Installing Rockstomper DIY Beadlocks

I researched beadlock wheels  to death before I made my decision.  In the end, I chose Rockstomper because:

1) They are designed for off-road use, not racing use;

2) They are big and beefy with 1/4" steel rings and 32 3/8" bolts;

3) They are cheap (relatively);

4) The do-it-yourself approach appeals to me as I can do the welding my safe, re-use my existing wheels (with custom backspacing), and save $$

Read on to see all the details, from opening the package to driving the Jeep; the good and the not-so-good.

Click Any picture for a larger version

Click Here for the Rockstomper Beadlock FAQ - Scott from Rockstomper answers questions about his beadlocks

Beadlock1-1.jpg (51737 bytes) This is what the poor UPS dude has to drop off.  This is actually 2 complete sets (one for me, one for my wheeling buddy Chad: 8 locks = 16 rings) and weighs 130 lbs with all the nutserts, bolts, and washers inside.
Beadlock1-2.jpg (43819 bytes) The crack in the fiberboard shows it was not treated well by the shipping folks.  Probably dropped and it's own great weight caused the damage.....the cracked fibre board is of no consequence but ..............
Beadlock1-3.jpg (28740 bytes) ........ the unfortunate problem was, as it was packaged, the fiberboard didn't fill the gaps completely between the next-to-outside and outside rings.  As it was obviously dropped, it's own weight caused one of the outside rings to warp where there was no fiberboard.  As Chad was leaving for Xmas when they were delivered, he kindly offered to take possession of the warped ring, and work it out with Scott at Rockstomper.  I don't know the final outcome yet, but here's a quote from Chad that he posted on POR just before Xmas

"I sent pictures and explanation to Scott, he has said he will send us a new ring and then go after shipping agent (UPS) for the damages. While I haven't actually got the ring yet, I am confident that this will be done. I am also confident that the damage was the result of shipping damage, I simply can't see how else it could occur."

Beadlock1-4.jpg (56316 bytes) Open up the package and look at all the goodies inside!  A total of 256 grade 5 3/8" bolts, 256 Grade 5 washers, and 256 3/8" nutserts.  Personally, I would much prefer to use Grade 8 hardware for its superior strength, but this would likely increase the price, and so it is not surprising that Grade 5 is shipped - and it's probably fine.

The rings are all 1/4" mild steel.  The inner and outer rings are identical in dimension, except that the inner rings have larger holes for the nutserts to seat in.  Both have one edge that is slightly rounded.  This is of no consequence on the inner ring, but is nice on the outer ring, as the rounded shoulder seats against the tire.  All the rings are completely smooth and burr free, and all the punched holes are of exact dimension without burrs.

Beadlock1-5.jpg (53787 bytes) They are really very easy to install, but it does take some time.  First clean up the outside edge of wheel with a wire brush in an angle grinder or similar.  Next, the inner rings are simply placed on the outside edge of the wheel.  Since they are exactly the same outside diameter as the rim, it is easy to center them by "fingertip feel and eye".  If the wheels are used, there may be some little gaps where the wheel is dented a bit,  If they're not too large, they can easily be welded up as the rings are welded on, with the added bonus of "trueing up" your wheels at the same time.  I did this, and so when the ring was placed on, I tacked it in place as it sat, without clamping it down to force it to conform to the not quite true wheel rim.

Hey - does my ass look fat in those jeans?

Beadlock1-6.jpg (40647 bytes) To prevent heat warping the wheel, I welded them on in stages, laying a bead as shown at left, then rotating the wheel 90 degrees and repeating until I was done.  I used my trusty Lincoln SP125+ MIG machine with Argoshield (20% Argon, 80% CO2) and .023 L-56 wire.
Beadlock1-7.jpg (35352 bytes) Another shot of the bead.  Note you can see the tack welds as well, and the little gap I filled where the rim wasn't completely true.
Beadlock1-8.jpg (35754 bytes) One thing you have to be very careful of when welding in stages like this, is integrity of the weldment  where the beads join.  Especially in this case, since the weld must be 100% airtight - any tiny pinhole will leak like crazy.  In the pic you can see the heat affected zone, and where it narrows at the ends of the beads.  Once all the beads had been done, I went back, ground down the joins a bit, and re-welded them all until the heat affected zone appeared equal all the way around.

