How Does ATV Beadlocks Actually Work?

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When you’re out playing with your ATV in the mud, a tire de-beading from the rim will quickly put a stop to your weekend fun.

Ordinary wheels rely on tire pressure to keep the tire seated on the rim. But when you are in the mud, you need all the traction you can get.

And as you probably know, your traction and flotation will improve drastically when you drop the pressure in the tires down to almost nothing.

The problem with deflating the tires is that it increases the risk of your tire de-beading. The solution to this problem is upgrading to Beadlock wheels.

But how do ATV beadlock wheels work?

ATV beadlocks work by clamping the bead of the tire to the wheel. The tire bead is placed between an inner ring welded to the rim and an outer clamp ring. Both of which span the whole circumstance of the wheel. Many small bolts are used to force the two rings together, sandwiching the tire securely in place.

This will prevent the tire from dismounting or spinning on the wheel when you ride with lower tire pressures for better traction.

Related: ATV & UTV Wheel & Rim Basics – 7 Things You Must Know

The Problem With Low Tire Pressure on Standard Wheels

If you decide to lower the tire pressure of your stock ATV, you shouldn’t have any issues with most riding applications.

Most ATV tires’ walls are pretty stiff so they will hold up quite well even with no air in the tire.

Also, an ATV is relatively lightweight compared to, let’s say, a Jeep. So for ordinary, “light” off-road riding, you should have no issues.

But as soon as you go a bit more extreme, where you land big jumps or hit rocks and stumps on the sides of the tires, they may not manage to keep the tire in place.

Because as I mentioned, an ordinary wheel relies on air pressure to hold the tire in place on the wheel. The air forces the tire to the outside lip of the wheel, making an airtight seal.

The friction between the tire and the rim, caused by the air pressure forcing the two together, prevents the tire from spinning on the rim when you apply throttle or brake.

When the pressure drops, there is less force to keep this seal airtight. Therefore, the chance of accidentally breaking the seal and dismounting the tire from the wheel increases significantly.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About ATV Tire Pressure

The Benefits and Purpose of Beadlock Rims on an ATV

The beadlock wheels come with some extreme benefits, as well as some rather severe disadvantages. Make sure you consider all of them up against what kind of riding you plan to do before you run to the store with your hard-earned cash.

Off-Road Riding Benefits With Beadlocks

Most off-road applications, like riding in mud, sand, snow, or even rocky terrains, can benefit a lot from deflating the tires. It’s in situations like these is where beadlocks come to shine.

These wheels do not rely on air pressure as the locking rings mechanically hold the tires. You get the benefits of a deflated tire without the added risk of it dismounting from the wheel.

The lower air pressure will increase the tire’s footprint (the area touching the ground), creating both better traction and flotation in the slippery mud or snow.

And when rock-crawling, you also benefit from the sidewall becoming more pliable. This lessens the chance of a sharp rock puncturing the tire’s sidewall as it will instead flex around the rock.

Additionally, you get the bonus of a more comfortable ride when riding on rough terrain. The tires will act more like balloons or bouncing balls as they soak up most of the tiny bumps and humps you run over.

This is only at low speeds tho. Running with little air pressure at high speeds can be downright dangerous as the bike is dancing around.

Related: 26 Essential ATV Mudding Mods

Quad Racing Benefits With Beadlocks

In quad racing, beadlocks are often used to keep the tire in place when landing huge jumps and to keep it from spinning during hard acceleration or deceleration.

beadlock quad racing
Beadlocks have their place in quad racing.

Drag-racing Benefits With Beadlock Wheels

People in the drag-racing scene are also often seen using beadlocks. However, these riders do not use them because they need to run with low pressure in the tires.

They mainly use them to prevent the tire from spinning on the wheel when the clutch is dropped and the bike sets into extreme acceleration.

When the engine horsepower gets 2-3 times higher than stock, the air pressure alone is insufficient to prevent the tire from spinning on the wheel, even when using higher air pressure levels.

The beadlock will take up some of the hp because of its added weight, but the benefit of getting all of the power down to the ground is what matters in this game.

