Beadlock vs. Conventional Wheels – Which are Right for You?

Aftermarket wheels are a common choice when upgrading tires and suspension, and the choice between beadlock wheels and conventional wheels is often a tough and contested decision. The decision to run beadlock wheels is often a controversial choice for a number of reasons, and they offer several advantages over conventional wheels in certain scenarios. In this post we will explore the key differences and benefits of beadlock wheels, as well as the more recently developed bead grip wheels, compared to conventional wheels.

Beadlock Wheels: A Closer Look

Beadlock wheels are specially designed for off-road enthusiasts and high-performance vehicles. Unlike conventional wheels, beadlock wheels feature an additional ring or “beadlock” that clamps the tire bead against the wheel rim using a number of bolts threaded into the wheel. This additional locking mechanism secures the tire in place, preventing it from becoming unseated, or spinning, even at extremely low tire pressures of even 3-5 PSI.

Advantages of Beadlock Wheels

  • Beadlock wheels excel in off-road environments, where low tire pressures are often required to enhance traction and stability. The beadlock’s ability to keep the tire securely attached to the rim allows off-roaders to run lower tire pressures without the risk of debeading, providing better grip on challenging terrains like rocks, snow and sand.
  • Beadlock wheels are known for their robust construction, making them more resistant to impacts, rock strikes, and trail hazards. Since the ring is inexpensive and relatively easy to replace, it can be considered a wear item. Some beadlock wheel designs use the ring to significantly protect or even reinforce the wheel.
  • Customization Options:
  • Beadlock wheels come in various styles and finishes, allowing vehicle owners to personalize their appearance. This flexibility in design can enhance the overall aesthetics of the vehicle. Some beadlock wheels are available in a “convertible” design meaning the tire can be mounted conventionally, or clamped on with the locking ring.
KMC Beadlock Wheels

A New Breed: Bead Grip Wheels

There are a few manufacturers now producing wheels with a “bead grip” design. These wheels are engineered to retain the outer bead of the tire by integrating grooves into the surface where the tire’s bead rests, as well as an added hump between the inner edge of the outer tire lip, and the center of the wheel. The result is a lighter wheel, with no threaded fasteners to torque, and near-beadlock level performance at low tire pressures.

Advantages of Bead Grip Wheels

  • Bead grip wheels are fully DOT approved and compliant
  • Light weight, one piece design
  • Secure the tire’s bead much more firmly than a conventional wheel. This allows the tire to be run at extremely low pressures, similar or equal to that of a beadlock wheel.
Method Bead Grip Wheels

Conventional Wheels: The Traditional Choice

Conventional wheels, also known as standard or non-beadlock wheels, are the traditional choice for most vehicles. They are commonly found on passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs. These wheels are typically either welded steel, or a one piece alloy composition.  Conventional wheels are cost effective, lighter weight, and available in the widest variety of styles, sizes, offsets and configurations. In the aftermarket, conventional wheels have the largest variety of styles and fitments available.

Advantages of Conventional Wheels

  • Conventional wheels are typically more affordable than beadlock wheels, making them the preferred choice for budget-conscious consumers. 
  • Standard steel or alloy wheels are well-suited for on-road use, or light-duty offroad use. They provide a comfortable and efficient ride for everyday driving.
  • Conventional wheels are generally lighter than beadlock wheels, which can contribute to improved fuel efficiency, acceleration, and handling in on-road situations.
Close up Subaru factory wheel and Falken Wildpeak AT3
Conventional Wheels

Choosing the Right Wheels

The choice between beadlock and conventional wheels ultimately depends on the intended use of the vehicle and individual preferences.

If you are an off-road enthusiast or a high-performance vehicle owner looking to maximize traction and durability in challenging environments, beadlock wheels may be the ideal choice for you. Their ability to maintain tire bead integrity at low pressures and withstand rugged terrains can greatly enhance your off-road adventures.

On the other hand, if you primarily use your vehicle for daily commuting, highway driving, or if cost is a significant concern, conventional wheels are the practical option. Bead grip wheels offer a balance between performance, weight, and affordability, making them suitable for a wide range of applications.


In summary, beadlock wheels and conventional wheels each have their distinct advantages and are suited to different purposes. Beadlock wheels shine in rugged offroad and high-performance scenarios, offering superior traction and durability, while conventional wheels are the cost-effective and practical choice for everyday driving. Vehicle owners should carefully consider their needs and preferences before making a decision, ensuring that they select the wheels that best align with their intended use and budget. Ultimately, the right choice of wheels can greatly impact a vehicle’s performance and overall driving experience.

by Jon Tirrell
Mount Zion Offroad Staff Writer