An Internal Beadlock For Your Rig
Picking the right wheel for your rig often comes down to personal preference, price, and performance expectations. For someone spending serious time off-road, a beadlock wheel is typically one of the best investments they can make. A beadlock wheel works by “locking” one or both of the tire’s beads to the wheel via some sort of mechanical clamp or locking element. By locking the bead to the wheel, it reduces the chance of you losing the bead when running lower air pressure off-road. The advantage of running single-digit pressures are tremendous and can significantly increase the traction, performance, and ride quality of your rig. On a traditional beadlock wheel, this locking action is accomplished by placing the outer bead of the tire between an external ring that is bolted to the wheel.
This style of beadlock is very effective, but does have a few drawbacks. The first issue with the aforementioned style of beadlock is that most fall outside of the DOT (Department of Transportation) wheel testing standards. This means the wheels cannot receive a DOT stamp of approval, making it a product that is often sold with the marker of “off-road only.” Sure, there are plenty of items listed as off-road only that are common on a typical street-driven 4x4, but a non-DOT-compliant wheel could come back to haunt you if you are ever in an on-road accident.
Another issue is that the beadlock’s external mounting ring bolts from the outside of the wheel, which puts the mounting hardware at risk for damage. Like anything with a bolt, a beadlock wheel’s hardware also requires routine maintenance. Failure to tighten and check the beadlock’s locking ring can result in extreme damage to the tire, wheel, or worse, to you. Fortunately, there are beadlock options for those looking to stay with a DOT-compliant wheel.
One of the newest DOT-compliant beadlocks on the market comes from Beadlock Assist Device Wheels, or B.A.D. Wheels as they are commonly known. The American-made Eklipse 17 is the company’s first beadlock offering and is currently available in a 17x10-inch cast-aluminum version. Instead of using an external locking ring, the Eklipse 17 clamps the outer bead from the inside of the wheel. This is achieved by three locking elements that attach to six anchor bolts inside of the air chamber.
To get a better idea for how the B.A.D. Wheels worked (and how challenging the set may be to install), we loaded up our 37-inch Mickey Thompson MTZ tires and headed down to Vic’s Tire & Auto Service in Gaffney, South Carolina, to assemble one of the company’s first sets. Using our relatively-modified ’97 Jeep Wrangler, we spent nearly a year thoroughly testing the wheels and tires from the Coastal Carolina plains to the red rock climbs in Moab, Utah. So, did the rims keep our beads in place or leave us flat on all fours? Read on to find out.
Step By StepView Photo Gallery
At A Glance
Size (in): 17x10
Material type: Cast aluminum
Locking mechanism: Internal
Weight (lb): 38 w/out hardware, 45.5 w/hardware, 50.5 w/hardware & ½-inch rock ring
Capacity (lb): 3,000 (5&6-lug), 3,500 (8-lug)
Backspacing (in): 3.5
Approved tire size (in): 37 as tested (rated up-to 42)
Lug pattern(s): 5-on-4.5, 5-on-5, 5-on-5.5, 6-on-5.5, 6-on-6.5, 8-on-6.5, 8-on-170
Bead Between the Lines
The Mickey Thompson MTZ’s heavy-duty load range D sidewall is typical for most 17-inch tires these days, which makes running beadlocks on a lightweight rig such as our Jeep Wrangler TJ that much more important. Single digit (3-8 psi) air pressure is where our tires lived most of the time and how the tires performed best. While we won’t say that we were intentionally trying to lose a bead, we were definitely less than kind to the wheels on multiple occasions (as is very evident by the trail scars on the sacrificial rock rings).
To date, we haven’t had any slow leaks, flats, or lost a bead. Weighing in close to 50 pounds each, the Eklipse 17 is not lightweight, but still in the ballpark for a typical DOT-compliant aluminum beadlock wheel. Our 5-on-4½-inch bolt pattern wheel came with the standard 3.5 inches of backspacing, which worked great to space the wheels correctly and away from our frame and suspension components. With a weight capacity of 3,000 pounds, the wheels were also more than strong enough to handle our lightweight Jeep.
Oftentimes when it comes to testing a wheel, it either works or doesn’t, and looks are simply way too subjective these days. Even if the internal locking elements came loose, the wheel would essentially default to a standard non-beadlock wheel, which is kind of a nice safety feature for owners who are not the most mechanically astute. While the installation portion is a little unconventional, it’s a worthwhile inconvenience for those looking to have the performance advantages of a beadlock wheel that is DOT-compliant. Overall, we are glad to see innovation and safety coming together, as a beadlock is a great tool to help unlock the wheeling potential of daily drivers and trail beaters alike.