I tested my first one as follows.  Take any liquid with a high "creep", such as diesel or penetrating oil, and pour a little in the crack between the edge of the wheel and the inside of the inner lock ring.  Roll the rim around a while.  If any liquid creeps through the weld, air will surely leak.

Beadlock1-9.jpg (23437 bytes) Once the ring has been completely welded on, it's time to insert all the nutserts. First you just drop them in the holes, make sure to drop them in the right way round, shown in the picture.
Beadlock2-1.jpg (49845 bytes) Here's the installation technique.  Take one of the bolts supplied, place on it one of the washers and a spacer of some kind.  Thread it into the nutsert,  then grasp the nutsert with vice grips to stop it spinning, and hit the bolt with the impact.  It only takes 30-40 ft lbs to cinch them up and seat them, so don't go crazy.  They aren't the sturdiest of things, and you can strip them or break the threads loose from the housing fairly easily.  An important tip - don't clamp the vice grips on the nutsert until after  you've threaded in the bolt, otherwise the jaws of the vice grips can deform the nutsert and it's threads - they're steel, but fairly light and weak, and if you crank the vice grips on them, they will squish.

My set of locks only came with a total of 3 spare nutserts, and I ruined 5 during the install (2 were my mistake - I crunched them with the vice grips, 1 had bad threads, and 2 came apart while being installed), leaving me 2 short.  I chose not to wait, so just welded a coupe of 3/8" nuts on the back of the ring.  A few more extras in the package would be nice.

Beadlock2-2.jpg (41874 bytes) Here's the fancy installation tool I used, just a big nut with one of the supplied bolts and washers.  Another tip - you need a nice smooth consistent impact gun for this for best results, but they can be seated by hand - it's just a LOT more work.
Beadlock2-3.jpg (27835 bytes) This picture shows an unseated nutsert (red arrow) and one that has been seated (blue arrow).  Note that the threads don't pull all the way up flush with the top of the ring.
Beadlock2-4.jpg (46392 bytes) Another shot of the installation process, but really just a poseur shot of my purty welding job :-)
Beadlock2-5.jpg (58614 bytes) Here's the wheel with the inner ring welded on and all the nutserts installed.
Beadlock2-6.jpg (55697 bytes) Here they are, all done, and just hanging around with the un-mounted Swampers, waiting for paint!
Beadlock2-7.jpg (59821 bytes) Here are the outer locking rings hung up waiting for paint.
Beadlock2-71.jpg (44687 bytes) Here's the paint I used.  A good zinc self etching primer is a must for the bare metal.  The Car Quest enamel didn't impress me much, so I shall be returning to using Tremclad next project.
Beadlock2-8.jpg (44656 bytes) Here's one all painted up
Beadlock2-9.jpg (37291 bytes) And the outer rings all painted and ready for installation
Beadlock3-1.jpg (56704 bytes) I painted over the weld as well.
Beadlock3-2.jpg (52494 bytes) All done and drying.
Beadlock3-3.jpg (58989 bytes) I've never done any kind of "manual" tire changing before, always used the big machine at the Military Auto Club before, so I didn't know how easy or hard it was going to be to get the tire over the outside edge, especially with the extra profile of the new weld.

First step was to liberally apply hot soapy water to the tire bead and outside edge of the wheel.

Beadlock3-31.jpg (55862 bytes) I went shopping for some tire spoons, but they were almost $50 each for the big ones at the trucking place, so I bought a couple of plain old 36" wrecking bars for $6 each.
Beadlock3-4.jpg (54722 bytes) Flop the tire over the wheel, and start the bead over the edge.
Beadlock3-5.jpg (61106 bytes) Work it around, then place knees or feet (red arrows) to keep on part that is already on, on while using pry bar to lever the rest of the bead over the edge.
Beadlock3-6.jpg (61629 bytes) Eventually it will pop over the edge and look like this.
Beadlock3-7.jpg (55231 bytes) This is what it looks like from the back side with the inner bead of the tire over the outer edge of the wheel.  The inner bead of the tire will seat on the inner bead surface of the rim when it is aired up later
Beadlock3-8.jpg (41856 bytes) In order to install the outer locking ring, I picked up the tire and wheel, and placed it on the top of an overturned 5 gallon pail.  

