Does Your Vehicle Need Bead Lockers?

Does Your Vehicle Need Bead Lockers?

Off-road vehicles are constantly fighting for traction, and engineers and brilliant minds have come up with all sorts of different ways to keep it. While locking differentials, massive suspension, and other devices have made off-road driving more fun and capable than ever, the challenge still exists. One way to get an even bigger traction advantage is to drive with less-inflated tires, which both softens the ride and allows more of your tire’s tread to make contact with the ground beneath your vehicle, increasing the amount of friction because of more surface area.

However, when running tires that are under-inflated, you run a pretty significant risk: de-beading your tire. Normally, a tire sits with the bead right inside the bead seat, which is just inside the diameter flange on your wheel. This works fine for everyday purposes, but when the internal tire pressure decreases and the external forces increase, you run a much greater risk of the tire de-beading, which leaves you in a really tricky situation.

However, there’s a clever way around this as well: beadlockers. Bead lockers are remarkably simple: these are small bolts that run through a specially-designed clamp and rim system that pinches the bead into a groove, essentially clamping it directly onto the rim. As a result, regardless of speed or air pressure, the tire remains firmly clasped in position, and won’t come separated from the rim, regardless of the forces placed on an off-road tire.

Why You Need Beadlocks

Beadlockers are invaluable for anyone who wishes to really make the most of their off-road experience. Many drivers choose to ride on smaller wheels with much-larger tires, which means tall sidewalls. Tall sidewalls combined with lower air pressures means a lot of flex and bend in tires that can lead to beads slipping off of rims, causing flats, blowouts, and much more.

However, adding a rim system that’s equipped with beadlockers can prevent your tire from coming detached from your rim. That way you can drive and tackle corners, hard turns, boulders, rocks, and other obstacles with confidence, even while running tire pressures that are as low as single-digit levels for maximum traction!

A Word of Warning

If you’ve heard of beadlockers before, you probably also know that there are many questions floating around the automotive universe as to whether they are street-legal, or in other words, if you can legally install them on a vehicle you plan on driving on public roads. There is a lot of misinformation out there, so here’s what we know.

Beadlockers themselves are not illegal. Every single state in the union has some form of a referenced standard for road safety, with some referencing the Department of Transportation, some choosing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and others choosing the Society for Automotive Engineers. However, none of these standards make any reference to beadlockers specifically, which means by the letter of the law, these devices are not against the law to have on your car.

However, there are some catch-all exceptions that throw in some gray area. Many states have clauses that require all vehicles to conform to “safe” operating conditions, and many reference the standards mentioned earlier. Traditional clamp-style beadlockers are not compliant with SAE J2530, which are established standards for aftermarket wheel performance requirements and test procedures.

Therefore, you’ll often find a number of beadlockers feature labels that read “for off-road use only” or “not legal for highway use.” While this may not be expressly true, this is simply manufacturers simply saying they don’t take responsibility for any misuse of their product, nor do they accept any liability should you be stopped by a law enforcement officer and given a fix-it ticket.

Furthermore, there are some types of beadlockers that are legal for use because the locking mechanism itself is located inside the wheel, which means the mechanism failing won’t cause the tire to de-bead and come separated from the vehicle. These systems, such as Center Line’s I.C.E. beadlocks, are SAE J2530 compliant, and therefore are considered “street-legal.”

However, that being said, the chances of receiving a fix-it ticket for bead lockers are extremely small. Being able to spot real beadlocks over fake, look-alike beadlocks (a stylistic choice that has become immensely popular with many truck and SUV owners) requires a highly-trained eye, which many police officers don’t actually have. Without definitive proof that you have an illegal modification to your car (which, beadlockers may or may not be), officers are often hesitant to write tickets for them. Generally, you won’t be bothered for bead lockers unless they fail and result in an accident and damage.

At HP Motorsports, we can help you choose the rim and tire combo that’s perfect for your off-road vehicle! Contact us today by calling 281-231-9950 for a free estimate!
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