One of the most common tricks to increase the performance of your rig when you are cruising the back country is to air down the tires. Airing down the tires provides a wider footprint that increases the contact surface area and also allows increased sidewall deflection. What this means in the real world is the ability to climb up steeper rocks, float across deeper mud, and drive over softer snow. The difference between 20 pounds of air in the tire and 10 pounds can be significant, and it goes up from there. But, if you go too low, you run the risk of blowing the bead off of the tire and either leaving you stuck or with the job of reseating a tire on the trail. That’s where beadlocks come in.
Every rig is different. Light rigs can get away without the beadlocks and still run a very low pressure. My rig weighs in around 5,100 pounds and I could only get away with 8 to 10 pounds of air without blowing them off on every corner, and that’s with 40” tires on a 15” rim. At 4 pounds of air, it would do really well in the snow but would burp air and then blow the tire off. On time it blew three tires all together. I had had enough and I started looking around at all the available options.
As it turns out, there are several different solutions ready to go. If you have the cash, you can simply buy the rims with beadlocks ready to go in several different styles. I didn’t have the cash, so I kept looking. Another option I found was a beadlock kit that welded onto your existing rims. This looked good to me as I didn’t want to shelve a perfectly good set of rims. So after some research, I went with the DIY4x beadlock kit.
The DIY4x beadlock kit is your basic kit designed for the budget oriented that does not mind doing some extra work but still demands top quality and strength. The basic kit comes with an inner ring that gets welded to the rim and the outer rims that bolt on. They are all 32 bolt kits for extra strength and to help supply a more even force to hold the tire to the rim. You supply your own bolts. One nice thing about the DIY4x kit is that there are many different patterns that you can choose from. You can also supply your own pattern and they will burn it out for you! I went ahead and ordered the single ripper design. I did not want anything too wild but I did want it to stand out some.
Here is what I received. Four sets of the inner and outer rings, ready to go. The outer rings also are beveled on one side to help avoid slicing the tire when impacting a rock or something at a low tire pressure. The outer rings are also directional. Two go on one side and two go on the other side so that they can rip forward or reverse depending on your mood. I went ahead and painted up the outside rings a nice bright blue to match the color scheme of my rig. The combination of one inside and outside ring came in at about 13 pounds.
On this kit, you need to supply your bolts. I did some research into this and found a wide variety of options that can be done. The largest concerns that I had were what Grade of bolt to use and what kind of nut would be best. People have run Grade 5 with no problems and others have broke grade 8 bolts. I decided to go with the extra strength and bought all Grade 8 bolts. I also wanted to know if you could run a standard nut with a lock washer but it looked like the way to go was to use a Nylock style of nut. So in the end, I bought 128 Grade 8, 3/8” by 1.5” long bolts and 128 3/8” Nylock nuts. I also got 128 5/16” washers. More on that later.
Since the inner rings are to be welded onto the rim, the tires need to be dismounted. A trip to the tire store solved this problem and I was about ready for the welding. Now, my welding skills are best reserved for Emergency Purposes Only, so I set up a time with Steve at CBI Offroad to weld them up for me. Once there Grinders where used to clean all of the paint off of the lip of the rim. This was done with a good amount of overlap as you do not want to get any paint in the weld. Then the ring was set on top of the rim and Steve tacked them into place.
Care must be taken when welding the rings to the rim. They must be stitch welded. This is welding an inch moving a distance and then welding another inch. This is done to avoid warping of the rim or the ring. This is also especially difficult as this weld need to be airtight and the stitches are potential leak points. The only way to really test the weld for air tightness is to mount the tire on. So take your time. If there are leaks that develop on the welds, there are a few ways to deal with them.
After the rings were welded on, they were painted white to match the rim and keep them from rusting out. Then we dropped the tire on. We used a few crowbars to get the inside lip over the edge of the rim and then the outside bead of the tire now sits on top of the ring. This will make your existing rims a little wider now as the bead moves out. On mine it made my 10” rims look more like 12” rims. No problem on a tire that is 15.5” wide. We centered the tire up as best we could using the bolt holes as reference.
The 1.5” bolts were too short with the big 1” bead of the Super Swamper tire. We had to use some longer bolts to start it out. I simply used the bolts that came with the rings that held them all together for shipping. Once the ring was down tight enough, I started the regular bolts.
For best results a criss cross pattern should be used when tightening up the bolts. I started on one bolt went 180 degrees to another bolt, went 90 degrees to another bolt, then repeated the cycle. I started by torquing them down to 10 foot pounds. I then repeated the process to 20 pounds all around. I had to go around the rim four times before they were all torque down evenly. I did not want to go much more as the ring was started to cone in.
With a 1” tire bead on one side and nothing on the other side, the unsupported side of the ring tends to bend in. A few different ways to fight this were discussed such as a rubber ring placed under the open side or another support ring welded on the inside of the ring for support. In the end, I just put washers under the head of the bolts to help distribute the load and I liked the way they looked.
With some air in the tire we mounted it onto one of the shop projects to see how it looked. Looked good to us. I plan on going to Moab in a few weeks and I am really looking forward to putting them through the paces and seeing what they can handle.
Dealing with Air Leaks: One of the biggest fights that I did have was stopping the various air leaks that I ended up with on some of the tires. Two of the tires went on fine and the other two leaked air. After doing some research I pulled the two tires off, cleaned the backside of the bead and put Black Silicon on it. The logic here is that the opposite side of the bead is now being used as an air seal. This was not factory intended and the surface might not be as smooth as the origianl bead surface. This method fixed one of the tires but not the other one. It was determined that the other tire had a pinhole leak in the weld. This was also fixed be smearing silicon over the weld. It could have been rewelded but I wanted to get them done. I'll have to see how it holds up.
Back From Moab! OK! I had a chance to really test these things this year. I ended up running Pritchet Canyon twice in two days (dont ask), and topped it off with a run through Upper Helldorado. Those are some of the toughest trails in Moab and I showed the Beadlocks no mercy. I aired down to around 5 pounds and left them there. The whole time. I beat them against rocks hard enough to stop and check my neck for breaks. The only damage that I could do to them was to scrape off some paint. The tires never lost a bead or leaked down. The trails sure get nice and smooth at that pressure! They also held up well to an emergancy late night run to the bathroom. I was ripping through the drainage ditches in town trying to save my dignity and you could hear the rim hitting the ground with an occasional muffled "dunk".
This is a pic taken from the entrance to Upper Helldorado. You can see how flat the passenger front tire goes. This helps to provide excelent traction. Normally the bead would have blown off at this point and I would have been stuck with a trail fix in an ugly spot. Instead, I cruised through it one handed with no worries.
These beadlocks worked out great. I've blown many a bead and also bent a few rims and its no fun hammering back in shape a rim on the side of the trail. With the DIY4x Beadlock kit onboard, I can worry about other things. This product gets the highest recommendation not only for function and ability, but for its cost effectivness. DIY4x was very easy to work with and they stand behind their products. Believe me, that is a nice thing.
See you on the trails!