Bead­locks or Bust

Jp Magazine - - Your Jeep -

I re­ally en­joyed “DIY Bead­lock Mount­ing Tech” (Aug. ’18). I’ve been think­ing about in­stalling a set of bead­lock wheels and wanted an opin­ion from some­one other than my friends. I have a ’12 JK Un­lim­ited Ru­bi­con. I have the stock Dana 44 axles and axle­shafts, but I’ve trussed the front axle with an Artec truss, which in­cluded beef­ing up the end forg­ings. I cur­rently run 37-inch tires with 20-inch wheels. I re­ally haven’t had any prob­lems (knock on wood) run­ning all the trails in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia. I’ve only ever peeled a tire bead once, but it seated back up quickly when I moved off the spot I was on. With my cur­rent setup, are the bead­locks and new 37-inch tires too heavy for my stock axles? I tend to drive pretty gin­gerly on the trail and don’t rock hop it or drive it like I stole it. I like to make it out in once piece. I was think­ing about the Race­line Mon­ster wheels. Any ad­vice you can pro­vide would re­ally be ap­pre­ci­ated. Chris Scott

Reno, NV

The de­ci­sion to run bead­lock wheels isn’t al­ways as sim­ple as per­sonal pref­er­ence. In some ar­eas, tra­di­tional bead­locks with bolt-on lock­ing rings are frowned on by the lo­cal po­lice and ve­hi­cle in­spec­tors. Tech­ni­cally speak­ing, tra­di­tional bead­locks with a re­mov­able outer ring are not De­part­ment of Tran­spor­ta­tion (DOT) com­pli­ant. That’s not to say they are un­safe at high­way speeds. On the con­trary, tra­di­tional bead­lock wheels can be found on desert race trucks that reg­u­larly hit more than 100 mph, and even on top fuel drag­sters that reach speeds of more than five times the le­gal limit on most U.S. high­ways. The prob­lem is that they sim­ply don’t meet the re­quired tire bead sur­face di­men­sions dic­tated by the DOT. Hav­ing said that, there are some le­gal non-tra­di­tional bead­lock al­ter­na­tives avail­able to keep your tires from pop­ping a bead. Com­pa­nies such as Rock Mon­ster Wheels (rock­mon­ster­ and Coy­ote En­ter­prises (coy­ of­fer tire bead­lock so­lu­tions that are 100 per­cent street le­gal in ev­ery state.

Mov­ing past the le­gal­ity is­sues of tra­di­tional bead­locks, I think you should con­sider al­ter­ing the wheel size. The 20-inch wheels are heavy, which is hard on steer­ing and axle parts. They also don’t of­fer enough tire side­wall to prop­erly en­velop trail ob­sta­cles. The re­sult is de­creased trac­tion and a rougher ride off-road. If you do any kind of off-road­ing at all, you should stick with 17-inch wheels. The com­monly ac­cepted rule of thumb is that your wheels should be no big­ger than half the di­am­e­ter of your tires. In your case, your 37-inch tires should be matched with 17-inch wheels for best on- and off-road han­dling, trac­tion, and over­all per­for­mance. Go­ing with 17-inch wheels will also open up both your tire and wheel op­tions.

Most bead­lock wheels are not all that much heav­ier than a com­pa­ra­ble non-bead­lock wheel. How­ever, just as some wheels are lighter than oth­ers, some bead­locks are too. For light-duty, low-speed off-road­ing and street use, lighter wheels and tires are gen­er­ally the best choice. A lighter tire and wheel pack­age not only helps pre­serve your axles and other driv­e­train parts, it will of­fer im­proved ac­cel­er­a­tion, brak­ing, ride com­fort, and han­dling over a heav­ier tire and wheel pack­age.

Your Dana 44 axles are at about their op­er­a­tional limit in strength and dura­bil­ity with 35-inch tires. The 37s are beyond what JK Dana 44 axles are de­signed for, even for mild off-road use. That’s not to say you can’t keep the axles alive. If you drive sanely, you should be able to keep the JK Dana 44s in one piece, but you should ex­pect things like ball joints and unit bear­ings to wear out pre­ma­turely thanks to the ad­di­tional weight and lever­age of the 37-inch tires. Of course, if you drive ag­gres­sively off-road, you’ll be re­warded with a bent or bro­ken axle­hous­ing, shat­tered axle­shafts and steer­ing U-joints, and maybe a busted Ru­bi­con locker.

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