Better wheels and tires are an essential upgrade for anyone serious about off-roading, but there’s more to those pieces of rubber that put the power to the dirt than you may think. For example, you may have heard about bead lock wheels and tires before, but unless you’ve installed a set you probably don’t quite know what they are. The short explanation is that they’re just about the best type of wheel for off-roading
, and for the long explanation let’s dive into bead lock wheels
So What Is a Bead Lock Wheel?
Basically, a bead lock wheel is exactly what it sounds like, a wheel that locks around the bead of a tire. The bead on a tire is the outermost edge of the rubber, and it is this bead that helps to seal a traditional tire when it is inflated with air. The bead presses against the inside of the rim, creating a seal.
In a bead lock wheel
however, things work a little differently. Instead of the wheel being a single piece of metal, a bead lock wheel actually has multiple parts. The wheel is installed on the rim and instead of just relying on air pressure to hold the bead in place, a ring with multiple bolts in it is clamped down over the bead to hold it in place. With this system there’s no need for high air pressure to hold the seal in place, as it’s done with bolts.
You’ve probably seen wheels before with these types of bolt patterns on them but just never knew what they were for. The majority of these wheels you see on the street are most likely fake and only give the appearance of bead lock wheels, as there is little use for them on the road.
How Do Bead Lock Wheels Work
Bead lock wheels are built for situations in which you need to lower the air pressure of your tires to get better traction. In a normal wheel with lower tire pressure it’s easy to lower your pressure a little too much or take a turn a little too tight and before you know it you’re tire is off the rim, leaving you stuck.
Instead of worrying about this happening, bead lock wheels lock the tire in place so you can use any tire pressure you want without fear of losing the tire from the rim.
When Are Bead Lock Wheels Useful?
Bead lock wheels are most useful for situations when you need very low tire pressure. Instead of the highway where high tire pressure is important, think more along the lines of rock driving, mudding
, and sand
. These situations call for a lower tire pressure so that the tire itself can spread out and give a wider traction area. It’s not unheard of to lower tire pressure down to single digits when dealing with snow driving, as this is how you can drive on top of snow without plowing it. The wider traction area this allows gives the driver much more control and traction.
Bead lock tires and wheels are pretty amazing, but they aren’t street-legal in every state, so make sure you’re allowed to drive on the road with them first. Properly maintained bead lock wheels are perfectly safe, but they do take maintenance; something that traditional wheels don’t really need, so make sure you really need bead lock wheels before buying a set. They’ll be more expensive and require you to take care of them, but if you need them, bead lock wheels are the best thing going.