Beadlock wheels are a performance item that has grown in significant popularity in recent years. You'll find them on rock crawlers, sandrails, UTVs, and on some variety of trail vehicles. Do you need them? What is involved in using them and how can they help you go farther in your pursuits beyond the pavement? We'll take a look as we give you a rundown on the considerations of using beadlocks.
When venturing off-road, it is often beneficial to run fairly low tire pressures to increase tire "squish." The lower pressure causes a larger tire footprint and increases traction in most off-road situations. On the rocks, you gain better climbing traction. In sand, the increased floatation allows you to tackle dunes better.
On a regular wheel, the internal air pressure keeps the beads of the tire pushed outward towards the lips of the wheel and maintains a seal to retain the tire pressure. As long as the tire bead stays outward against the wheel, the tire stays normally inflated.
However, when pressure is dropped for off-roading, there are two concerns for the tire. One is that the tire bead can be pushed off the wheel bead and the tire loses air pressure. Second, the tire can slip and spin on the wheel and throw the combination off balance.
A typical beadlock wheel is one that has a separate bolt-on outer ring that clamps the outer tire bead between the main structure of the wheel (with a weld-on backing) and the bolt-on ring. Unlike a regular wheel where side force on the tire can push the tire off the outer portion of the rim, the beadlock ring mechanically captures the tire bead and holds it firmly in place.
With the addition of a beadlock, you can now air down to super low pressures and be confident that the tire will stay on the wheel and not spin about the wheel.
Beadlock wheels are not maintenance free. With a regular set of wheels, you can usually mount up tires and be good to go for many miles with occasional tire pressure checks. With beadlocks, it is prudent to check all the bolts regularly to ensure they are all still intact and staying tight. When re-torquing the bolts, tightening should only be done with the tire deflated! In fact, tires on beadlock wheels should always be deflated before any work is done on them other than checking air pressure. This is a very important protocol to follow to ensure your safety - you don't want to be anywhere near a beadlock that blows off. Even when checking pressure or inflating, it's also a good idea to do so with an extended air chuck that keeps your hands clear of the bolt-on ring.
Should you need to get a tire back off a beadlock wheel, we've found it takes some effort but can be done at home. As when mounting the tires, some soapy water can make the process a little easier. After the tire has been deflated and the outer ring removed, the outer tire bead is free. The inner tire bead can be unseated by placing the wheel and tire face down on a sheet of plywood and then carefully driving a vehicle tire over the tire to push it off the wheel bead.
Overall, beadlocks are a useful upgrade for those that need to run low pressures and want to push the limits of their tire traction. Given their other characteristics to contend with, you can decide if they are a plus for your vehicle.
Beadlocks At A Glance
1. Superior tire retention
2. Easy tire mounting at home
3. Ability to run lower air pressure
4. Ability to run narrower tire on a wheel
5. Strengthens outer wheel circumference
1. Greater weight
2. Higher cost
3. More maintenance
4. Might not be street legal