler Xtreme steel wheels on which we installed the beadlocks were closer in size to 15x10 once the installation was complete. Installation invloves MIG- or TIG-welding the inner bead ring to the outer bead lip of the wheel. The welds must also be airtight to avoid leakage.
The Rockstomper DIY beadlock kit uses a full-diameter inner ring to create a larger bead-seating area so that air leaks around the tire bead are minimal if at all existent. The 1/4-inch-thick lock rings are clamped together with the tire bead in between, using 32 3/8-inch bolts with a choice of threaded nut inserts or Nylok nuts. Buttonhead capscrews are another option available from Rockstomper, as are countersunk flathead capscrews. Rockstomper recommends torquing the bolts from 5 to 10 lb-ft with a maximum of 20 lb-ft. This may not seem like a lot of force, but it is said to offer ample bead sealing, bead retention, and durability. Not heeding this warning may result in excessive inward coning of the outer bead ring. Coning won't affect the durability of the beadlocks and is primarily a cosmetic concern, but it should be avoided nonetheless.
The beadlock kits are available for 15-, 16-, and 17-inch wheels. A mud ring option is available for the 15-inch size and includes a wide-flange outer lock ring to aid in keeping the wheel center free of debris and to protect valve stems and front locking hubs from damage. Bead rings are shipped unfinished to keep the cost low and so that rings can be painted as needed after welding so they match the wheel or vehicle.
Check out the photos to see how we installed a set of the Rockstomper beadlocks on a set of 15x8 Pro Comp Series 51 wheels that are destined for use under a modified Suzuki Samurai.