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What To Look For When Buying Beadlock Wheels

Posted in How To: Wheels Tires on March 24, 2015
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Installing your first set of beadlocks can be a total game changer off-road if you have figured out how to properly manipulate your tire pressure. If you are a careful driver, you can get down to about 12-15 psi in your tires without running a beadlock wheel. Heavier 3⁄4 and 1-ton-rated vehicles might need a bit more air pressure to support the increased weight. However, to truly get the full traction and performance potential from your 4x4, most tires can be aired down to between 1 and 10 psi, depending on vehicle weight, tire size and design, terrain, wheel width, and so on. The only way to be able to successfully utilize these single digit pressures off-road without unseating tire beads regularly is with a set of beadlock wheels. There are several different beadlock designs available, and each design has its pros and cons. What works for you will depend on your budget, your vehicle, your intended use, and personal preference.

Outer Clamp-On
Currently, this the most common type of beadlock wheel available in the aftermarket. Companies such as ATX, Champion, Eaton, OMF, and TrailReady offer clamp-on style beadlocks. The clamp-on style beadlock wheel is made up of two main components: the wheel structure, including a welded-on or cast-in surface with threaded holes, and the beadlock clamping ring itself. The ring is typically held on with 5⁄16 or 3⁄8-inch Grade-8 hardware. We’ve seen beadlock wheels with as many as 40 clamping bolts to as few as 18 bolts. Some beadlock companies such as Champion and OMF can install beadlocks on your existing aluminum wheels. This offers a potential cost savings over buying entirely new wheels with beadlocks. Other companies such as Ballistic Fabrication offer kits that allow you to weld the beadlock mounting rings to your steel wheels.

We prefer clamp-on beadlock wheels that have a step built into the wheel. This centers and supports the tire and vehicle weight better than a flat mounting surface that relies on the bolts for centering.

Look for clamp-on beadlocks with at least 24 clamping bolts. Beadlock wheels with fewer bolts are generally light-duty and reserved for the roundy-round dirt track crowd. More bolts are, of course, better, but tightening 40 bolts per wheel can be quite a laborious task. Wheels with at least 24 bolts hold up well to regular off-road abuse. Also, more bolts may not really be necessary, especially if the bolt heads are submerged and protected from impact with trail hazards.

Other features we look for in a clamp-on-style beadlock include a stepped tire mounting surface on the wheel. This design centers the tire better than other designs that depend on the bolts or a stepped clamping ring alone to center the tire. A stepped wheel also allows the tire to place the weight of the vehicle on the main structure of the wheel instead of side loading the bolts.

The tire-mounting surfaces of clamp-on beadlocks are often knurled or have a grooved machined surface. This is done to keep the tire from spinning on the wheel and to keep the tire bead from pulling out of the clamped beadlock. We’ve seen an 18-bolt beadlock with a thin steel clamping ring let the tire pop out before. It was slick from powdercoating and didn’t have enough bolts or material to keep the tire in check. Thicker clamping rings are generally better for off-road use because they make contact with rocks and other trail obstacles. If you frequent the rocks, you can consider the bolts and rings a wearable item. When they start looking really banged up, they should be replaced.

In extreme cases, some users will install a clamp-on beadlock to both the inner and outer wheel beads. It can cause clearance issues around brakes, and in most cases, it’s just not needed on a recreational 4x4.

PhotosView Slideshow

Pros:

  • Relatively easy to mount and dismount tires in your own garage
  • Some can be added to your current wheels

Cons:

  • Generally are not DOT compliant (i.e. not street legal)
  • Hardware can loosen if wheels are banged around in the rocks regularly

Double Inner Beadlock
Double inner beadlocks, such as those from Hutchinson and Rock Monster, are designed to hold both the inner and outer bead in place, no matter what happens to the tire, even if it gets shredded. Double beadlocks are commonly found in on- and off-road race, industrial, and military applications where the driver doesn’t have the luxury of being able to get out and install the spare tire. They are often combined with a runflat system, although most recreational double beadlocks don’t have this feature. The double beadlock usually consists of a plastic, rubber, or aluminum donut that sits inside of a multi-piece wheel. When the wheel is bolted together, the internal donut supports the tire beads against the edges of the bead surface. Double beadlock wheels are often substantially heavier than conventional wheels because there are more pieces. While it is possible to dismount and mount tires on a double beadlock in your own garage, many require sealant or large O-rings that can become damaged during assembly or disassembly.

