What Are Beadlock Wheels? How Do Beadlock Rims Work?

By Tire Agent Staff

April 29, 2022

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If you've seen a UTV off-roading with cool-looking wheels, you most likely know have seen beadlock wheels without realizing it. If you're looking for beadlock wheels for your vehicle, there are a few things you need to know, including whether true beadlocks are street legal (they're not).

Just because you've seen the look doesn't necessarily mean you've seen an actual beadlock wheel. True beadlock wheels are NOT street legal; however, there are some manufacturers that have made wheels to simulate the look of beadlocks. More on that later.

First, let's explore what beadlock wheels are and why some drivers might want them.

What Are Beadlock Wheels?

Beadlock wheels perform precisely as their name implies: They lock the tire's bead (the component that is meant to be on the wheel's rim) to the wheel.

This allows you to reduce air pressure to a very low level, which expands your tire's contact patch, increasing grip, flotation, and other benefits.

With factory wheels, you may lower tire pressure to around 12-16 psi (depending on the weight of your vehicle) without fear of the tire bead popping off the wheel. Unless you have beadlocks, anything below that is asking for trouble.

The science behind beadlock wheels

Your tire would fit on the inner lip lines of the wheel, known as the beads, on a standard rim. The air pressure would then keep the tire in position alongside the beads once it was full.

Beadlock wheels have an additional ring piece that fits along the wheel face's perimeter. Slip the tire lip between the bead and the bead lock ring and tighten with a series of heavy-duty bolts when installing. That's how to secure the bead into place.

So, Why Would You Want Beadlock Wheels?

There are some advantages to installing beadlock wheels. They include:

  • Better handling: We mentioned earlier that you could lower air pressure to around 12-16 psi with standard wheels. With beadlock wheels, you have a lot of room to air down. It's safe to go to 6 psi, but some people go even lower. This translates to more traction in sand, snow, rocks, and other harsh conditions.
  • Beadlocks can take a beating: Beadlock wheel rims (the outermost edge) are more robust than standard rims and can withstand the beating that comes with off-roading and pounding against rocks.
  • Aesthetically pleasing: Beadlock wheel fans think they look cooler than standard wheels.

There are some disadvantages to beadlocks, too. They include:

  • Cost: Beadlock wheels are typically more expensive since they contain more parts and require additional engineering.
  • Lower fuel efficiency: Because there is more metal and equipment on beadlock wheels, they are heavier, which could reduce gas mileage.
  • Safety: The deadlock ring could separate from the remainder of the wheel if two or more beadlock bolts fail. This might cause your tire pressure to drop to zero in seconds, causing you to lose control of your vehicle.

Are Beadlocks Street Legal?

Remember at the beginning of this post when we stated just because you've seen the look doesn't necessarily mean you've seen an actual beadlock wheel?

That's because beadlock wheels are not street legal, primarily due to safety concerns mentioned above. The Department of Transportation (DOT) doesn't want people driving fast on the highway with these potential dangers.

But that doesn't mean you can't have that trendy style on your vehicle. You may have seen others sporting beadlock-looking wheels. That's because manufacturers have simulated the look of beadlock wheels.

In fact, Tire Agent carries beadlock wheels for UTV off-roading, and wheels with beadlock styling for legal on-road driving. 

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Vision Offroad 350 in bronze with black lip

msa offroad wheels brute beadlock
MSA Offroad Wheels M37 Brute Beadlock

hKM5444 kmc beadlocks.png
KMC KM544 Mesa beadlock style wheel in satin black

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Mickey Thompson Classic Baja Lock beadlock-style wheel
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Fuel D101 Zephyr BL off-road use only
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Ultra 103M X103 XTREME beadlock wheel