In accordance with James Hinchcliffe's recommendation, I've been shopping for winter tires. One of the dealers I've approached has given me what seems to be a reasonable price, but he's also recommending a second set of rims. He asked whether I had aluminum or steel rims for the all-season tires I'm using now, and when I said I didn't know, he recommended a set of steel rims, which adds considerably to the expense. Is this worthwhile or necessary? He said it was advisable if I'm planning to drive the car for another two years.
Why do I need to do this? What's the advantage and is it really worth the extra money?
Sol, great question and perfect timing considering the driving conditions out there.
I know that it seems every time you turn around, someone in the car business seems to have it in for the lining of our pockets, but this is one time that's legit.
I should start out by saying that I have spent the money and bought steel wheels myself so I completely agree with James' statement of purchasing four winter tires. Being a water-skier, I thought his comparisons of buying two winter tires is like trying to waterski with one waterski and a Croc, was bang on...never mind hilarious - 'cause I wear Crocs also!
My rationale for the wheel purchase actually builds on the story that James posted. I had two reasons for buying extra wheels:
I had just spent $800 on a set of four winter tires. I don't like to use the "snow tire" any longer as winter extremes mean different things to different people at different locations across Canada, and the manufacturing technology has advanced so much that slapping one label on them just doesn't feel right to me. So, having dropped the better part of a grand on rubber, I wanted to protect this investment. Understand that mounting tires on any wheel is very stressful on the bead and sidewall. The process of mounting and un-mounting creates the risk of tearing the bead and possible sidewall distortion. I wanted to keep this to a minimum so the only answer was to mount them once.
Like most cars, mine has aluminum wheels. I like my car and I plan on keeping it for many years. Unfortunately, road salt likes aluminum wheels also and does its best to transform them into a white crumbly mess. The best and surest way to protect them is to take them off for the winter.
During this mulling over process, the decision was clear and self evident - buy a second set of wheels, and the most economical way to go is to buy "take-offs." They are wheels that used to be a spare inside someone's trunk. The best selection and cheapest prices are found at auto recyclers, so you will be putting up with used and sometimes a little rust. Sol, if you decide to go this route, and you find rust, make sure you clean it off with a wire brush or Naval Jelly. This works great at dissolving rust. Another option is to hit up an auto supply store. Many of the large retail chains sell new take-offs. Some will sell you tires and still others will put together wheel and tire packages.
From my perspective this is cheap insurance so for me, it was definitely worth the expense. $70 steel wheels are a lot cheaper than $400 aluminum ones.
Sol, after I went with the second set of wheels something else happened; it was easier for me to switch over my summers for winters. I can do it myself in my own garage - no waiting in line-ups at the local tire store, and I know this hassle makes a lot of people procrastinate in switching over their tires.
If you decide to take this route (which I strongly recommend), when it comes time to store your winter tires, try to keep them out of the sun, ideally in a basement, and remove about half of the pressure. This takes unnecessary stress off the tires when they are not being used.
Besides, each spring when you get to put your aluminum shod summers (or all-seasons) back on, it will feel like you're driving a new car again.