A good set of tires and wheels can make your pickup truck or 4×4 look much better. However, the right set of wheels and tires not only makes your vehicle look better, but will improve the performance of your vehicle as well. Not too long ago we came across just such a combination of rims and rubber.
We were were looking to re-shod our 2013 Jeep Wrangler JKU Project Sgt. Rocker, and discovered the Weld Racing REKON wheel and the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ radial tire. Once we did a little research, our minds were made up that this combination was what we were looking for in order to offer Sarge the right wheel and tire setup.
There is a good reason for this. Together, these two provided the superior set of shoes we desired for our project Jeep, boosting its aggressive go-anywhere appearance, and delivering the do-anything performance we demanded.
Since 1967, Weld Racing has been a pioneer in wheel design and construction that has led it to a position of authority in the racing community. The company is one of the leaders in the marketplace when it comes to creating top-of-the-line forged aluminum wheels for vehicles ranging from drag cars to sports cars and musclecars to trucks.
Recently, Weld Racing took on the job of creating a new wheel targeted at the off-road market. That was no easy task. As Nick Rickels, Truck and REKON Product Manager with Weld Racing said, “We set out to build a wheel that could withstand the punishment that any off-road environment could throw at it.”
“REKON is the result of more than two years of testing, in the lab and the field. The wheels passed SAE J2530 testing, running 1.85 million cycles at 5,200 pounds on a radial test and didn’t lose torque on any of the bolts.”
The mindset of the engineering staff was such that the REKON’s forged 6061-T6 aluminum monoblock construction was designed to be as strong as possible while trimming weight to an absolute minimum. As well, the REKON is the first of Weld’s wheels to receive its all new Advanced Tactical Coating (ATC), a proprietary nano-ceramic barrier that protects the wheel against abrasions, corrosion, mud, and salts.
At this time Weld has only released two sizes, but there may be more coming down the pipeline. Those two are a 17×9-inch and a 20×8.5-inch, and the new REKON wheels were targeted at two of the hottest off-road vehicles on the market today, the Jeep Wrangler and the Ford Raptor.
The 17×9 was specifically designed with a 4.5-inch backspace to give it more than enough clearance with oversized off-road tires so that big meats would not create interference problems on lifted Jeep Wranglers. A particularly aggressive 5.0-inch backspacing on the 20×8 was done for the very same reason-to deliver that extra macho stance on an off-road ready pickup truck.
REKON is the result of more than two years of testing, in the lab and the field. – Nick Rickels, Weld Racing
However, with bolt patterns for the 17×9-inch wheel that include 5×5, 5×6.5, 6×135, and 6×5.5 with 3.430-inch bore (5×5.5 and 6×5.5 with 4.250-inch hub bore due this summer) there are multiple applications. The 20×8 is available in 5×5, 6×135, and 6×5.5 bolt patterns with 3.340-inch bore (Ford 1/2-ton, GM 1/2-ton, and Jeep JK).
There are three styles available in the REKON line, the F58B, F54B, and the B57B. The F58B and F54B are both available in the 17×9 and 20×8.5 size, with all the accompanying bolt patterns and hub bores. However, the B57B is only available in 17×9, and it’s specially designed to accept the 6061 T6 forged aluminum beadlock ring.
While both of the wheels are built from the same lightweight, yet tough forged 6061 T-6 aluminum, and both are fully tested and rated for 2,600 pounds while wearing up to a 40-inch tire, we chose the B57B for two reasons. It had an old-school off-road racing style about it, and the B57B offered the 6061 T6 forged aluminum beadlock we wanted for the low-tire-pressure rock crawling activities that lay ahead for Sgt. Rocker.
The tires we wanted to wrap around the Weld Racing REKON 17×9 B57B wheels were the LT315/70R17 Baja MTZ radials from Mickey Thompson Performance Tires and Wheels. Aggressive in style, tread design, and as we assumed and later confirmed, performance, the Baja MTZ is a non-directional mud-terrain tire than can be had in packages ranging from a nearly stock 31×10.50R15LT fitment all the way up to a massive boulder-climbing 36×15.50R20LT.
Jason Moulton, Product Development Manager at Mickey Thompson, told us, “Prior to the MTZ, our radial light truck line consisted of the Baja MTX and the Baja Claw. The MTX was more of an all-terrain design, and the Baja Claw was an aggressive, directional, off-road design. We needed something in-between.”
The MTZ has multiple biting edges for both forward and lateral grip. – Jason Moulton, Mickey Thompson
The tread block design of the Baja MTZ (blocks, sizes, shapes) has set it apart from other tires that make it an especially good off-road performer, but still deliver mild street manners. Moulton said, “Its tread elements are uniquely shaped. The MTZ has multiple biting edges for both forward and lateral grip.”
