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What are Beadlock Wheels?

 photo by avid_creative via iStock

Off-roading is a difficult task. Moving a two-ton piece of steel over rocks, mud, and steep hills requires technology and clever innovation.

Humans – being the curious species that we are – have come up with thousands of different ways to tackle this terrain in vehicles that don’t really belong there. 

One of the most effective innovations is the beadlock wheel. What is a beadlock wheel? They simply are a system that enables the truck to get more traction on loose surfaces. 

How do beadlocks work? Well, in today’s 4WDTalk article, we will answer that question along with some information on the pros and cons one gets by installing them. 

So, let’s dive in! 

Table of Contents

What are Beadlock Wheels?

 Beadlock Wheels

Beadlock wheels (like those from Method Race Wheels shown above) are simply a wheel that locks the bead in place. Straight forward, huh? Well, yes, but there is more to it. 

Before we carry on to how a beadlock wheel goes about locking the bead in place, let’s see why the bead needs to be locked in the first place. 

It is well known by now that lower tire pressures lead to more off-road grip due to the larger footprint of the tire. 

However, lowering pressures can result in tires slipping off the bead, which is something no one wants to happen when off-road. 

This is where beadlock wheels come in. 

So, what are beadlock wheels? Beadlock wheels are simply wheels that are made of multiple parts that interlock together that squeeze the bead of the tire, which prevents it from slipping off the wheel. 

It is a simple but effective concept. 

What are Beadlock Wheels: Parts of a Bead Locker

Parts of a Bead Locker

Next on the list of what are beadlock wheels are the parts that make them up. 

A beadlock wheel is made up of six different parts, and all of them serve a specific function.  Knowing these functions is crucial to understanding what these wheels are. Let’s use the Tank Beadlock from KMC wheels as an example.

Outer Beadlock Ring 

This is the ring that clamps down to the inner beadlock ring (coming up below) and holds the tire that sits in between the two in place. On a steel beadlock, this also helps center the tire.

Inner Beadlock Ring

This is a machined surface that helps the bead of the tire center on the wheel. As mentioned above, it also makes up the other side of the clamp that locks the tire’s bead in place. 

The inner beadlock rim also has threaded holes that accept the bolts that clamp the two beadlock rings together. 

Bolts 

Bolts of Beadlock Wheels

These are the bolts that clamp the two beads together. They are usually 1-1/4-inch-long 5/16-inch bolts. 

In most cases, these bolts are Grade 8, but they can be Grade 5 on some wheels. 

Inner Safety Bead 

The inner safety bead is a small bump that runs the circumference of the wheel roughly ¾ of an inch inside the rim. This keeps the bead from slipping inward on the wheel. 

Rim 

Rim

For beadlock wheels, the rim is the inner or outermost lip that holds the face of the tire’s inner bead to the wheel. 

Normal wheels have two rims, but beadlocks only have one that is located inside the wheel.

Valve Stem 

The valve stem is a part of all wheels, and it is the small rubber gizmo that enables air to get in the tire, stay in the tire, or be removed from the tire. Without this small thing, the tire is deemed useless. 

Pros of Beadlock Wheels

Pros and Cons of Beadlock Wheels

What is next on the list? The pros.

A beadlock wheel like the Raceline Wheels RT81 Rock 8’s shown above enables the driver to air down to pressures far lower than those achieved with a normal wheel. 

Some people go down to 6 psi or even lower. This means that traction on sand, rocks, mud, or any loose surface is maximized. 

The outer edge of beadlock wheels is also stronger; therefore, they can withstand more abuse than a normal wheel. 

Finally, I think we can all agree that they look very cool! 

Cons of Beadlocks

Cons of beadlocks

These Dirty Life Mesa Race 9312 are great beadlock wheels, but beadlocks are pretty heavy.

By the above explanations regarding beadlock wheels, one can tell that these wheels are made up of multiple parts. This leads to a heavier wheel. 

Furthermore, after understanding “what are beadlock wheels,” we need to also consider the legalities when it comes to on-road use. 

In theory, if the bolts holding the two rings in place snap, the tire will come off the wheel and lose pressure instantly, which at 80mph is bad news. 

Because of this, beadlock wheels are illegal in many states; therefore, the best thing to do is to get beadlocks that are DOT-approved. 

Cons of beadlocks

Another con is that the cost of them is higher (the Dirty Life Mesa Race 9312 wheels are about $530), and most shops will not fit tires to them because of legality issues. 

The good thing is that the police do not really know what beadlock wheels are; therefore, they very rarely give any issues regarding them.

However, if you have an accident and non-DOT-approved beadlocks are to blame, you will have issues with your insurance. 

Do You Need Beadlock Wheels?

Do You Need Beadlock Wheels

So, do you need this kind of wheels? 

For overlanding and mild off-roading, beadlocks are not worth the risk in legalities, higher price tag, and weight penalty. Furthermore, if you have managed to go a few years without knowing what are beadlock wheels, chances are you never really needed them anyway.

Now, for someone who is planning on getting into rock crawling, mud bogging, or extreme off-roading in general, beadlock wheels, like the Raceline Monster RT233’s shown above, may be worth it. Especially if they will be going on a buggy or rig that will be towed to the play site. 

The call is for you to make, keep in mind that fake beadlocks also exist. Therefore, you get the cool looks without the legal issues. 

Now that you understand these type wheels, it is time to assess your driving style and terrain and decide whether you need them or not! 

If you have any further questions about this topic, leave them on the forum section of our page! 

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