A Detailed Look At True Beadlock Wheels: Pros, Cons + How To Install & Maintain Them – Featuring Relations Race Wheels (RRW) RR7-H (Hybrid Design)
What are beadlock wheels, what is their purpose, and why are they so expensive? Here we will be these topics along with everything you need to know about installation and if they’re right for you.
Over the years, purpose built off-road vehicles have been seen with thick metal “rings” around the rim of their wheels. For most, the function of the rings was overlooked by the style of the design. The aggressive off-road look became so popular that wheel manufacturers started making wheels with the same look but lacked the original function.
These kind of replica beadlock wheels are known as a simulated beadlocks. These wheels are more affordable because they were made without the functional ring that makes the real version wheels more costly. The simulated style can now be found on a large variety of trucks on the road today because of its aggressive look and low cost to entry.
So, what does the ring do on real beadlock wheels and why are they still so desirable?
Find It Online
- RRW RR7-H Hybrid Beadlock Wheels: Check Price
- RRW Beadlock Rings & Hardware: Check Price
- RRW Spacers for Beadlock Rings: Check Price
- RRW Protection Rings & Hardware: Check Price
Beadlock Wheel Install & Overview
Table of Contents
How Beadlock Wheels Work
Beadlock wheels are what the name implies. A wheel with the ability to “lock” the tire’s bead in place. This prohibits de-beading when your tires are significantly aired down. The wheel uses metal rings and bolts that sandwich the bead of the tire between the inner ring of the wheel and the beadlock ring.
There are a few designs available such as bead grip, internal beadlock, and dual beadlock. However, the single beadlock design is by far the most popular. This will be the type I’ll be covering in this article.
With the design of a single beadlock wheel, the outer bead locked in while the inside is seated conventionally. This is because the outside face is the side more likely to de-bead. This is often caused by forces pushing on the sidewall of the tire. With less pressure in the tire, there is less force inside pushing outwards keeping the bead seated.
Beadlock wheels are expensive due to their intricate design and the extra hardware involved. Multiple holes are drilled and threaded the wheel to mount the rings. The rings are CNC machined aluminum with Grade 8 or similar hardware and the wheels reinforced construction all add to the cost.
As you can tell by now, these wheels require a significant commitment; they are time-intensive to install and quite expensive. While true beadlock wheels are not certified the same way as regular wheels, they are not technically illegal to use on the road. You might see many labeled – “for off-road use only” – this is mainly to protect the manufacturer, so the user understands they bear the responsibility in case of failure. Most people with these wheels use their vehicles almost exclusively for off-road purposes. Alternatively, if they drive their rig daily, some have a second set of wheels and tires for street use.
Even though beadlock wheels are theoretically more secure than standard wheels, they’re not DOT rated. There are newer types of bead reinforcing wheels emerging on the market now like the ICON Innerlock bead locking system and Method Bead Grip wheels that are DOT approved. They offer better retention for airing down than normal wheels but are not quite as good as true beadlock.
The common reason why beadlock wheels are not DOT rated is the amount of hardware holding the bead in place. Although you can lose a few bolts on the beadlock ring and the wheel will still hold air, true beadlocks require additional maintenance, including retorquing the bolts periodically. If this is not done consistently, it can lead to failure. This maintenance is not something you can expect regular drivers to do frequently.
RRW Hybrid Beadlock Wheels
The wheels you see here are the RRW RR7-H Hybrid beadlock wheels with a -25mm offset. The impressive feature of these wheels is the fact that you can run the wheels with or without rings. This means you can mount a tire like a traditional wheel. Beadlock rings or protection rings can be bolted onto the wheel afterward. Either of these options also protects the rim from trail damage. This is a nice option to add beadlock rings later without having to modify or buy new wheels.
The RRW RR7-H comes in 0mm, -12mm, -25mm, and -38mm offsets and is available in many colors. The beadlock and protection rings are available in black or raw aluminum with black, silver, or gold hardware.
Note: Tires may be mounted to the wheel without the beadlock or the protection ring. The rings can be added after the fact to protect the bead of the tire and add slightly more retention.
Thing To Consider Before Install
Depending on the tire, you may need a 3mm or 5mm ring spacer if the tire bead is too thick, creating an uneven mounting surface under the ring. This issue is not common but has been seen on certain tire models such as the Mickey Thompson M/Ts.
Particularly For RRW beadlock wheels… If this problem is encountered, eight longer bolts will be required to help seat the beadlock rings. The longer bolts are used to get full thread engagement before pressure is applied to the bead and reduces the chance of stripping threads in the wheel with shorter hardware. The longer M8 1.25 x 35mm bolts are not included but can easily be found at a local hardware store.
