Beadlocks... Oh how Fun...
Building some of the most capable vehicles on the planet calls for some very healthy tires. We usually run 40" tires and larger and when we're off road we air down those monsters to get better grip, a wider foot print and in sand, some flotation qualities. Now, airing down tires brings both good and bad if not done right. If you are running the standard type wheel found on 99% of the vehicles out there then airing down a tire past 12 PSI can bring some very unwanted events....like blowing a bead off of the wheel. You see , air pressure pushing out on the inside of the tire keeps the tire on the wheel. Lowering the air pressure now lowers the forces being placed on the tire from the inside. Once the pressure on the inside is lower than a force on the outside like a rock, it can very easily pop the tire bead off of the wheel. If you are out in the middle of the desert miles from anyone with an air compressor and you pop your bead your in trouble.
But what if you had a way to keep that tire on the wheel at even lower air pressures? What if you could go all the way down to say 5 psi? Imagine the grip your tires could have. Well, you can have that.
Beadlocks!!! The military, or more appropriately, Dodge with it's Combat Wheels, were the first to have beadlock wheels. Drag racers and off roaders were next to have beadlock wheels to keep tires on the wheel. Some of them used to just drive screws through the wheels and into the tire bead to do this. Others had two piece wheels or big rings that held the bead on. The latter is what we will look at today.
First though, Lets see what tires we're using.
These are the Cooper Discoverer STT PRO tires in 40 x 13.50 x 17" version. They are an impressive tire. Well mannered on the street, awesome off road, and in my humble opinion, better than the tires coming out of Goodyear or BFG. The side walls are super tough, the tread pattern is great for both off road and on road and some of the little details took some thought.
These things had the thickest bead I've seen in a long time. thicker than my IROKS and thicker than the MTR's and BFG's.
Next are the wheels. These are the ATX AX757 Chamber Pro II wheels 17" these wheels have a recessed lip for the tire bead to sit on so they are self centering unlike other beadlocks and the clamping ring has ridges to help hold the tire in place when you air down. Not only that but they have steel inserts for the locking bolts to grab onto instead of cast aluminum. I like that alot.
OK now that we have the introductions out of the way lets get to work.
First, you are going to need some tools. you can mount these at home in your garage if you have an air compressor, a 5 gallon bucket, a couple of pry bars, a torque wrench and some soap. A heat gun doesn't hurt when it's cold outside to heat up those tires either.
Next, before you do anything else you need to get the valve stems in. I can't tell you how many time I've gotten the tire on only to find out I forgot the valve stem. What a pain in the rear end.
If your using the regular rubber type, which is what I'd recommend off road, then you'll need a little tool to pull the stem through. I got this little beauty at autozone for $5
To install the valve stems I just sprayed the ends with a little soapy water, put it through the hole, these wheels have two per wheel, spun this little tool onto it and then pulled it through until I heard a little pop and the valve stem was in place.
Then i did it seven more times, remember, these wheels have two valve stems each, for the rest of the wheels and it was time to mount the tires.
To mount these tires you'll need that 5 gallon bucket, soapy water, and your pry bars.
Set the wheel on the bucket and then put soapy water on the inner bead of the tire that will go on first. Set the tire over the rim and push one side down over the rim.
One side will just slip right over the wheel, however, one side won't. This is where the pry bars come in. You'll need to pry up and out on the tire bead while pressing down on the tire to get it to slip over the wheel. I had to practically body slam these tires to get them on, and that was after I heated them up with the heat gun. These things are stiff.
Once they are on you'll need to center the tires on the wheel. This is a tight fit and you'll probably need a couple of flat head screw drivers and a rubber mallet to gently pry the tire over the centering ring.
Once the tire is centered it's time to put the clamping ring on. Most of the beadlocks I've seen have hex head bolts the stick out away from the wheel. These wheels have the allen head bolts that are recessed in the ring for protection from the rocks.
Before you put the ring on make sure you have some anti seize to put on the bolts as you put them in the wheel.
Put the anti seize on the bolts as you put them in and start at four places on the wheel like a star pattern. Just start them. Don't try to put them in all the way at first. You'll need to walk the ring down onto the wheel and this will take several passes.
Once you gotten them all in it's time to torque them down. Now some beadlocks require only 15ft lbs of torque while others, like these, can go to 24ft lbs. Again, start in a star pattern and then you'll have to go around the wheel several times until they all register the torque setting you need with out turning the bolt.
Now it's time to air up your tires. Most tires will require you to put a ratchet strap around the circumference of the tire, tightening it down to keep the air in while you fill it. With these tires we just aired them up to 25psi. The tires may take more but you'll need to air up to the max pressure of the wheel which in this case was 25 psi.
If done correctly it'll take you a good part of your morning to complete all four tires if your doing it yourself. These tires are so thick that it took me a good six hours to do all four while it only took me three hours to do my Iroks.
This is what your new beadlock job will look like when your done. Awesome!
All four done and ready to go onto our new Tacoma build once they are balanced.
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