But before I locked down the outer ring, I had to insert my new homebrew "inside the tire balancing" material.

Beadlock4-0.jpg (39159 bytes) I chose to use 8-9oz of good old Daisy BBs.  Bought a carton of 3000 for $8 at Wal-Mart
Beadlock3-9.jpg (48540 bytes) I had no idea what they weighed, so here is my ridiculous homebrew scale.  I suspended a stick from a wire, and placed 8oz of wheel weights in a bag at one end, then just poured BBs in the other end until it balanced.  the margarine pots didn't work because the BBs rolled around too much!  It turned out that 8oz was just shy of a quarter of the carton, so I used a shot glass to divide the carton into 4 equal amounts.
Beadlock4-1.jpg (30561 bytes) But how to get all those BBs in the tire without spilling them everywhere?  Simple (and silly too).  I made 4 little Kleenex baggies by wrapping them up in a tissue.  Now I could easily drop them all in at once, without spilling, and the tissue will break up inside the tire, allowing them to spread out.

I'm as nutty as a fruitcake!

Beadlock4-11.jpg (43021 bytes) Next, clean the tire bead well....you don't want any leaks.
Beadlock4-2.jpg (50993 bytes) And then install the outer locking ring with the rounded shoulder down, against the tire.
Beadlock4-3.jpg (39158 bytes) This is how the tire centers.  The outside shoulder of the outer ring fits perfectly against the tire bead, centering the tire on the outer ring.  And the outer ring is centered on the inner ring, and therefore the entire wheel, by the 32 bolts.  It's simple and effective.
Beadlock4-4.jpg (40768 bytes) Now it's time to get happy with the bolts and washers.  Start by installing 4 in the clock positions, centering up the ring.  For the first few, you have to squeeze the rings together a bit to get the bolts started (at least with thick beads on a Swamper you do)
Beadlock4-5.jpg (39909 bytes) All the bolts installed. Arrow indicates where the tire centers on the ring.
Beadlock4-51.jpg (49346 bytes) Now it's time to torque the bolts to spec.  Rockstomper recommends 10-20 ft / lbs.  I chose 15 ft lbs, and used my beam style torque wrench as it is more accurate at this low setting than my "click" style.  The first one I did I was very careful, tightening them down a little at a time, using a big star pattern, and carefully marking each one with the pen.  What a pain in the ass.  By the fourth one, I was zipping them up with a gun, and only applying final torque by hand.  Even then, it takes about 5 complete goes around them all with the torque wrench to get them all close to the same spec.

The reason for this is the one big weakness in the design (more on this weakness and its affects below too).  Normally, in a bolted joint, the materials being bolted are far more "rigid" than the bolt, and therefore, as the bolt is tightened, the joint initially compresses a bit, then the bolt stretches, and as the rigid joint is clamped, torque reading will go up sharply and evenly after the slack is all taken out of the joint.

Not so when clamping a steel ring over a piece of rubber, and especially when less than half the ring sandwiches the rubber.  The result is an almost endless cycle of tightening one bolt, which compresses the rubber, which loosens the adjacent bolt, which is then tightened.....and on and on...round and round all 32 bolts.  Using a star pattern helped very little.  The trouble is, the rubber is just too compressible, and the ring doesn't clamp evenly over it.  Like I said, I went completely around the circle of 32 tightening each one FIVE times with the torque wrench (and this was only the final step) before they were any where near all at 15ft / lbs.

Beadlock4-7.jpg (70911 bytes) The other effect of the design is the so-called "coning" of the ring, again caused by the fact that under about 1/3 of the ring is a big fat rubber bead, while there is nothing under the rest.  This means that the ring doesn't clamp down evenly, the bolt heads do not sit flat on the outer edge leaving the bolt shanks unevenly stressed, and the ring takes a shape much like a banked race track.

