Beadlock wheels can often be the perfect answer when you want to allow yourself to run ultralow tire pressures or when you’re running and cornering hard, and need a means to ensure the outer tire bead doesn’t get pushed off the wheel bead. Of course, when this happens, rapid tire deflation follows and mayhem can result.
Along with the expense of adding beadlocks comes some bit of work to get tires properly mounted on them so that they roll true and you maximize safety of the assembled wheel and tire. Additionally, much has been discussed in the off-road world about the legality of beadlocks on public highways, so we’ll leave that to readers to determine if your local or state laws might prevent you from running such wheels on the road.
In any case, it’s important to note some safety measures that should be followed when using beadlock wheels that don’t often apply to standard wheels. You’re essentially using several dozen bolts to secure an outer metal ring to the wheel to retain the outer tire bead and keep it secured against the inflation pressure inside. There’s a lot of energy stored here and careless treatment can cause wheel failure or personal injury.
Step By Step
Many tire shops won’t dare touch beadlock wheels due to liability fears of drivers using them on public roads. However, it’s easy enough to mount tires at home. The front wheel face can easily be slipped inside a tire using a little soapy water and a pry bar. Once there, you simply flip the wheel and tire over, and prepare to bolt the outer ring onto the wheel. Airing up the freshly mounted tire is easy too, generally only requiring pulling the tire toward the rear wheel bead while adding air until the tire pops fully onto the rear bead.
Ideally, and for safety reasons, the outer beadlock ring is best secured when it meets metal-to-metal with the inner beadlock ring on the wheel when the bolts are torqued to spec. When the rings don’t meet firmly the outer ring may flex with only the tension of the rubber tire bead. This can lead to bolts that may fail or work themselves loose over time. The use of ring spacers, such as these from OMF, can help accommodate overly thick tire beads to allow for full metal contact of the rings.
We’ve seen installers slap on a beadlock ring and grab the impact to haphazardly run all the ring bolts down on the wheel. First, the tire bead should be carefully seated evenly around the entire circumference. Then, the bolts should be worked down slowly in a crisscross pattern until the final torque setting is met. This may take quite a few iterations of tightening around the ring to fully tighten the ring evenly. Time spent with care here will help ensure you have fewer beadlock bolt issues over the life of the tire.
Of course, the big advantage of running beadlock wheels is the ability to run single-digit tire pressures for traction and flotation, while still keeping the tire seated on the wheel and holding air. However, when it comes to airing back up to hit the highway, most manufacturers recommend you use no more than 25 psi air pressure with beadlocks to prevent snapping the ring bolts or risking tire retention failure. Also, the bolts should periodically be checked for proper torque, ideally with the tires deflated.