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Not All Beadlocks Are Created Equal

Posted in How To: Wheels Tires on February 16, 2018
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Photographers: 4 Wheel & Off-Road Staff

Beadlock wheels are a popular upgrade, but all too often the only factors people consider are price and aesthetics. This style of wheel clamps the tire bead to the wheel to keep it from coming off in the low-pressure situations that are common in off-road terrain such as rocks, sand, and snow.

Other than that basic function, the various beadlock wheels on the market have a surprising number of different features. We have run nearly every beadlock out there and they all have certain elements that we are fond of, but there’s no perfect wheel. There might be a perfect wheel for your application though, particularly if you consider more than just price and appearance.

KMC Enduro’s have a cast aluminum construction with thick rings that use 32 5/16-inch bolts to clamp the ring to the rim, unlike most rims that use 24 bolts. Note how the ring is serrated to keep the tire from slipping or moving.
Rather than a typical bolt, Spyderlock wheels use socket head cap screws that are completely countersunk into the 3/4-inch-thick mounting ring. The Grade 8 hardware is also 3/8 inch, larger than the standard 5/16-inch fasteners.
Raceline Wheels offers rubber spacers that can be placed between the rim and the beadlock ring to accept thicker tire beads. This is critical because the ring must be clamped flush to the wheel. Any gap has resulted in broken bolts for us in the past.
Eaton is National Tire & Wheel’s internal wheel brand. Eaton offers a lot of unique wheel sizes, such as eight-lug rims in a 15-inch diameter, 16.5-inch beadlock rims, and wheels with Rockwell 2 1/2-ton bolt patterns. Eaton also offers steel wheels up to 14 inches wide for those super-wide tires.
Some companies, including BTR, Fuel, and Method, tap two sets of holes into their wheels. If you strip out the holes or sheer off a bolt, you can simply offset the ring to use the second set of holes.
Method’s motto is “Lighter. Stronger. Faster.” Method machines reliefs between the mounting holes on its NV wheel to lighten the assembly and lower the rotating mass.
Note how this Raceline wheel has a stepped ring to center the tire bead. Most aluminum wheels have a flat ring with a step in the wheel. We find it easier to center the tire and balance the assembly with the step in the wheel rather than the beadlock ring.
TrailReady casts wheels with a thick center section and then machines them to whatever backspacing you want. Say goodbye to wheel spacers!
Here’s something we don’t see very often. TrailReady wheels are made right here in the USA.
Rather than tap the aluminum, companies such as ATX, Walker Evans, and Spyderlock wheels use a replaceable threaded mounting insert to ensure ease of thread replacement should any threads become damaged.
Note how these Eaton beadlock bolts protrude above the steel beadlock ring. These make the hardware much easier to remove in the future. Other wheels recess the bolts to protect them from rock damage.
When mounting beadlocks, we typically place all of the washers on the beadlock ring and then put antiseize on the bolts prior to installing them. The antiseize ensures even torque and makes the bolts much easier to extract when necessary.
Pro Comp’s Vapor Pro2 wheel uses these unique Nord-Lock washers that prevent the bolts from loosening and backing out during hard use. The 6061 forged aluminum ring uses 24 fasteners with Nord-Lock washers to firmly hold the tire bead in place.
You should always replace the hardware any time you remount tires on your beadlock rims. This is rarely done, but it only costs approximately $40 for new hardware. The issue is that as the ring is tightened it starts to cone, putting an angular load on the head of the bolt and causing it to stretch and deform.
We use a cordless drill to run the hardware down on our beadlock wheels, but then use a torque wrench in a crisscross pattern to perform final tightening. Starting at the valve stem makes for an easy visual cue to track where you are in the tightening process.
Lug nuts are easier to reach on some wheels than on others. We prefer wheels that make it easy to reach the lug nuts without special splined nuts or thin-walled sockets. These KMC wheels are built for racing applications, where quickly being able to change a wheel is critical.
Ring thickness is largely a function of aesthetics. Wider rings protect the wheel and valve stem, but they can make it more difficult to air up or air down. The wide rings also have a tendency to capture debris in muddy environments.
Valve stem placement varies by brand. Having the valve stem towards the outside of the wheel makes it easier to access but also makes it easier to damage.
Military hummer takeoffs are inexpensive, but they have a lot of drawbacks. They’re only offered in a 16.5-inch diameter, have an enormous amount of backspacing, and are incredibly heavy. Their unique three-piece construction virtually ensures that you will never lose an inner or outer bead though.


KMC Wheels
Cerritos, CA 90703
Cleveland, OH 44114
Raceline Wheels
Garden Grove, CA 92841
Walker Evans Racing
Riverside, CA 92516
OMF Performance Products, Inc.
Riverside, CA 92504
Method Race Wheels
ATX Series Wheels
Pro Comp USA
Compton, CA 90220
BTR Racing Wheels
Spyderlock Wheels
Fuel Off-Road
TrailReady Wheels

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