These next 2 pictures clearly show the unevenly seated bolt heads.  On the inside there is a big gap while......

Beadlock4-8.jpg (44745 bytes) ....on the outside the bolt head is up tight.
Beadlock4-9.jpg (49628 bytes) Red arrow shows outside of bolt head up tight, blue arrow shows space under inside of bolt head.  Many of the pics on Rockstompers site show the same affect.

Theoretically, this is not a good way to load a bolt.  I'm a bit concerned about the bolts ability to stay tight with only half the head experiencing any friction, and with the rings not clamping evenly.

However, sometimes things work out better than it seems, so time will tell if I have problems with broken or perpetually loose bolts.

Beadlock4-91.jpg (36769 bytes) These next 2 pics show the deformation of the outer lock ring caused by this uneven loading.  I had to disassemble one of mine immediately after airing it up because one of my welds had a pinhole leak.  The bolts had been tightened to 15 ft / lbs and were in place for about 5 minutes.  On the right is a never installed outer ring, that lies flat, on the left the just removed ring that shows the deformation or so-called "coning", evidenced by the gap (red arrow).
Beadlock4-92.jpg (50332 bytes) Here the deformation is clear as the installed ring sits on top of the flat never used ring.

This doesn't really worry me, the ring went back on very easily (it wasn't at all difficult to line the bolts back up as I had thought it might be), but it is something to be aware of.  In the end, all 4 tires are completely leak free as of initial installation (no miles).

Beadlock5-1.jpg (47820 bytes) Here it is, all installed and leak tested
Beadlock5-2.jpg (35775 bytes) Oooooh - look at all those bolts :-)
Beadlock5-3.jpg (58338 bytes) Mmmmmmmmmmmm - beadlocks !!
Beadlock5-4.jpg (64878 bytes) This one is super -  size...you really can't have too many pics of new beadlocks !
Beadlock5-5.jpg (44718 bytes) Kicker is.....when my wife got home, she came in and said "Honey, the new wheels look great"...and she HATES my beast!
Summary:  Well, time will tell I guess.  Everything is great except that I'm really not happy with those bolt heads like that....but it may not become an issue, we shall have to see.  I will update this article with results and data as I get them.  They look great, were cheap and pretty easy to put together, best of all they are thick and tough looking, and should hold up really well under trail abuse.

UPDATE # 1

We were having a discussion on the POR BBS about how to alleviate the problems of the "coning" which results in the uneven bolt heads.  A lot of suggestions centered around placing something under the inside edge of the clamping ring, so that the outer locking ring could clamp down more evenly.  One clever guy suggested:

How about a plain old V-belt? Costs a couple of bucks, and for larger rigs they come in (can you guess?) ...... LARGER SIZES! I used to have several in the 5/8 -3/4 - 7/8" wide range hanging in a shed, these were for alternator and air compressor drive on 855 ci Cummins in an old Freightliner, if memory serves. Hard rubber, cord reinforced, and infinitely adjustable for length with a pocket knife.

To which I replied:

The rubber spacer (o ring, cut bead, v belt, whatever) will help the coning problem, which is good, but it will do bugger all to help the "almost impossible and takes forever to get them torqued" problem

Reason being, as I mentioned in the article, both the real tires bead, and whatever rubber spacer you use will have significantly less resistance to compression than the bolts have resistance to stretch. And that's the problem. What you need is something that, ideally, has greater resistance to compression than the bolt has to stretch.

Here's why.

The only way a bolt can exert a clamping load is to act like a stretched spring, and to do that it has to stretch, i.e. grow a little longer. It may seem unlikely that the bolt actually stretches, but this is precisely what happens in any bolted joint (or should). Now, by the same laws, the parts being clamped also deform, but usually much less. The amount of clamping force a bolt applies is a direct result of how much it has stretched (microscopically). Now it is not at all practical to measure this stretch, and so some clever guy figured out that the amount the bolt stretches can be related to the torque it takes to tighten the bolt....but, this is only true and predictable when the parts being bolted are much more rigid than the bolt. When we try and clamp down on the rubber ring, it is very difficult to stretch the bolt (i.e. get an accurate and consistent torque reading, until the point where we have squished the bead so thin it become much less compressible. And this is without taking into account the settling and creep that is likely to happen in our rubber / metal joint.