“The outer shoulder lugs and Sidebiters have increased voids for great off-road traction, while the center lugs have a tighter pattern for better highway wear and traction. It also uses multiple pitches in the tread to improve noise cancellation, making them relatively quieter than similar products on the market.”
There was some new work in the tire sidewall and carcass construction during development of the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ that also led to it’s increased sturdiness off-road. “The timing just seemed right to introduce a three-ply, non-directional tire.” said Moulton.
“It has three plies of higher denier polyester with the third ply at a bias angle for improved strength and puncture resistance. The tread is steel belted with a spiral wound nylon overwrap for added protection. Winding the nylon over the steel in a small continuous strip helps improve uniformity, eliminating a wide splice and improving ride quality.”
Prior to mounting the Mickey Thompson MTZ radial tires on the Weld Racing REKON wheels, we installed a set of MOPAR Replacement Parts and Accessories (Part Number 56029398AB) Tire Pressure Monitoring Sensor valve stems on the wheels. These replaced the valve stem sending units that went away with the stock wheels so the Jeep Wrangler’s tire pressure monitoring system would continue working with the new tires and wheels.
The 6061 T6 forged aluminum beadlock rims feature recessed bolt holes so that when you torque the bolts down they are deeply countersunk for protection from rocks that could damage them during off-road driving. The reinforced inner lip on the wheel acts to prevent impact damage under low tire pressures, so there are no worries about bending the lip when aired down off road or if an obstacle is struck at high speed.
Mounting the un-inflated tires on the wheels was accomplished on a padded flat surface by hand to avoid scarring or bending any part of the wheels. The tire bead and the wheel’s inner bead surface flange were inspected to make sure they both were clean and free of any dirt or foreign particles.
Once the wheel was positioned inside the tire, and the tire’s bead was firmly resting in the wheel’s inner bead surface flange (in some cases, this may take a bit of massaging with a rubber hammer), the tire and wheel were ready for the bolt-on beadlock ring to be installed.
The bolt-on beadlock ring was placed in position over the tire’s bead. At this point, four beadlock bolts were prepared with anti-seize and started by hand into the threaded holes in the REKON wheel through the recessed holes in the beadlock rim at 12, 6, 3, and 9 o’clock positions.
At this point, we prepared with anti-seize and started the remaining beadlock bolts by hand, inserting them through the countersunk holes in the beadlock ring and into the threaded holes in the wheel.
Then we began tightening each bolt with a speed wrench in a criss-cross pattern until they were “finger-tight.” After inspected the beadlock ring to be sure it was being pulled down flat and even, we continued tightening each bolt with the speed wrench in that same criss-cross pattern until they were all “hand-tight.”
Now we switched to using a torque wrench and carefully, in successive steps, began tightening the beadlock bolts in the same criss-cross pattern until they were all set to 38 pound-feet of torque. The beadlock ring was examined again to be sure it didn’t have a “potato chip” look to it or it will not hold the tire bead evenly or effectively.
If the beadlock ring is not seated perfectly, it should be loosened and the bolt tightening procedure gone through again. In addition, if the beadlock ring has become bent or distorted, it should be replaced.
Once all the beadlock bolts were tightened to 38 pound-feet of torque, the beadlock ring inspected, and all was right, the beadlock bolts were checked over once more to be sure they were all set at 38 pound-feet. Weld Racing recommends that at this time you mark the wheel and tire to keep track of any slippage during use, and that you check the beadlock bolt torque after your first drive and frequently thereafter.
The next step was to air up the tires to 36 pounds of pressure prior to balancing on our shop’s Ranger DST 2420 Balancer. We were more than happy to see the tire and wheel combo’s all balance out quickly with no trouble and a little lead. There was nothing left to do but mount them up on Sgt. Rocker with a set of Rugged Ridge Black Five-Piece 1/2-20 Wheel Locks.
Good Deed Done
A combination of forged aluminum construction, black anodized finish, and the Advanced Tactical Coating (ATC) that is proprietary to the Weld Racing REKON wheels made them our first choice. These qualities helped them look sharp and provided the sturdy rolling stock Sgt. Rocker needed to conquer the trails. They proved themselves more than worthy on our trip to the 2014 Moab Easter Jeep Safari during which we suffered not a scratch nor a burp while running at various air pressures from full up for highway to 18 pounds for the trails.
The Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ radial tires are the perfect match to these gorgeous wheels, complementing the REKON’s racey look with an aggressive appearance. Better yet, the mud-terrain tires have so far delivered outstanding off-road performance in a variety of terrains, including sand, mud, and on the rocks.
We set out from the beginning to find wheels and tires that would set our 2013 Jeep Wrangler JKU Project Sgt. Rocker apart from the crowd. The new Weld Racing REKON wheels and Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ radial tires do just that.