Beadlock wheels are quite common with dirt racing trucks and off-road vehicles.
These wheels enable the vehicles to achieve the high traction needed to navigate slippery and uneven surfaces.
Beadlocks achieve this purpose even with low air pressures.
However, using these wheels on city streets and highways is highly condemned because it’s dangerous.
Why Are Beadlock Wheels Illegal?
Beadlock wheels are illegal because they are unsafe for city streets. They are not approved by the Department of Transportation because beadlock wheels have a much higher risk of blowing out than normal wheels. They also have poor balance, making it riskier to use the wheels on highways and city areas.
Yet another risk factor is most people lack the expertise to securely mount beadlock wheels on vehicles.
This article assesses everything surrounding the legality of Beadlock wheels. Read on to understand why the government has not legalized their use, among other crucial details.
Beadlock Wheels are Not DOT Approved
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) provides procedures and safety measures on using vehicle parts on the road or making any alterations.
It does not permit the use of beadlock wheels.
Beadlock wheels lack a fail-safe design due to the locking mechanism on their outer edge. For this reason, they have no approval for use on the streets.
In fact, some manufacturers stamp their wheels to indicate that they’re prohibited on highways and are only safe for use off-road. Such products don’t meet the standards of SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers).
When you’ve installed beadlock wheels on a vehicle and you drive at high speeds, the tire sidewalls tend to bend, exerting pressure on the bolts.
The additional stress causes the bolts to bend and crack over time. If two or more bolts break, the ring may come out of the wheel assembly.
Without tire bead support, it’ll only depart from the rim, and there will be a complete loss of air pressure.
This situation is no different from a blown-out tire when driving. In some situations, the scattered bolts can launch like bullets and cause injuries to other road users.
Also, if a vehicle in this situation starts swerving, the chances of a deadly accident occurring and killing people are very high.
Based on the SAE J2530 standards, the current Beadlock wheels don’t meet their guidelines on safety and performance.
Manufacturers don’t sell these traditional systems to avoid liability for the aftermath.
The Wheels Are Hard to Balance
It’s harder to balance beadlocks than conventional wheels.
It requires particular expertise and maintaining lateral and radial balance.
Thus, you must balance the beads before installation if you want the wheels to operate smoothly without wobbling.
Very few workshops offer these services because of legal complications and the complexity of balancing beadlock wheels.
Do States Have Legal Mandates Regarding Beadlock Wheels?
Most U.S. states have no legal mandates governing beadlocks.
Apart from the SAE safety and performance guidelines and DOT provisions, there’s nothing else regarding beadlocks.
But lack of any provision doesn’t mean the wheels are legal.
Even if your state has any mandates over beadlock wheels, they can only go as far as requiring the wheels to be safe.
That means the wheels are legal as long as they’re safe enough for use.
Are There Any DOT-Approved Beadlock Wheels?
There are two types of DOT-approved beadlock wheels, the only difference being the installation style.
The first is the conventional or standard design.
It utilizes a clamping ring bolted on the wheel’s outer side to secure the bead.
DOT doesn’t approve of this design for street use because it’s unsafe.
The other design uses internal beadlocks. The wheels contain a tube within the heavy-duty casting.
As you inflate the pipe, it pushes the tire beads on both sides against these, preventing them from getting loose or slipping from the wheel.
These have DOT approval because of the fail-safe and double-layer design.
The good news is that you can use them for both off-road and on-road purposes.
That way, you can save money because you’ll use a single tire type for all purposes.
Legal Loopholes for Beadlocks
If you intend to use beadlock wheels on your vehicle, highways are not an option. And while there’s no mandate denying their use, it’s not recommended when driving at highway speeds.
The wheels can go out of balance pretty easily.
Therefore, beadlock wheels are ideal for use on off-roads at low speeds.
If you go to a mechanic shop today for help, they’re likely to oblige and help you out. The mechanic will assist in mounting and balancing tires on your beadlocks.
However, the chances of your mechanic offering a warranty on the balancing are slim. After all, they’re well aware they may not even last a single day.
In most cases, manufacturers categorize beadlock wheels under “Not Legal for Highway use.” Alternatively, they may use the term “For Off-Road Use Only.” These terms help manufacturers bypass the legalities surrounding these wheels.
What Are the Risks of Using Beadlock Wheels?
On off-roads, beadlock wheels come in handy for your vehicle. But on highways and streets, they’re too risky.
And because beadlock wheels don’t pass any safety standard set by regulatory agencies, insurance might not cover them.
The most significant risk is that if the beadlocks fail, they may result in messy accidents that cost lives.
There’s also the added danger due to the lack of expertise in mounting beadlocks onto wheels, resulting in improper fittings and misuse.
But the worst of all scenarios is when deadlocks malfunction.
Remember, the only thing that holds your tire on the wheels is a ring secured with high-strength bolts.
If you don’t maintain and torque these bolts properly, they could loosen, break off, or come out.
The result is air escaping from the tire.
It could also cause a blowout. Imagine if you were driving at high speeds and this happens.
It means causing injuries to other road users and damaging other vehicles.
Upon inspection and investigation, the court may charge you for using non-approved parts or modifications, resulting in a penalty, jail time, or both.
Although you may want them to make your truck look cooler or as a preemptive measure to keep the tire in its place when the pressure does not suffice, beadlock wheels are illegal in most states because they’re not DOT-approved.
They fall short of safety standards and performance set by the necessary agencies.
It doesn’t mean you can’t use beadlock wheels on your vehicle. You can, but only on off roads.
The safety of all road users is the priority of the U.S. Department of Roads (DOT), and as long as beadlock wheels compromise this safety issue, driving a vehicle with one on the highways and streets should never be an option.