So, anyway, that's why some sort of metal flange, heavy or not, is the better solution.

What if you placed the bolt holes and bolts closer to the center of the wheel, so that there was enough room around them (shanks of the bolts) for some custom spacers (like thick washers). You could source and offer different widths for different tires, and even develop an equation so people could measure their tire beads and know what they needed.

'course this still wouldn’t be as good as solid machined ring, IMHO. Just looking for the cheap and easy options.

But at least eliminating the coning would be a good step....so the bolts aren't trying to lever their own heads off.

A few people e-mailed me asking for more info about the "issues" as I saw them...below is a compilation of my responses.

To me, the "coning" and bolt angles are actually separate but related issues.  I would define the "coning" as the way in which the ring takes a "set" and after first use takes on the "banked race track" appearance.  The cause, being a bead under one side, is the same as the cause for the bolt heads not sitting flat, but I see the 2 as separate results of the same design.  I really don’t care about the coning, as in the shape of the ring, it's just the angle of the bolts that has me "concerned".  I would agree that I am not exactly displeased.....but not highly impressed either....call me cautiously optimistic at this point.

You said that the welding was very easy....I wouldn't quite say that, no not at all.  In fact - it sounds immodest...but I made it look easy because of the care I took and the reasonable level of skill I have developed.  They were very time consuming to make......all told took me about 12 hours.

As far as the "careful torquing" goes....I must admit to being a little ticked off by the inference made by Rockstomper.....believe me - it is impossible to torque them any more slowly, evenly, and carefully than I did the first 2....in fact it took me nearly 2 hours to do the first one from inserting the first bolt to stopping.  I went round in a star pattern very carefully from just inserted, to finger tight, to 1 or 2 more turns per bolt, to 1 or 2 more, and so on.  And it won’t matter if you stop at 5 or 10
or whatever....the bolts are never, ever going to sit flat - it's impossible.  However, again, at 5 ft lbs the actual "coning" (as in the amount of shape change) the ring experiences will likely be less, it won't help the bolts sit straight.  This highlights what my perception is of the difference between the "coning" and the bolt head issue.  I would be very concerned about the bolts staying tight at only 5 ft lbs.  Not to mention, and again, I must emphasize....it's not like tightening a normal rigid
bolted joint assembly where after the slack is taken out of the joint the parts come up against one another and the torque value rises sharply and evenly.....because you're constantly tightening adjacent bolts against a squishy rubber ring, you are constantly affecting the torque value of every other bolt as you go - no matter how tiny the increments.  You could literally do them all one degree at a time and it wouldn't make any difference.

UPDATE # 2

A few folks have e-mailed me about how happy I am with them.  Below is my answer

I guess the bottom line you want to know is “Bill, are you happy with them, should I buy them”

 Not surprisingly, the answer, IMHO is, “That depends”

 If money is no object (like that’s realistic!) – I would say not, and I would opt for Champion beadlocks on forged Alcoa / MT wheels.

 But that’s not the case for most of us.

 So, here’s the “depends” part.

 I would say yes if

a)      you want to keep your current wheels for any reason (e.g. custom BS)

b)      You want relatively cheap, tough materials, and enjoy the DIY aspect

c)      You like the idea of widening your current wheels, or creating an uncommon width (e.g. starting with 7” rims and making 9’s)

d)      You don’t do a lot of street driving (My concerns over the bolts are not completely sullied, and I sure wouldn’t want one to pop off on the street and fire across the road and into the leg of some kid standing at a bus stop or whatever)

They are, IMHO, certainly the best of the “DIY” kits based purely on the superior thickness used and number of bolts – that is, they are better than any “race’ DIY kit you’ll get from Summit racing or the like.  Likewise, I believe them to be a better choice than using pre-fab racing beadlock wheels (Bart, Basett, etc) since the racing wheels use a thin lightweight rim . shell and a fairly thin, flimsy ring..  They are at least the equal of many pre-fab beadlock wheels such as the MRT, etc.

