Beadlocks, airing down, tires, and wheel weight.
How often do you pop beads on the trails? How low do you air down? How often are you slicing your sidewalls? Today I want to discuss beadlocks, airing down, tires, and wheel weight.
I never wanted to run beadlocks on an overlander. I have them on my crawler and felt they are overkill on my 4Runner. I started with non-beadlock rims and within the first 4K off-road miles I had sand in my lip causing slow leaks. This happened on two separate occasion when running 15-16 PSI and driving 30+ MPH in the desert. Neither of these leaks caused a major issue as I was able to air up and get home; then have the tire shop clean out the beads the next day and get me going again. But I quickly realized that I either need to keep more air in my tires or get beadlocks.
To determine if beadlocks are right for you; you need to ask yourself how low do you air down? It seems the norm in overlanding is 20+ PSI because it will prevent you from developing slow leaks from sand/dirt and increase your tire life (all true). However, your ride comfort and performance will dramatically decrease at that PSI, especially on longer trips. I am often finding myself naturally driving thirty to fifty MPH on sand or dirt. Meaning I don’t feel unsafe or uncomfortable. I can achieve this by running lower PSI. My normal PSI is about 15 when the tires are hot; they will start at 13 PSI in the morning. When crawling I am usually down to 8-10 PSI.
(Photo: using MORRflate tire kit)
The purpose of our [two] 4Runners are to enjoy the overlanding lifestyle while having a comfortable daily driver vehicle. We are willing to compromise 10-20% tire life for off-road comfort at lower PSI. To achieve our goals and not stress developing leaks off-road beadlocks are the perfect solution for us. The minimal extra maintenance is a compromise we are willing to accept on our daily drivers as well. I do a 15-second visual inspection once a week and find myself re-torquing the bolts every 3,000-5,000 miles.
Tires are a very difficult choice for us as well. My initial tire was a BFG KO2 which lasted only 5,500 miles until they were too damaged for continued off-road use. They are an exceptional road tire, but their sidewalls were unable to handle our style of driving on lower PSI. I chose cooper ST Maxx as my next tire and found their sidewalls to be much stronger than the BFG’s. I also feel that they outperformed the BFG’s on rocks and snow driving. The Cooper's do get chewed up though, just not near as much as the BFG's; that's why I always use Discount Tire Direct's additional warranty, they have always honored my off-road tire damage claims.
From experience with my Jeep, I found Toyo’s and Nitto’s (same company) perform best on rocks and offer the best sidewall protection. However, they are too heavy for a 4Runner as a 35” Nitto is 13 pounds heavier than a Cooper.
One of the most important factors that most people fail to consider is overall weight. I chose Black Rhino beadlocks specifically because they were the lightest beadlock I found for the 4Runner. After over 15K miles on my beadlocks I can say I made the right choice. My wheel/tire combo is under 100 pounds for a 35” tire! Heavy weight on tires can cause a lot of stress on stock 4Runner components when off-road. This is especially important to consider as it is very expensive to upgrade front tie-rods and steering rack.
When considering wheels, it is also important to get the offset correct for your application. Wheel spacers are often used instead. Wheel spacers are great alternatives (read excellent post by @4Runner.TX published on 10/09/21) but push your heavy tire more outbound causing more stress on components when off-road.
Wheel and tire combinations are difficult to recommend as everyone’s purpose is different. However, unless you plan to stay on pavement this is not a decision that should be made based solely on looks or popularity. You must take into consideration your air pressure off-road, your driving style and terrain, and your overall weight combination for your specific components.