Upgrades of any kind essentially boil down to one thing, demanding more from what was originally offered as standard. Beefing up the stock stuff on a 4×4 is a hallmark of the offroading world, where we tend to treasure what came stock on the vehicle and only trade it up when the goalposts shift too high. At that point, we’re all game for moving on to the next big step.
When the topic comes to wheels, there’s really only one way to go up – beadlocks. By supporting the bead with material pressure instead of air pressure, beadlocks do the job of getting the tire to stay seated to the wheel despite low air pressure. Any off-roader worth his salt knows that lower air pressure is a must for off-road.
Lowering air pressure on a normal wheel brings with it a pitfall that no one wants to see happen on the trail: a broken bead. The side load on a tire’s sidewall becomes more pronounced and therefore susceptible, and a hard enough hit can unseat the tire’s bead from the wheel’s bead. Since all that holds the tire and wheel together is good old-fashioned air pressure, the risk goes higher as the air pressure goes lower.
The first beadlocks to be designed and produced were by the American motor manufacturer Dodge for their military spec trucks for fast and efficient tyre changing in the combat zone. The rims were totally different to todays beadlock but the principle is the same, the tyre sits between the outer rim of the wheel and the bolt down metal ring sandwiches the tyre into place, hence the tyre bead is locked.
Most upgraders opt for the complete beadlocked manufactured replacement wheel, but there are a few specialist companies out there who can refurbish your standard wheels, to adapt and fit beadlock rims.
The most common question from people is on wheel balancing and beadlocks, can it be done? The answer is yes, it can. At the end of the day, it’s the big piece of rubber that causes unbalancing. Beadlock wheels run fine on drag cars that do 200 mph plus, so they’ll be just fine going down the highway too.
Although they look good, the cost of beadlocks is not cheap, so unless you are a competitive off road driver or a regular extreme 4×4 joyrider the chances you will need this upgrade is negligible. This is a question you need to ask yourself before parting with a serious lump of that hard earned cash.
The video below has a great cross section of a beadlock wheel explained (go to 50 sec in to skip ads)
How beadlock rims work …