Since I have no experience with the Trailready and Aggro designs, I can’t compare to those.

 The Champions are clearly superior, however, but not in the same $$ range.

As far as which bolt design to get – since all will be subject to the same design…uhh, what’s a nice way of saying “flaw”…anyway – I can’t see spending the extra $$ for either different bolt style “upgrades” – the button head or countersunk.  Just not worth it IMHO, since you’re living with an imperfect design in the first place.  What you’ve got is a Heavy duty, homebrew, rough and ready product with the Rockstomper beadlocks – not a polished finished design – and I wouldn’t bother spending any extra $$ than necessary. I’d have been a bit ticked off if I’d sprung for countersunk bolts and the heads hadn’t sat straight in the countersinks.

Chad summed it up best when he said “FWIW I think we still made out good - not because the product was outstanding, but because of
the shear cost of any of the other alternatives.”

Still not happy with my waffling…OK, OK, OK…if backed into a corner and forced to decide, black and white, happy or unhappy….definitely “happy”…….just not “thrilled”!!

POR BBS owner, and competitive rock-crawler Lance Clifford offered the following:

Ok guys, here's my experience with this so called problem...

I have first generation MRT beadlocks... They simply have nutserts welded onto the rim. The bead is clamped into place, and there is no centering mechanism, like with champion locks. When you put the ring on and bolt it down (18 bolts total) the ring simply clamps the rubber in place. It does not bottom out. MRT recommends 10ft/lbs of torque on these rims. When the bolts are torqued down, they too have a gap and do not set evenly on the rim. I have had these rims for about 5 years now, with two sets of tires, and I have never broke ONE SINGLE BOLT.

 

Some guys have also been asking about the dimensions, so they could fab their own, so I dug out the measurements I took, and came up with these
Inner_ring.jpg (39209 bytes) outer_ring.jpg (39348 bytes)
UPDATE # 1 - balancing with BBs - this was after only the first trip or 2 on-road

here's the first impression of the BB's.

Disclaimer: - hard to give a definitive impression at this point because I still have an out of balance rear driveshaft, 2 "machined with an angle grinder" wheel spacers (old centers trimmed down) on the front, plus with all the leak testing on the beadlocks it's possible I got water inside, and therefore ice - possibly even freezing the bb's in clumps a bit ??? Not to mention the BBs do nothing to make the TSL’s round.

Oh - and the roads were pretty bad that day, so no way I was going over a 100 on an icy road in a locked Jeep on TSL’s.

BUT...initial impression...WAY better than the old 20+oz of lead stuck all around the rim. In fact - I used to think it took 30km to warm out the flat spots, but everything was pretty smooth after about 5km.

I did feel (seat of pants guess) like I would have been better with 12ox inside vice 8 - I don't know why - just a feeling.

So - as good as equal or inside-the-tire patches - prob. not. Better than traditional rim weights - yes, and with no trail vulnerability.

I am going to add a cup of antifreeze to keep them from freeze clumping in the winter. A friend reports excellent results balancing with just 24 fluid oz of antifreeze - but I'm not happy with the dynamics of all that fluid sloshing around in there.

UPDATE # 2 - balancing with BBs - After a few hundred on-road kilometres.

I have neither added any anti-freeze nor verified whether any water is inside the tires, but I can tell you this.  Up to 100 km/h, the BB's are working FANTASTICALLY - the tires are smooth and stable, and don't even really require any "warm-up time"  Over 100 km/h, the Jeep starts to shake and bounce around pretty badly, and over 120 it is pretty violent.  Is this just he tires? Is it worse at the speeds because of the BB's?  I dunno - but I do know that I'm happy as hell poking along at 100 km/h, saving a little gas and riding smoothly!

CONCLUSION - 

Well, after quite a few more road miles, and a few off-road trips....I upgrade my final appraisal to "very satisfied".  Sure the design isn't perfect, and theoretically there are problems, but so far, in my own practical experience - I have had no problems on or off road, not even one loose bolt so far.

Chad's Experiences.

