Why does everybody with winter tires have ugly black steel rims? Why don’t you just put winter tires on your present wheels and change them back in the autumn? If they are on their own rims, they are only a whole lot heavier to carry around. Is there any other purpose I am missing? — Sean, Toronto
There are real reasons to get winter tires. The largest is safety. They’re demonstrated to shorten stopping distances on ice and snow. And, in Ontario, your insurance company is needed to offer you a discount if you use them.
But why would you need to set your winter tires on their own wheels?
“Having tires mounted and demounted semi-annually is a significant strain on the tire itself,” said David Weatherhead, automotive professor at Centennial College in Toronto. “Especially with lower-profile tires, it stresses the rubber around the bead of the tire and can cause damaging the rubber, which in turn may result in tire degradation and, thus, leaks.”
The reason you see so many of these black wheels? Compared with expensive alloys, black steel is a steal.
“Many people will choose the steel alternative as steel rims are, actually, less costly,” Weatherhead said.
Based on the size you’re looking for, you may probably find basic black steel wheels starting at about $50 to $80 each. Even the least expensive aluminum alloy wheels — that look a bit closer to what your car came with — could cost up to three times as much.
Another huge reason people choose winter wheels? You will save money when you set your winter tires in the fall — and take them off at the spring.
“It differs between areas, but you would probably be saving $75 to $100 a year if they are already on the rims as it’s less work, so it is less of a fee for us to get it done,” said Geoff Wiebe, a Regina-based tire expert with Kal Tire.
But whether you find yourself saving money over all is dependent upon how much you spend on these wheels.
“We do find it is less and less financially reasonable for customers to get tires,” said Blair Martin, a supervisor with OK Tire at Vancouver. “A lot will take up to eight years to recoup the investment.”
And, if your vehicle needs Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) detectors, those can cost $70 or more a wheel.
Your vehicle’s TPMS system monitors tire pressure and warns you — with a yellowish light — when it’s 25 per cent under the pressure recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.
There are two types of methods: direct and indirect. Direct uses sensors in each wheel which send signals to your car’s computer.
Indirect doesn’t utilize sensors — it uses information from the anti-lock brake (ABS) system to find out how quickly your wheels are spinning. If tires get smaller due to a sudden flow, they will spin faster which will trigger the tire pressure warning.
A variety of automobile manufacturers are using indirect systems, but if you’ve got a direct system, the detectors for all four wheels could cost $280 or more. Add this to the cost of the cheapest steel wheels and you may be paying more than $500 alone only for for that winter pair of wheels. That is on top of everything you paid for your winter tires.
And if you do not get detectors? That light remains on all winter. For a good deal of people, that is well worth the savings.
“Many people opt to leave the light on, which in itself is a risky choice,” Weatherhead said. ” [You are] losing an excess degree of security that the maker had built in for security and fuel-economy purposes.”
There is another way winter wheels could help you save money. With , a smaller set of winter wheels can allow you to purchase , possibly cheaper winter tires.
“Frequently, bicycle stores will have 16-inch or 17-inch packages that match the car,” Weatherhead said. “Care should be taken to make sure it’s an approved size for your vehicle in addition to an approved tire speed rating.”
Minus sizing also enables you to place on thicker winter tires with deeper treads — compared with the low-profile tires your car comes together — which manage better in snow.
But that different tire size could take some getting used to, Weatherhead said.
“Changing the speed rating and tire size will affect the car’s handling characteristics and might make the vehicle perform considerably different in maneuvers like cornering,” he said.
Protection from salt?
Placing your winter tires on their own wheels means that the wheels your car came with get to spend winter indoors, safe from road salt which can corrode them, Weatherhead said.
But washing your car regularly will lower your likelihood of wheel damage, ” said Calvin Feist, automotive instructor at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton.
“Road salt will harm alloy wheels, but it is going to damage steel wheels also,” Feist said. “You simply need to clean your car or truck frequently and the wheels will last and look great for quite a long time.”
Courtesy: The Globe And Mail