These Hutchinson 5-ton military internal double beadlocks are two-piece wheels that bolt together and sandwich a rubber donut between the tire beads. This design keeps the tire beads attached to the wheel regardless of the tire’s air pressure. Recreational internal double beadlocks are very similar.

Another type of double beadlock is the pneumatic beadlocks from companies like Coyote Enterprises. They are internal double beadlocks available for most 15, 16, and 17-inch conventional wheels. It’s basically a tire within the tire. The pneumatic beadlocks are made up of an air bladder (inner tube) and a fabric case (inner tire). The assembly acts as a second air chamber. These beadlocks have many advantages over other beadlocks including light weight, improved tire strength at the tread and sidewall, and the ability to use them as a runflat, among other things. However, these internal beadlocks can make it more difficult to mount and dismount tires. They also require that you drill a second valve stem hole in your wheels.

The civilian Rock Monster aluminum internal double beadlocks are quite a bit lighter than their steel military counterparts. However, because of the multi-piece design, they are generally quite a bit heavier than a traditional wheel. The protruding hardware holding the wheel together is extremely tough, but it can be damaged in abusive conditions.

Pros:

  • Keeps inner and outer bead seated no matter what
  • Most are DOT compliant (i.e. street legal)

Cons:

  • Can be difficult to assemble and disassemble
  • Some are substantially heavier than conventional wheels

Single Inner Clamp
The B.A.D. Wheels Eklipse 17 doesn’t really fit into the other beadlock categories. It’s essentially a single inner beadlock. The design makes it DOT compliant so the wheels are street legal. Three cast aluminum elements are bolted inside the wheel and clamp the outer tire bead to the bead surface, keeping it from popping off of its seat. The B.A.D. wheels weigh more than a conventional wheel, but they also have a very high weight rating, making them a good choice for heavier fullsize 4x4s. The design can make it difficult to mount and dismount tires, but much of the hardware is hidden and well protected from trail debris inside the wheel. There are a few optional bolt-on outer rings that make the wheels more versatile, depending on your application.

The B.A.D. Wheels Eklipse 17 works just like an ordinary wheel. The exception is the three cast-aluminum elements that are bolted to the inside of the wheel, which clamp the tire in place. All of the beadlock hardware is protected within the wheel and tire.

Pros:

  • DOT compliant (i.e. street legal)
  • Mostly hidden hardware

Cons:

  • Can be difficult to mount and dismount tires
  • Heavy

No matter which clamp-on beadlock you choose, always use plenty of anti-seize on the beadlock bolt threads. This will make taking the wheels apart later a lot easier. fw

Sources

TrailReady
Lynnwood, WA 98087
888-910-2999
www.trailready.com
ATX Series Wheels
www.atxwheels.com
Ballistic Fabrication
Tucson, AZ
520-888-4441
www.ballisticfabrication.com
Champion Beadlock
951-471-2183
http://www.cwibeadlock.com
OMF Performance Products
www.omfperformance.com
Hutchinson Worldwide
866-478-6352
http://www.hutchinsoninc.com
B.A.D Wheels
864-491-0438
http://www.badwheelsinc.com
Coyote Enterprises
949-645-7733
http://www.coyoteents.com
Eaton Wheel
800-847-3287
http://www.ntwonline.com
Rock Monster Wheels
609-394-1010
http://www.rockmonsterwheels.com

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