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D-I-Y Beadlocks

Story and Photos By Jack Brinks
Mechanic on Duty - Story & photos by: Karl Pretzer

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D-I-Y BeadlocksIf you’ve ever blown a bead while off-roading, you have probably thought about getting bead-locked wheels on your rig. There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to beadlocks, but it’s not our intent to go into them here. If you’ve decided beadlocks are for you, but you just don't have the big bucks to by the fancy, professionally built ones, like my friend Karl, here’s a relatively inexpensive way to get them. Do it yourself!

We started with a set of steel wheels that have seen their share of rocks. In fact, a couple had severe cases of rock rash and were prime beadlock material. The beadlock rings themselves were made by Carmen Manufacturing and obtained from Bush Hog Racing in The Woodlands, Texas (800) 340-7223. Beadlocks with steel outer rings are $49.95 per wheel and aluminum outer ring sets are $79.95 per wheel. We decided to go with the steel outer rims for durability.

The first step in the installation is to cut off the outer bead of the wheel. This can be accomplished several different ways. One would be to pay a machine shop to remove it on a lathe. Another is to remove the outer rim with a plasma cutter. Since the machine shop wanted at least $25 a wheel and Karl already had a plasma cutter, we obviously chose the second method.

The lathe would have made a straighter cut, but the plasma cutter worked just fine. Yes, it required a bit of work with a grinder to square up the edge prior to welding, but if you’re careful, and use the groove of the outer bead as indicated by the arrows in the photo to guide the plasma cutter, it won’t be too bad.

D-I-Y Beadlocks
D-I-Y Beadlocks

After you’ve cut off the outer rim by the method of your choice, place the inner rim on the wheel and measure carefully in numerous places to insure the inner beadlock rim will be parallel to the inner bead. Then, measure around the circumference of the rim to make sure it’s centered properly.

D-I-Y Beadlocks
D-I-Y Beadlocks

Once you’re certain it’s centered, tack weld it in place a few places around the rim and double-check all of your measurements. Once you’re certain that they are OK, finish welding all the way around the rim. At first, we thought it would be a good idea to only do several inches at a time to avoid warping, but we found that this would only cause pin holes and subsequent leaks. To stop this, seal the welds with a film of silicone, just in case.

D-I-Y Beadlocks
D-I-Y Beadlocks

When your wheel is finished, clean it up, put on a coat of paint, and you’re ready to mount the tire. Mount it as you normally would, from the inside of your tire. Center the tire on the inner beadlock rim, and place the outer rim over the tire.

D-I-Y Beadlocks
D-I-Y Beadlocks
D-I-Y Beadlocks
D-I-Y Beadlocks

You may need to use several longer bolts, evenly spaced around the beadlock to start drawing the inner and outer locks together. Then install all provided bolts and tighten them down evenly in a crisscross pattern. You’ll need to go around a few times before they are actually tight. Air up the tire, check for leaks, and bolt it on your truck. Now, only three more to go…

Editor's Notes:
This article is to be used as a reference only. We do not recommend that anyone without substantial experience attempt this modification. Beadlocks can be unsafe and they can be very difficult to balance and are more prone to driveability problems than normal wheels.
Please use caution when building and using beadlocks. Remember to check your beadlocks often, as it is common for bolts to loosen over time. Also keep in mind that beadlocks are not DOT-approved in most states. Ask your parent or guardian for help when using a welder.

Jack Brinks

Jack Brinks is an avid four-wheeler and a contributor here at ROCKCRAWLER.com. Jack resides north of Houston, TX and frequents many events in the Southwest.

Contact Jack at jb77cj7@aol.com


 
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