Tools & Materials
- 4-5 qt. Valve Stems (your choice)
- Soap & Water
- 5 Gal. Bucket
- Rubber Dead Blow Hammer/Rubber Mallet
- (8) M8 1.25 x 35mm Bolts
- 3/8” Drive 1/2” Socket
- 3/8” Drive Extension Rod
- 3/8” Drive Ratchet Wrench
- 3/8” Drive 5-80 lb. Torque Wrench
- Anti-Seize Lubricant
- Air Compressor
VERY IMPORTANT – If you are mounting tires on brand-new wheels…
- Make sure you install valve stems before mounting the tires.
- After mounting the tires, get the wheels balanced BEFORE driving with new unbalanced wheels on your truck.
Install the valve stems of your choice. For this application, rubber valve stems have been chosen with compatible Tacoma TPMS sensor.
This rubber-style valve stems required a valve stem pulling tool to seat the stem in the wheel. Not all valve stems require this tool but make sure you have the tools necessary to install your particular valve stems before you begin.
Step 1. Tire Mounting
Since only the inner bead needs to be seated on the wheel, you don’t need a machine to seat both tire beads like a conventional wheel. With single beadlock wheels, you can mount the tire on the wheel yourself with just some dish soap, water, and a lot of elbow grease.
Place the wheel face up on a padded blanket on the ground or in a flat grassy area. If your tires have a white letter side and a black side, make sure the desired side faces outward in the proper orientation on the wheel. You simply slide the tire over the wheel until it is level with the face.
Soap and water are key parts of this process; make sure to have plenty available because it will smooth out the process. Spray down the inner bead of the tire with dish soap and water. Do the same to the outer side of the wheel until both the tire bead and the outer lip of the wheel are slick.
Unfortunately, the first set of beadlock wheels was installed prior to writing this article. The process below outlines the steps done for the spare tire.
Hold the tire over the wheel at an angle and start applying pressure to the tire. Stretch the bead around the rim of the wheel until the entire edge of the tire is wrapped around. A helpful tip to get the tire started is by placing one edge of the tire bead under the rim of the wheel. Next, hold that side of the bead and push from the top of the opposite side of the tire, using leverage to work the tire down.
Once the inner bead is around the wheel, push the tire down until the outer bead is touching the wheel’s rim. The bead and the raised surface with the threaded holes around the wheel should be about flush. You may need a rubber mallet to seat the tire around the lip.
At this point, the inner bead will be close to but not fully seated on the inner bead of the wheel just yet. This will be done after all the bolts are installed.
Step 2. Pre-Install Beadlock Ring
Lay the wheel and tire face up on top of an upside-down 5 gal. bucket. This allows the bottom of the tire to hang around the wheel while the beadlock bolts are installed to help ensure the outer bead is sitting evenly around the edge of the wheel.
Note: DO NOT use an impact driver or any power tools on the beadlock bolts. These particular wheels are aluminum which means the threads are delicate and should be handled carefully.
Place the ring over the wheel and line up the holes. Use the eight long hex bolts with washers and put the first bolt nearest to the valve stem. Place a bolt in every third hole leaving two empty spaces in between. There will be three spaces between the last bolt and the first bolt which is to be excepted.
As previously mentioned, the longer bolts are used to create full thread engagement before pressure is applied to the bead and reduces the chance of stripping threads when using the shorter hardware.
Hand-tighten the eight bolts evenly to create an even gap of space between the ring and the wheel. Don’t tighten these bolts all the way down, just enough to seat the tire bead in place with the wheel.
Note: Use a ½” socket with an extension rod to help hand-tighten bolts.
Make sure the gap between the ring and the wheel is small enough to allow the beadlock ring bolts to easily thread. The shorter hardware should now have decent thread engagement without any pressure from the bead pushing up on the ring against the bolts.
If needed, tighten down the eight longer bolts with quarter-turns, evenly in a star pattern, until the shorter hardware threads easily.
Step 3. Hardware Prep & Install
Stage the hardware out and pre install washers. A common practice is to add anti-seize lubricant before the new bolts are installed into the wheel. When every bolt has a washer, apply a small amount of anti-seize and hand-tighten the bolts in a star pattern.
Step 4. Install Hardware
To help keep your place in the star pattern and tighten everything evenly, number the bolt holes into sets of five with masking tape, starting with the hole closest to the valve stem. The 25 total bolt holes can be grouped into five sets of five holes each. Tighten each number group in a star pattern.
For example; tighten the bolt group numbered “1” in a star pattern, then tighten bolts numbered “2”, then group “3”, group “4”, and “5” until all 25 bolts have been tightened.
