While researching tires and wheels for your off-road truck, you have probably noticed beadlock wheels. Available in many different styles and sizes, beadlock wheels can be expensive when compared to standard wheels.
Yet they do serve an important purpose on trucks used for more extreme off-roading, just like stronger truck bumpers and a proper winch system. Beadlocks wheels keep the tires on your wheels and helps them stay inflated when breaking the bead seal is most likely.
What Are Beadlocks?
Beadlocks are mechanisms on off-road wheels that essentially clamp the tire bead to the wheel, preventing the tire from coming off. They were originally developed for military vehicles to prevent tires from coming off the wheel while under extreme torque and load stress when run with lower tire pressure. The idea was then adapted for use in off-roading and rock crawling, where tires are frequently aired down to improve traction.
Tire Beads and What They Do
Understanding how and why beadlocks work with off-roading tires first requires an understanding of how tires behave. Every tire is made with a bead, which is a recessed area of rubber that seats the edge of the wheel on the border of the sidewall.
When they are inflated to the correct PSI, the bead is pressed firmly against the edge of the wheel to hold in the air and keep the tire on the wheel. Air pressure is essential in keeping the bead sealed and the tire inflated.
Airing down tires is a common practice used in off-roading. By reducing air pressure, tires soften and put more tread in contact with the ground. On softer surfaces like mud and sand or when rock and hill climbing, reduced air pressure provides better traction. The only problem with this practice is lowering tire pressure increases the risk of breaking the bead seal, deflating the tire, and even pulling it off the wheel.
Beadlocks and Off-Road Tires
When airing down tires for off-roading, lower pressure increases the risk of breaking the essential bead seal and deflating the tire. If you air down only slightly to improve traction on soft ground, you may not require beadlocks as there will still be enough pressure in the tire to keep the bead pressed in.
If you air down considerably or drive over more rugged terrain, the torque and strain on flexible tires can easily pull the bead out of place. These are the situations in which beadlocks are most useful.
When screwed down tightly over the bead of a fully inflated tire, beadlocks hold the tire edge in place so it cannot slide out, even when aired down considerably and driven over rough terrain. Good beadlocks should be able to hold the tire on with almost no air in it, although you would not want to actually drive on that tire. With quality beadlock wheels, you can attain the best traction for your tires without the risk of popping them off the wheel.
Be Sure to Buy the Real Thing
When you are looking for good beadlock wheels for your off-roader, just be aware that there are fakes out there. While true, functional beadlock wheels will help you achieve your off-roading goals, wheels that look to be beadlock may not be. They are just fancy looking wheels with a fake, non-functional beadlock attachment that have become a stylish trend with many truck owners. They are for show only and will not clamp down your tire bead.
Should you get beadlock wheels? It depends on what you do with your truck and how much of a risk you face for unseating a tire. You may not need them for average off-roading when you can normally air down a few PSIs with few problems. If you want the ability to air down more, drive on more rugged trails, or do serious rock and hill climbing, beadlock wheels are a worthwhile investment, just like sturdy bumpers and the proper suspension system!