If you have a set of steel wheels and are proficient with a welder, you might consider converting the steelies to beadlocks with one of the aftermarket kits such as these rings from Off Road Innovations (www.4wdsupplies.com). This is typically the most economical way to get a set of beadlocks on your rig, but the end product is often heavier than aluminum or purpose-built steel beadlock wheels.
You can mount tires on beadlocks at home yourself, and many tire stores will refuse to work on them due to liability concerns. It’s a pretty simple matter to soap up the beads a bit and slip them in place on the wheel surfaces with a small tire spoon.
Companies such as OMF Performance Products can convert your non-beadlocked wheels to a true beadlock. They machine off the outer flange and weld on an inner beadlock ring in its place. These beadlock wheels were built from Mickey Thompson Classic II cast aluminum wheels. OMF offers a variety of outer ring options to strengthen or dress up the wheels.
An alternative to the bolt-on ring beadlock is an internal beadlock. Coyote Enterprises (CoyoteEnts.com) manufactures an internal tube that fits inside your regular tire. Once inflated, it serves several purposes. It holds the inner and outer tire beads firmly against their wheel seating points. And, the inflated tube serves as a secondary tire suspension capable of absorbing greater impact loading at the tire without the tire pushing fully flat against the rim, where rim damage may occur or the tire may be cut.
One issue we deal with off-road when running low air pressures for better traction is the risk of pushing an outer tire bead off the rim seating surface. When this occurs, you rapidly lose all air in the tire. Beadlock wheels don’t rely on simple air pressure and rim friction to keep the outer tire bead in place on the wheel. A typical beadlock securely clamps the outer tire bead between an outer machined ring on the wheel and a bolt-on circular ring.
Other aluminum beadlock wheels, such as Walker Evans wheels, were designed from the start to be cast with a beadlock flange.
If you’re looking for the ultimate in strength, then forged aluminum beadlocks are the strongest designs out there and are common on race trucks. But they are considerably higher in cost too.
Steel wheel beadlock versions are available as well. Some use fairly lightweight steel outer rings, and others use heavy steel or aluminum outers. You’ll find a variety in quality and strength, so choice can depend on your vehicle weight and intended application.