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Why Are Beadlocks Street Illegal?

Off-road Penrite H6 4x4 competition green Jeep with beadlock wheels on driving in the dirt mud

You have probably heard that beadlocks are available on many of the newer trucks that have been designed for off-road use. Ford Raptors, and Jeeps, have had the options for a long time, but not many people took advantage of them. The reason for this is simple; they are illegal in most areas. But why are ‘beadlocks’ streetillegal?

Beadlocks have been deemed by the Department of Transportation to be unsafe on the roads. They have a much better chance of blowing out, causing high-speed accidents. Plus, they are not as balanced, which creates another road hazard. They were designed for offroad or racetrack use only.

Beadlocks allow the driver to decrease the air pressure in the tires when running hard off-road or on a racetrack where more grip is needed. Let’s look into these rims a little more in-depth to better understand why they are not street legal.

Beadlocks Are Illegal On The Streets

Before you can understand why ‘beadlocks’ are illegal for use on the roads of most states, it is important to understand precisely what they are. Granted, you already know that the tire pressure on any rim that is designed as a ‘beadlock’ can be driven with less air pressure without having to worry about the bead of the tire breaking out and causing a flat.

The ‘beadlock’ is a clamping device, locking the bead into place with pressure from a metal ring that is torqued down. This metal ring will keep the tire’s bead intact even if you take the air pressure below 20 PSI, which is when the regular tires start popping beads. The problem is that several things make them less than safe on the streets and highways.

  • Installation – The bolts on the metal ring that makes up the ‘beadlock’ must be torqued down to the same amount. They need to be tightened in a continuous star pattern to ensure every piece of the bead is locked into place.
  • Mounting – Hopefully, you have plenty of experience mounting tires onto rims because not many tire shops will do it for you. Since they are not legal on many roads, they would be liable if anything should happen due to running them on the city streets. They prefer to pass on the job rather than put their necks on the line.
  • High Speeds – At high speeds, such as the ones while traveling on a highway, the sidewalls of the tire will start to bend, causing excessive pressure upon the bolts. This pressure will crack and break the bolts designed to hold the metal rim in place, creating a volatile situation that most drivers would never know about until the tire blows at high speeds.
  • Balance – Balancing tires and rims with a ‘beadlock’ design is challenging but one hundred percent required. Since professional tire people will not touch them, it is left up to you to get them balanced before putting them on the vehicle. Not as easy as you may think, which you will know if you ever attempt this task.

Beadlocks may not seem safe to you at all, which is an excellent argument many people have. The thing is that they are designed for a specific purpose, and if they are used for anything else, they will not be safe.

A ‘beadlock’ tire is meant to be used off-road and on race tracks worldwide, not on city streets or highways. The DOT does not approve them for everyday use, but are there actually any laws on the books that make them illegal?

2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Mopart at the NAIAS North American International Auto Show - green color with beadlock wheels on

The Legality Of Beadlocks

So this may confuse you because either something is legal or it isn’t. When it comes to ‘beadlock’ tires, it is not that simple. The Department of Transportation does not give them their stamp of approval for use on the road. They have no opinion on race tracks and off-road trail usage because let’s face it, those two aspects of driving are already dangerous.

When digging into this a little further with the local and federal laws, you will be hard-pressed to find any laws on the books that directly address deadlocks, leaving room for argument by those who want to run their ‘beadlocks’ on their everyday drivers.

So, after experts looked into the matter, no books in any state specifically list ‘beadlock’ tires as being illegal to run on the streets. An officer can hand out some tickets if they even take the time to study the rim. It is hard to tell the difference between the real and the look-alike ones, so only an officer that is extremely familiar with these rims will be able to address the situation.

Can You Drive Beadlocks On The Road?

That still leaves the question of whether you can drive on the roads with ‘beadlocks’ installed. An officer cannot outright give you a ticket for having them installed on your truck, but they can give you a fix-it ticket. This means you are not following the laws on the books covering street-legal equipment.

Since the DOT does not recognize these rims as road-worthy, their legality can be linked to these laws, which are actually on the books. This means that if an officer wants to ensure that you are no longer endangering other drivers by using ‘beadlock’ rims. This “fix-it” ticket can easily be overturned in court if you change them out and have an inspection form to show the judge.

Conclusion

This may confuse you because, in the beginning, we stated that ‘beadlocks’ are illegal to use on the roads. And even though no specific laws are pointing to them, the umbrella law that covers street-legal equipment does. A watchful officer will give you a “fix-it” ticket since that is all they can do, but after that, you can bet that they will be watching for you and your rims.

The worst thing about running these types of rims on the highway is an ethical issue. You know that they are not safe to drive and that they could cause an accident at high speeds. This means that you are purposely and knowingly endangering other drivers. This leaves you open to civil lawsuits and legal charges leading to felony involuntary manslaughter.

This means that in a roundabout way, it is illegal to run ‘beadlocks’ on city streets and national highways. The bottom line is that running them on the racetrack, or on offroad trails that need more tire contact, is perfectly fine, but they should not be used on paved roads.

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References:

Motor Trend

What Are Beadlock Wheels?

Lift Laws

Are Beadlocks Wheels Street Legal?

Four Wheel Trends

Why Are Beadlock Wheels Illegal?

U.S. Department of Transportation

transportation.gov

Car Throttle

What Are Beadlock Wheels, And Why Might You Want Them?

Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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