Installing Beadlocks for Looks

And then, finally, there is the aesthetic aspect of things. Many riders consider getting these wheels simply because they look so friggin’ cool without needing them for any practical purpose.

beadlock racing 2
Aside from functionality, they sure make the wheel pop!

And hey, who am I to judge? Beadlock does lock quite impressive, although looks were probably not what the original inventors had in mind.

That’s why the market of beadlock “look-alike” rims has exploded lately. These wheels have the characteristic outer ring with all the small bolts but do not allow clamping the bead in place (locking the bead – hence the name, beadlocks).

Disadvantages of Deadlock Wheels on ATVs

So why is not everyone just using beadlock rims, then? The truth is, they do come with some pretty bad downsides, making them not the best option for all riders.

Let’s explore the most important ones so you can decide if they are something for you after all.

Additional Cost

Getting a set will set you back quite a bit more than standard rims. The added complexity of manufacturing them and a lesser market put them in the higher price range.

You should expect to pay anything from 1 1/2 to 2 times the price of a conventional set.

Added Weight

The added weight is not always a downside, but you should know that these wheels generally weigh quite a bit more than conventional wheels.

The inner and outer rings combined, plus the small pile of bolts, will add up quite a bit.

The added weight will affect the acceleration, deceleration, and general handling of your ATV. It will also put additional strain and wear on the different components of the undercarriage of the bike.

Unbalanced Wheel

Properly balancing a beadlock wheel is nearly impossible, even when the wheels are brand new. You may manage to get them decent, but some vibration is to be expected in any case.

As you ride, you will also get dirt trapped between and behind the locking rings, making the ATV pretty much useless on the trails where speeds are higher. The whole bike will vibrate increasingly more violently as you catch speed.

To get the balancing back to an acceptable level, you may need to completely dismount the tire from the wheel for a thorough cleaning before you put it all together again.

Remember to use the specified torque when tightening the bolts on the locking ring. This is crucial to get a good result and a mistake that many new beadlock owners must learn the hard way.

Related: All You Should Know About Balancing ATV Tires

Increased Maintenance

Beadlocks do require more maintenance than conventional rims.

Except for cleaning when things get stuffed with debris, you must always ensure the locking bolts are correctly tightened to the specified torque. Ideally, it would be best if you went over each wheel every other time you go out to ride.

Failing to do so will result in bolts coming loose and falling off individually.

If you lose more than a few bolts, the tire may come undone, creating a potentially hazardous situation if this happens at higher speeds.

Different Types of Beadlock Wheels

Many variations of the beadlock wheel are available on the market today. The most common type is where locking rings are only fitted to the wheel’s outside.

how does atv beadlocks work
Typical ATV beadlock wheels.

This is because the outside bead of the tire is much more prone to involuntary de-beading than the bead on the inside.

For the most extreme applications, you can also get beadlocks that feature locking rings on the outside and inside the wheel.

This makes for a practically bulletproof setup, but you run into disadvantages like additional weight, cost, and maintenance. Also, these dual-sided beadlocks are more complicated to mount than the one-sided type.

beadlock racing

For ATVs, the beadlock wheels typically run from 10-16″, where 14″ is most common. For quad racing, the smaller size wheels and tires are typically preferred.

If you’re in the market for new beadlocks, you should look for a set where the bolt heads are lowered into the ring, as this dramatically reduces the risk of knocking off boltheads when hitting rocks, etc.

The ring thickness is also a good indicator of the quality of the set you’re looking at. A thicker ring will handle more severe impacts and are less prone to wearing down prematurely.

The Bottom Line

Beadlock wheels, while more expensive and heavier, provide significant advantages in off-road scenarios by securing the tire bead to the wheel, preventing tire slippage, enabling lower tire pressures for improved traction, and offering an additional safety measure against tire deflation.

Related: Are ATV Tires Tubeless? Tubes vs. Tubeless (Pros and Cons)

Haavard Krislok
Haavard Krislok
Haavard Krislok is an ATV and off-road enthusiast with a rich background spanning two decades in owning, maintaining, repairing, and utilizing ATVs for farming, logging, and hunting. Outside his professional life as an engineer and project manager, he cherishes recreational trail riding and is the creative force behind, serving as its owner, editor, and content creator.

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