Remember I ordered 2 sets at once - one for me, and one for my good buddy Chad?  Well, he finally got around to  making his, and supplied the following comments:

I am entirely unimpressed with the nutserts. Virtually every single one of
them felt like it was stripping when I started to tighten the bolts. Given
that they look like aluminums to me, I wasn't convinced they would not strip.
In the end I got two wheels done, but each has one botched nutsert in it -
one stripped, the other just plain old fell out. Of course, once you get the
locks cinched down even a little, it's impossible to get the old one out and
you can't fit the new one between the two rings. And I wasn't about to go
undoing everything all over again. In the end I decided that I would accept
one nut per wheel, which I will thread onto the bolt on the inside of the
inner ring. I'll try to get nylocks. Then I will change out the frigged up
nutsert the next time I have the ring off - which will hopefully be NEVER!

It was a royal pain getting the bolts done up - remember Rico has my
compressor right now. So it was all by hand. Hands up, all those with a
torque wrench that accurately reads down to 10 foot lbs. No one? Not
surprised. My bar style torque wrench appears to START at 10 foot pounds.
In the end I relied on my 'inner torque wrench', kinda like the 'force'.
Actually, I used to take the head apart on my Kawi race bike and found that
a two finger pull on my craftsman 3/8 ratchet was exactly 15 foot lbs, what
was required on the camshaft caps and cam cover. Accurate enough that I
didn't need to use a torque wrench, so I used the same technique on the
bolts. I can see what you mean about the impossibility of getting these
things tight at 10 foot pounds, not going to happen.

Mine coned too, although not nearly as bad as yours, I believe, due to the
fan belt I put in there. Perfect length, not quite wide enough. I'm going
back to see if I can get one slightly wider (like 3~4mm), but I kinda think
I got the widest type already. Anyway, it'll keep the gunk out of the bolts,
if nothing else. In the end, I'm convinced that neither the coning nor the
actual torque amount nor the equality of the torque across the ring matter
that much. The way I see it, as long as every bolt on the ring has enough
torque on it to keep load on and stay tight, it's not going to loosen, and
you're not going to be in danger of catastrophic failure unless a
significant number of adjacent bolts fall right out. If we check them
regularly, I think they'll be fine.

I'm also going to buy 4 bolts the same as the ones supplied but 2 inches
longer. Both the holes that eventually lost their nutserts were the initial
holes I used to start the ring, which is actually really difficult to get
the bolt straight because of the thickness of the Swamper bead. I think if I
had some really long bolts to get it started, that might save that initial
nutsert because currently the bolt won't go in there straight due to the
fact that I have to clamp the outer ring down in a couple of spots in order
to get it anywhere near close enough to start the current bolts, and this
inevitably leads to some misalignment between the rings, which causes the
bolt to go in crooked. I think longer 'starter' bolts might be the trick
here. Longer starter bolts and a thicker fan belt might make the whole thing
a lot better.

I'm unsure if all the beadlocks are built this way. Do they all use
nutserts? if they do, on the one hand I'm unimpressed, on the other at least
there is a remedy if one of them is screwed - you CAN replace it. I read
about one company which manufactures the ring in such a way that you can
replace a nutsert without disassembling the wheel - THAT'S the ticket, as
far as I am concerned, if I win the million that's what I'm getting. I'm
unsure at this time if maybe there are higher quality nutserts out there (?)
that would have made me feel better about the whole nutsert thing or not.

In the end, I think simply doing them up with an air ratchet is fine. I did
3 times star pattern, 3 times round pattern, by the end of that cycle they
may not have all been equally torqued (I'm not sure you ever could get them
all exactly even), but they were all tight. Set you ratchet not to tighten
too much and zip away, I say, I don't think the end result is that finicky.

Chad's Experiences II.

Earlier this year, Bill and I bought bead locks from Rockstomper. Bill wrote an article about his experience, and mine was more or less the same, with the following additions/exceptions:

The Delivery Issue

 As some of you may know, when our package of bead locks was delivered it had been dropped and one ring was damaged. I volunteered to take this one and sort it out with Scott and Rockstomper. The good news was that he immediately agreed that the bent ring was not my problem, and agreed to send me another one, after which he would try to get compensation back from UPS for the damaged package.

