An initial glance at Center Line's new bead-lock wheel probably won't reveal that it's a m
When Center Line Wheel Corporation set out to build a new bead-lock wheel, it didn't exactly copy the regular bolted-ring-on-a-rim concept. Actually, this new I.C.E. wheel is unlike most any wheel with its innovative construction. It offers run-flat capability, which a pinched outer bead alone can't accomplish, and the bead lock is really a side effect of the run-flat design.
Much like the spun aluminum three-piece modular Center Lines of the '80s-which spawned a slew of look-alikes and forever made people believe that any wheel with small round holes was a "modular" wheel-this latest Center Line also features three modules. Reminiscent of the old design, there is an inner section which holds the inner bead, a center, and an outer part that holds the tire's outer bead and the valve stem. Both are also made from aluminum, but that's about it for similarities-these new wheels are different, indeed.
Reading the specifications for the I.C.E. (Integral Centering Element) wheel didn't impress us at first. A 17x9 is listed as weighing in at a rollover- and deceleration-resistant 49 pounds, per wheel. That's unsprung, rotating mass, the worst kind of vehicle weight. Then, W.D. pricing is a not-too-modest $679 apiece. Ouch. To top it off, the tire size and load ratings are a mere 33 inches and 2,200 pounds for five- and six-lug wheels, with eight-luggers at 35 and 3,200, respectively. After lifting the boxes and reading the specs, we sure didn't like this new wheel, but that was all to change.
Mounting a tire made us appreciate the fast and effortless installation afforded by the Center Line, not normally a strong point of bead-lock wheels, and we had to admire the ingenuity and simplicity of what at first seemed to be a complex setup. Still, it was impossible to ignore a comparison with the old spun-aluminum version. Granted, they aren't bead locks, have no run-flat capability, can't easily be disassembled at home (they're riveted together), but they're one of the best wheels we've ever used for bead retention-bead locks included. Also, they weigh in at an acceleration-friendly and handling-happy 18 pounds for a 15x10. Why is the new 17x9 three times heavier?
It all made a lot more sense after talking to Ray Lipper, the man who engineered the I.C.E. concept. Designed for military use with 37s and in conjunction with an inner 28-inch "tire," everything had to be very stout and, well, bulletproof. Center Line is one of the few wheel companies making everything (except the aluminum) in-house, in the U.S., thus the military interest. Obviously, there's serious overkill in the weight and tire diameter ratings, and the fact that we civilians can now buy this wheel is basically a nice bonus. Included in the price of admission is also free repair of the outer section, should you smack a rock with one.
Removing the outer section shows the O-ring that seals the wheel between those two parts.
The very shiny (and very heavy) I.C.E. wheel comes assembled with four of the 20 stainless
From left to right, the outer piece that the outer tire bead seats on. It's the shiny part
Essentially, the outer part of the I.C.E. is the equivalent of the bolt-on ring on regular bead-lock wheels, but with positive indexing, which makes the wheel run true and remain balanceable. We put a Center Line on the Hunter GSP 9700 balancer (yes, it measures rims too) and found the run-out to be minimal: 0.016 inch at worst, with an average of just 0.0095. That's quite a testament to the quality manufacturing, especially when considering that it's a three-piece wheel.
Center Line just might make a 15-inch version for those of us who prefer traditional wheel sizes, if the demand is there (and it would be quite a bit lighter), but for now we have the mil-spec, user-friendly 17x9. Either way, it's a very appealing concept.
1 Mounting a tire on this run-flat wheel may seem as complicated as the wheel itself, but
2 Align the bolt holes in the two sections, set the O-ring in the centersection (it is not
3 Place the outer section on top with the bolt holes aligned, then start a bolt in every f