If you live where Winter promises cold temperatures, snowy roads, slushy driveways, snowbanks, and ice, you’ve likely got a dedicated set of snow tires ready to put on once the season hits. The Midwest and Northeast have already had a taste of what’s to come, so if you haven’t done it yet, drop everything and put on your snow tires.
There are a couple of ways you can make your seasonal tire swap a little easier on yourself. Many store their tires in the basement or garage, while some auto repair shops will store them for you. You can store your snow tires unmounted, as most do, but considering some wheels are so affordable, steel wheels especially, many opt to store their snow tires mounted on dedicated winter wheels. Some may stud their tires as well.
Dedicated Winter Wheels
If you have the space, snow tires mounted on dedicated winter wheels can shorten your snow tire swap to about 20 minutes. Simply remove your summer tires and wheels and install your winter tires and wheels. Be sure to mark where your tires came off, so you can put them back or rotate them in Spring. Dedicated winter wheels limit possible tire and tire pressure sensor damage due to mounting and dismounting.
Mark Previous Locations
When you or your technician removed your snow tires last year, you or they should have used a tire crayon to mark their positions. Usually, the mark is on the inside edge of the tire. Left Front (LF) and Left Rear (LR) are driver’s side, Right Front (RF) and Right Rear (RR) are passenger side. That way, you won’t forget to rotate them the next time you put them on. In the case of snow tires, tire rotations are especially important, as their softer rubber wears out much quicker.
Clean and Anti-Seize Mounting
Grime and corrosion can make wheels difficult to remove from wheel hubs, even with a big clown hammer. You can make things easier on yourself if you clean the wheel hubs, wheel nuts, and wheels thoroughly with power tools. Grease might seem attractive, but that harms brakes, tires, and wheel nut torque. The best thing is to put everything back together clean and dry. A dab of anti-seize mounting on the wheel center hole might be considered.
Always Proper Torque
We can’t stress this enough, whether you’re swapping winter wheels yourself or having the tire shop do it: always hand-torque your wheels. An impact gun and torque stick is a cheesy short-cut method that results in inconsistent torque application and can cause damage. Use a quality torque wrench to tighten the wheel nuts in a star pattern. The specification should be in your owner’s manual.
Tire Pressure Monitoring
Modern cars are equipped with tire pressure sensors and a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), but this isn’t enough to keep your tires in shape. The TPMS warning is only required to go off when the tires have dropped 25% of their pressure, long after abnormal wear has started. At least monthly, weekly if possible, check and adjust tire pressures with a reliable tire pressure gauge.
Swapping in your snow tires doesn’t have to be a chore, but it can be. If you didn’t take these steps last season, when you took your snow tires off, now’s a good time to set yourself up pretty for next season!