BEADLOCKED AND LOADED

4 x 4 Australia - - Gear -

“DE­PEND­ING on the de­gree to which one is in­volved with off-road­ing, things like true bead­locks can aid in the abil­ity to tra­verse dif­fi­cult ter­rain at lower tyre pres­sures with­out de-bead­ing the wheel ac­ci­den­tally,” Longstreth told us.

A bead­lock is a de­vice typ­i­cally used in com­pet­i­tive and ex­treme off-road­ing to se­cure the bead of a tyre to the wheel of a ve­hi­cle. It’s so that in sit­u­a­tions where a tyre’s low pres­sure can’t hold the bead of a tyre, the bead­lock will keep the two ro­tat­ing to­gether. Typ­i­cally you’ll find it’s a ring with bolts clamp­ing the wheel and tyre to­gether.

“A bead­lock is de­signed to be used to hold the tyre on the wheel, when low pres­sures are be­ing run on your wheels. The ring is de­signed to hold tyre on so it doesn’t roll off the rim,” Tonkin said. “Low pres­sures in­crease sur­face area of the tyre for trac­tion in the dirt. It’s not re­ally nec­es­sary on most ap­pli­ca­tions, it will just mean pres­sures can be down as low as 1-5 psi for ex­tra bag.”

They might look the bee’s knees be­neath your decked-out tourer, but it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that they aren’t le­gal for road use in Aus­tralia.

“Bead­lock wheels are strictly for off-road use only and not le­gal for road use in Aus­tralia,” Helge­son told us.

Across the ditch in the USA, Longstreth con­firmed that cer­ti­fy­ing bead­locks for street use is also not pos­si­ble as there’s cur­rently no fed­er­ally ap­proved method for test­ing.

Why are they il­le­gal? Well, safety rea­sons mainly, as prob­lems could arise from in­ter­fer­ing with the struc­tural rigid­ity of the ve­hi­cle.

How­ever, Longstreth reck­ons times are chang­ing: “The old fear and mis­con­cep­tion that bead­locks don’t bal­ance well or tend to leak comes from an era where man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nol­ogy and economies of scale sim­ply didn’t ap­ply,” he said. “Too many mak­ers of old bead­locks were sim­ply cut­ting apart wheels and weld­ing in new parts. This method was, at best, mildly ac­cu­rate. With the in­ven­tion of tighter man­u­fac­tur­ing tol­er­ances for OE and non-oe parts and au­to­mated ma­chines, man­u­fac­tur­ers can (now) build wheels that meet most ap­pli­ca­ble stan­dards.”

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