Have you been scaling massive rock mountains in your four wheeler lately? Maybe cruising through wet, clay valleys that would put most cars on the bench?
No? Then you probably haven’t heard of beadlock wheels and you more than likely don’t need them.
However, if you’re a driver who takes their off roading adventures more seriously than anything else in their life (you know who you are) then you’ve probably thought about fitting some beadlocks on your trusty trail buddy.
But beadlocks are not for the faint of heart- they’re a pretty serious commitment to the trail. We’re going to talk about some pros and cons and if you’re on the fence about whether or not they’re going to be right for, we hope this helps figure that out.
So strap in, because it’s about to get beady.
So let’s start with the basics- What are beadlocks?
Beadlock wheels initially look like your standard wheel. And it is basically a standard wheel, with one main difference.
On a standard rim your tire would fit on the inner lip lines of the wheel known as the beads, and then when filled up the air pressure keeps the tire in place along the beads.
The difference is that beadlock wheels have an extra ring piece that fits along the perimeter of the wheel face. When installing, you slip the tire lip in between the bead and the bead lock ring and tighten with a series of heavy duty bolts, and by doing so locking the bead into place.
For most commercial use, the standard air pressure system works great. No moving parts and properly maintained tires will safely stay on the rims with no problems.
However this system doesn’t always work as planned when the tires are not used as designed- we’re looking at you off roaders. Tires come with a suggested PSI range, typically somewhere between 35 and 50 PSI of air pressure. You can check what air pressure levels your tire wants right on the sidewall.
But the off roading community came to the conclusion that if you let air out of your tires to lower levels of air pressure then your tires conform to irregular paths better and give the vehicle more traction.
But you also run the risk of your tire slipping off completely if it isn’t properly pressurized, and this is always bad news- but especially if you’re out in the middle of muddy nowhere.
Thus the attraction of beadlock wheels.
Since the beadlocks hold tight onto the tire regardless of air pressure drivers can theoretically let out as much air out as they want and be confident that their tire wont slip out on them.
This means off roaders can “air down” their tires to extreme levels and really boost the traction power their tires can give, which comes in handy in extreme circumstances.
As well, because the wheel only has one standard bead line for the tire to be fit to and the other side is a lock you tighten with bolts and readily available tools, it’s easier for a driver to swap out tires with a set of bead locks without having to go to a shop.
Not to mention, they look pretty sick.
Truth be told, beadlocks have their problems.
They tend to be noticeably more expensive than their standard counterparts- sometimes as much as double the cost.
And they’re heavy. This is because of the material they’re typically made out of and the extra hardware that comes along with them. This means drivers will be sacrificing fuel efficiency for that extra traction.
They also require a good amount of maintenance- obviously if you want to air down your tires for off roading that’s all good and well, but you’ll have to re-inflate your tires before hitting the pavement to go back home, so you may need an air compressor in your backseat ready to go.
A little more maintenance includes regularly checking and tightening every bolt that lines the lock ring. You definitely do not want any bolt coming loose and potentially flying off.
This last point takes us to our final and biggest con for beadlocks.
If you’ve been doing your homework on beadlock wheels and read any number of blogs or community discussions of beadlock users and those interested in them, you’ve more than likely seen this conversation pop up.
“Beadlocks aren’t approved by the DOT and aren’t street legal.”
“Psh, no one can prove that they aren’t street legal.”
“There are real beadlock wheels that are street legal and FAKE ones that aren’t!”
“I’ve got $100 for anyone who can find evidence that beadlocks are illegal in their state.”
There’s a lot of debate surrounding the legality of beadlock wheels, and here’s why:
They are indeed not approved by the Department of Transportation. This is more than likely due to the bolt and ring mechanism they use to lock in the tire- bolts have a possibility of loosening and flying off as we said, which can be massively dangerous to have bolts flying off wheels doing freeway speeds for other drivers.
Not only is that possibility dangerous for other drivers though, it could mean serious trouble for you behind the wheel. If a few bolts came loose then the tire could experience rapid deflation, and if you’re doing 80 miles per hour on the freeway we don’t need to tell you that very suddenly losing one of your wheels is going be trouble.
Not to mention, the bolts even coming loose can lead to uneven tread wear which is just another factor that can lead to a high speed blow out.
So they aren’t DOT approved, does this mean that they’re illegal? It’s important to do your own research for the state that you’re in, but here’s our take.
Beadlock wheels are for off roading use, and extreme off roading at that. Like we said these aren’t for the faint of heart, but for drivers up to the challenge then they will definitely make a difference in your off road experience and enjoyment.
Keep them on a vehicle that is primarily used for off roading, and preferably have a vehicle for casual, commercial use. Or at least different wheels to swap out for when you’re not scaling mountains.
Depending on your state you might get noticed by a traffic cop and given a “fix-it” ticket- You won’t be arrested or get your car impounded, but it’s expected that you’ll replace your beadlocks for DOT approved wheels when driving around on legal roads.
So beadlock wheels. We don’t want to sugarcoat it, they come with some pretty hefty drawbacks. They cost a lot more, they weigh a lot more, and you might find yourself paying a ticket for having them on- or worse.
But for drivers who look at the muddy and jagged mountains that others quake at and say, “Today, we’re going up and over that bad boy,” then beadlock wheels might be just the right thing.
If you have any questions our team of professional tire technicians are happy to help you figure out exactly what type of wheels and tires are going to suit your driving habits the best.
Interested in what they might look like on your specific vehicle? Check out our state of the art visualizer where we have just about every make, model and color option available so you can tell us exactly what kind of car you’re driving and we’ll show you exactly which wheels are going to fit it and how it’ll look when installed.
Not to mention when you purchase with Rent A Wheel we’ll install and balance your brand new wheels for free at one of our many Rent A Wheel locations. Now that’s a great deal.
Beadlock wheels aren’t for everyone like we said, but for those of you who are interested in unlocking the full potential of your off roading monster machine and heavy duty tires, then beadlocks are going to fit right in with your goals.
Just ask any driver who has gotten themselves beadlocks and you more than likely won’t hear any regret- just make sure that you’re up to the challenge.
But you conquer mountains and dance in the mud, so you must be up for it, right?