One of the most inexpen- sive and easiest ways to make your 4x4 perform better off-road is to drop the air pressure in the tires. Lowering the pounds per square inch (psi) in the tires increases the contact pattern, allowing them to grip and absorb the terrain better. The biggest issue wheelers face when lowering their tire pressure into the optimal single-digit territory is fear of losing the tire from the rim. This is where beadlocks come in.
Most aftermarket beadlock wheels work by using an external ring to bolt the outside bead in place. Having the bead of the tire sandwiched between the outer ring and wheel effectively locks the tire to the wheel. This allows you to drop the air pressure safely off-road. While this beadlock style usually works fine for most, it is often a bit pricey and doesn’t secure the inner bead.
One of the most affordable beadlock alternatives comes to us via the U.S. military. The HMMWV wheel (or H1 wheel, as it’s often referred to) is a 161⁄2x81⁄4 double-beadlock steel rim. What makes the H1 wheel unique is that it uses an internal band to lock both the inner and outer beads in place. Similar to a traditional beadlock, the H1 wheel is a two-piece design that uses an external locking ring to apply pressure to the internal band, thus locking both inner and outer beads.
The external ring of the two-piece H1 wheel can be found in an 8-, 12-, or 24-bolt configuration. The most common and inexpensive H1 wheels are the 8-bolts, which are fitted with magnesium run-flat inserts. The next generation is the 12-bolt, which is fitted with rubber run-flat inserts. The latest rendition is the 24-bolt, but it’s extremely pricey and currently not an easy find in military surplus yards. A general rule with most beadlocks is that the more bolts securing the wheel, the safer and better it will be.
Though in stock form the H1 wheels are only available with an 8-on-61⁄2 wheel bolt pattern and 7 inches of backspacing, there is aftermarket support to make them work for virtually any application. Companies like Accurate Fabrication offer weld-in centers that take place of the stock wheel mounting surface. The Accurate Fab wheel centers give you the option of converting to a more traditional backspacing and any wheel bolt pattern.
We recently picked up a fresh set of 12-bolt H1 wheels from our friends at Red River Parts & Equipment. This mega yard just outside of Texarkana, Texas, houses thousands of new and used military parts and vehicles. Since the 7-inch backspacing wasn’t going to work for our project, we had the guys at Accurate Fab cut us a new set of centers with the 8-on-61⁄2 wheel bolt pattern. The entire conversion took us roughly an hour per wheel, but we strongly suggest taking your time during the install. You won’t win any awards for the fastest beadlock recenter, but you will avoid the consequence of a wobbly wheel that was installed in a rush.