What Are Tire Beads? (Your Complete Guide)

Tires are able to deliver a high level of performance and safety for your vehicle due to several cleverly-designed features.

However, if you’ve ever wondered how rubber fits tightly on the wheel without slipping or leaking air, you may be unfamiliar with tire beads.

So, what are tire beads, and how do they work? If you’d like to find out, keep reading this article to see what I found out!

What Are Tire Beads?

Tire beads are cables or ribbons of high-tensile wires in the inner edge of a tire that create airtight contact with the rim when a tire is inflated. Tire beads are typically made of bronze, copper, or brass, and ensure that your tires don’t slide out of place when you’re driving.

If you want to learn more about what tire beads look like, what damages tire beads, whether you can repair tire beads, and more, keep reading for more interesting facts!

How Do You Seat A Bead On A New Tire?

When you’re mounting a tire on a new wheel, you should make sure that the bead has airtight contact with the edge of the rim, which is done by tracing the tire bead around the rim to check for any gaps.

If you find gaps between the bead and the groove of the rim, deflate the tire to make it slack.

Afterward, wipe the entire tire bead with a paper towel soaked in soapy water, which will lubricate the bead and help you in seating it properly on the new rim.

How Do You Get The Bead Off A Rim?

How Do You Get The Bead Off A Rim?

Here are the steps you should follow to get the bead off a tire rim:

  1. Place the tire on a flat surface and deflate it by opening the valve
  2. Pin the sides of the tire down with your feet and pour dishwasher liquid around the rim to lubricate the bead
  3. Using a screwdriver and pry bar, push the tire down beneath the rim from one side
  4. Hold that side with a pry bar and remove the bead from the other sides with a screwdriver
  5. Finally, pull the rim out with the help of a pry bar
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What Causes Damage To Tire Beads?

There are several bad practices that can damage your tire beads and force you to replace the tires before they complete their expected lifespan.

Such practices include the following:

  • Driving with under-inflated or over-inflated tires
  • Overloading tires by carrying excess weight in your vehicle
  • Being careless while mounting or dismounting tires
  • Mounting tires on mismatched or dirty rims can also damage the tire beads.

If you feel that your beads are getting worn out or are losing their stiffness, it’s recommended that you enlist the help of a professional mechanic to diagnose and resolve the issue.

What Is The Difference Between A Tire Casing and A Tire Bead?

The tire bead is the portion on the edge of your tire that comes in direct contact with the wheel, whereas the tire casing is the rubber covering that holds the bead in place.

What Does A Tire Bead Look Like?

Tire beads look like cables or ribbons of high-tensile steel wires and are not directly visible from the outside because they are inside a casing.

Tire beads can be made from different materials including copper, brass, and bronze, which are the materials that you’ll usually see on the average tire bead.

How Can You Tell If A Tire Bead Is Damaged?

How Can You Tell If A Tire Bead Is Damaged?

You can identify damaged tire beads by keeping an eye out for the following signs:

  • Difficulty in handling the vehicle, especially at greater speeds
  • Significant vibrations while steering or turning the vehicle
  • Visible damage on the tire’s edge
  • Tires getting deflated repeatedly
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If you notice any of the above signs consistently, you are recommended to approach a professional mechanic to have your tire beads checked thoroughly and repaired or replaced if needed.

Can A Tire Bead Be Repaired?

Whether tire beads can be repaired or not depends on the nature of the damage, but as a rule of thumb, you cannot repair a bead that has been cut or sliced (i.e. you must get the tire replaced).

However, if the bead is intact (even if you can see the cord clearly), there is a good chance that a skilled mechanic will be able to repair it.

What Is A Tire Bead Leak?

Also known as a slow puncture, a tire bead leak occurs when air starts to escape from the bead, such as gaps showing up in the groove where the tire and rim meet.

Bead leaks can occur due to two major reasons, the first being that the tire may not be properly mounted on the rim.

When the tire is mounted, it must create an airtight seal between the tire bead and rim which prevents air from leaking out. However, if the tire is not mounted properly or the rim is dirty, you may end up with a bead leak.

Secondly, a bead leak can occur due to corrosion of the wheel.

Wheels are exposed to all kinds of dirt, grease, road salt, water, and other contaminants that corrode the edges of the rim and prevent the formation of an airtight seal with the bead.

How Do You Seal A Leaking Tire Rim?

How Do You Seal A Leaking Tire Rim?

Before you seal a leaking bead, you need to determine whether the leak is being caused by corrosion or improper mounting.

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If you notice no signs of corrosion on the edge of the rim, have a professional mechanic re-mount your tire to make sure no more air leaks out.

In case the leak is because of corrosion, remove the wheel from your vehicle and deflate the tire to make the bead seal area accessible.

Afterward, use a buffing wheel to remove the corroded parts along the bead seal area and clean any leftover dirt using a suitable solvent.

Finally, apply a suitable bead sealer (such as rubber cement) on the bead seal area to avoid future corrosion (any material that doesn’t slip on the rim and fills the void with rubber compound upon evaporation can be used to seal a leaking tire rim).

However, keep in mind that grease is not a good option for sealing a bead leak, as this is likely to cause the tire to spin on the wheel instead of keeping it in place.

To learn more, you can also see our posts on tire leaking air around rim, what are XL tires, and what are beadlock wheels.

Conclusion

A tire bead is a cable or ribbon of high tensile wires made of copper, brass, or bronze, and is used to create airtight contact between the tire and the rim.

Driving with poorly inflated or overloaded tires can damage the tire bead, making it difficult for you to handle your vehicle safely.

As well, bead leaking is a common issue in vehicles that arises due to improper mounting of tires or corrosion in the wheel. However, you can use a bead sealer or a natural rubber compound dissolved in a solvent to fix a bead leak.

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