The 'bad' news was that in the end it took until February before I got that final ring. You could look at it as I ordered at the end of November and finally got my product mid February, but there were other circumstances surrounding the issue.

Basically when Scott said he would send a new ring to me, in the back of my mind I was thinking 'I'll never see that', not because I thought he wouldn't send it, but because things have a mysterious way of disappearing on their way to me. When this ring did not show up after 6 weeks, I called and he sent another one, this one registered so that we could somehow trace it. This one took forever, to the point where we actually put a trace on it because we thought is wasn't coming and it came the next day. If it didn't come at that point I would have courier it myself. The problem with registered mail is that although you can trace it, it takes a week.

So lesson learned. Do I think they failed me by not sending it overnight? No. I think their obligation ended when they agreed to send the new ring at their own expense. Had I to do it over again, I would offer to pay to have it courier – that is the only real way to have a traceable package sent. I do think the missed an opportunity to serve me better, but they are under no obligation to do so.

The Coning Issue

Anyone who reads Bill's story will see there is a lot in there about the coning of the outer ring. In order to prevent this, I put in a fan belt inside of the bolts to help prevent it. I used a 17405 fan belt, which I believe means it was 17 (mm?) wide, and 40.5 inches long. It fits perfect, and although it does not resolve the coning issue completely, I believe it does relieve it greatly, as well as providing a barrier against debris getting into the bolts. I think it would solve the issue completely if the belt were wider, but I got the widest one I could and it was not wide enough for SX Swampers. For something with a normal sized bead, like a BFG or MTR, I think it would probably work fine.

I have to agree with Bill that the idea of evenly torqueing these bolts down to 10 foot pounds is a joke. I got mine even at what I believe was abut 15 foot pounds, but that took about 6 ~ 8 go rounds with a small ratchet. Hands up anyone who even has a torque wrench that goes that low. It's basically impossible.

My view, having done it, is that the coning is not really an issue, nor is the 'evenness' of the torque. As long as you get good load on all those 32 bolts, you will be fine. The fan belt helps from an aesthetic point of view, but in either case, I don't think that the side load on the bolts is one which ultimately effects their ability to hold the bead on or stay tight.

The Nutserts

The nutserts are a pain, but they may be the least objectionable solution available.

 My basic problem with them is that they are aluminium, and just don't 'feel' right when you are tightening them. I buggered 2 of them when I was installing them, and did in two more when trying to get the ring started. Once they are in they work OK, but they always feel a little like they are stripping when you are tightening them. As it turned out, most of them were not, but it's just not a comfortable feeling right off.

 What I found is that before installing the outer rings, you should get yourself several 3 inch bolts to go into the nut serts. These you can use to start the ring. I found that I screwed up 2 nutserts by trying to get the bolts that came with the rings started when they simply aren't long enough to start a thick bead like a Swamper. Do yourself a favour, get the longer bolts, start the ring with the longer bolts, then switch to the regular ones when you get all 32 bolts started. I did this on my last 2 and they worked out fine, no nutserts destroyed.

 When you are get those longer bolts, also get yourself several nylock locking nuts to fit them. This is what I did, so if I destroyed a nutsert, I could just use one of the longer bolts, put a nutsert on it, and I would then repair the nutsert next time I broke down the wheel. This will ease your mind, to have everything you need sitting there, and be prepared for a nutsert breakage ahead of time, because basically you just have to accept that a certain small percentage of these is going to break, and when they do, you cannot fix it without breaking the entire wheel apart. So be prepared and you will have fewer headaches.

The BBs

I also put BBs in my tires, and I can report the same effects as Bill. I put in 12 oz in each tire, just because my tires are notoriously hard to balance, and in my mind if the principal behind all this is correct, then a little more weight than necessary should simply distribute itself evenly around the tire.

 My rig has never driven this well with Swampers on it – not even when I first got it out of the balancing shop after getting my Swampers mounted the first time. There is less vibration, less hopping, and significantly reduced flat spot effect. The BBS also redistribute themselves after I've been wheeling, whereas any fixed weight is going to potentially get moved, and/or will not adjust to changes in the wheel after wheeling.

 BBs (or something similar) work, plain and simple.

 


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