Resourceful Off-Roader Builds His Own Beadlock Wheels From Scratch

It took the builder a few tries to get them right, but they’re still cheaper than buying a new set.

byJames Gilboy| PUBLISHED Aug 24, 2022 10:37 AM
Resourceful Off-Roader Builds His Own Beadlock Wheels From Scratch
Barto de Koning
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Of all the car parts that most people wouldn't build at home, safety-critical items like wheels are pretty close to the top of the list. That goes double for performance wheels, like those with beadlocks. But if you can't get 'em cheap, you can apparently still build them yourself, as the South African owner of a VW Touareg dune rig has proven.

The designer of these wheels, Barto de Koning, tells me that beadlock wheel options—both new and used—are very limited in his home country, so the pickings are slim for most models. But because roadworthiness laws are relatively lax there, he decided about a decade ago to just make some beadlock wheels himself from the factory steelies on a Suzuki Vitara. Naturally, this first attempt didn't go so well: the beads didn't seal properly and the lock rings themselves bent. The failure discouraged de Koning until early 2021 when he decided to give the project another shot, this time on a Mitsubishi Triton pickup truck.

After doing more research, de Koning designed a new set of steel beadlock rings, this time with anti-coning rings to improve the seal and eliminate the bending of his first design. He had them laser-cut, then welded together by a friend. Altogether, de Koning was only in it about $300, when the cheapest alternative on the market was $700. Even then, he couldn't find anyone interested in buying a set, and he still had qualms with his design—its bolts threaded into nuts inside the lock rings, making them finicky to install.

Once more, de Koning decided to redesign his beadlocks, but this time for a weirder vehicle. He considered a Porsche Cayenne but couldn't find an affordable one in the spec he wanted, so he instead sprung for its less glamorous sister: the Volkswagen Touareg. De Koning picked up an example specced appropriately for off-roading with height-adjustable air suspension, a factory locking rear differential, and the 4.2-liter Audi V8. (Not the V10 TDI, because you wouldn't wish that on your worst enemy.)

The size of its brakes meant the smallest wheels that'd fit were 17s, but de Koning couldn't find any steelies in the Touareg's five-lug bolt pattern. So, he bought stud adapters to fit six-lug Toyota Hilux wheels, which he again fit with laser-cut steel locking rings. This time, though, they had more bolt holes for better clamping, and inner plates with tapped threads to simplify assembly. To these, he fit 33-inch Radar Renegade R/T tires and hit the dunes, where his Touareg apparently holds its own.

"I've really been enjoying the vehicle's incredible capabilities," de Koning tells me. "I use it 90 percent in the dunes, and there it really shines."

Based on the video above, shine it does, at least on the soft stuff—another video shows it struggling in some mud. But that's not as much a problem with the beadlocks as it is the tires, or maybe the Touareg's torque distribution. In all, de Koning's work seems to show that homemade beadlocks are a mod within a DIYer's capability, even if they take a few tries to get right.

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