Refer to the example above to keep track of each group of bolts when tightening. Start with bolt group 1 and work your way up to group 5 in numerical order. Leave the longer bolts installed until every other bolt hole is filled.
Now the eight longer bolts can be removed. Don’t forget to use washers and anti-seize then hand-tighten the remaining hardware. Check all the bolts are evenly hand-tightened and then do one full turn on the bolts with a ratchet wrench.
Step 5. Torque Beadlock Ring Bolts
Now that every bolt has been installed, they all need to be torqued down in two stages. The first stage is at 7 ft-lbs. This will ensure the rings are evenly tightened then a final torque spec of 14 ft-lbs.
*** If you still see a gap after 14 ft-lbs, do one final tightening at 17 ft-lbs.
The light torque setting on the beadlock bolts allows the bead to flex between the ring and the wheel.
Torque down in a star pattern. Start with bolt group 1 and work your way up to group 5 in numerical order. After you’ve completed this for 7 ft-lbs, repeat the process at 14 ft-lbs.
Important: Overtightened rings could lead to multiple failures with the wheel including breaking the beadlock bolts, and rings, and striping the threaded holes in the wheels.
After all the bolts have been tightened, go back to the first group of bolts that were torqued (bolt group 1) and make sure there is no play in the bolts by checking with a socket and hand tightening a little more if needed. The bolts that were torqued first may have gained some play after more pressure was applied by other bolts.
If the first bolts needed more adjustment, check them again with the torque wrench set at 14 ft-lbs. Pull on the torque wrench very lightly. If the other bolts were all torqued properly the first time, this final adjustment may not be necessary beyond bolt group 1.
Step 6. Seat Inner Tire Bead
After all 25 bolts have been installed and torqued down, the tire can now be inflated to seat the inner bead. Attach an air compressor to the valve stem and start inflating.
The air inflating the tire will push the inner bead out towards the edge of the wheel eventually seating the bead in the inner groove of the wheel. Use soap and water to help the rubber easily slide over the wheel while the tire is being inflated. The tire may take a little time to inflate depending on how big your tire is. The bead will make a small pop sound when the bead is seated and the tire will be flush against the edge of the wheel.
If air has been inflating for a while but you aren’t noticing a change in air pressure, use more soap and water. Keep the air line attached and move the tire around, massage the bead by pushing on it to help with the seating processes if needed.
Once the bead is seated, the tire can now be fully Inflated to your street air pressure preference. I range between 38-40 psi.
This is clearly a time-consuming process, and the first wheel is finally complete. Repeat the steps with your remaining wheels.
Step 7. Mount Wheels/Tires & Maintenance
Now that all your wheels are ready to go on the truck, make sure they’ve been balanced before installing them. Also, get your tire sensors programmed if needed.
Most tire shops will not touch beadlock wheels but they will balance them for you. If you get a flat, you will either have to patch it yourself or remove the tire from the wheel first and bring it to a shop. Or, maybe you’ll get lucky and find a tire shop that doesn’t need the tire to be removed to patch.
The beadlock ring maintenance schedule for re torqueing is a little up for debate but what I’ve seen is some people do it after the first 500 miles then once a season (four times a year). Others check every oil change and some check every 30,000 miles. Depending on how hard you drive should be a scale for how often you should re-torque your bolts as well as other components on your truck.
How often do you torque your beadlock bolts? Leave a comment below!
I’m a big fan of the RRW RR7-H wheel design with the sharp spoked look and CNC carved design on the beadlock and protection rings. The -25mm offset has the perfect amount of poke on stock width (in my opinion) and creates an aggressive look. Paired with raw aluminum rings and gold hardware on matte black wheels, makes for an awesome-looking color combination with the Quicksand color of my truck.
The fact that the hybrid wheel design works with or without the rings was a big selling point as well. The ability to use the wheels separately from the rings gives the flexibility to use these wheels for multiple purposes from daily driving to hard-core off-roading and everything in between.
As you can easily tell by now, these wheels are a big commitment, a lot of work, and a lot of money. Wheels like these are purpose built for dedicated off-road vehicles.
I don’t think most people need true beadlock wheels until their truck is built into a rock crawler or prerunner. Most off-road truck wheels can operate at lower teen-range PSI without de-beading in the majority of trail situations.
RRW also produces protection rings that offer the same look as their true beadlock rings without the actual function. They require the same 25 bolts for installation so they’re not really necessarily more convenient to maintain. However, they still offer rim protection.
Aside from the spare tire that I used for this article, the tires on the truck currently have the outer bead mounted inside the wheel and use the beadlock ring as a protection ring for convenience and compliance. Yet another example of the flexibility of RRW’s hybrid beadlock wheel design.