Fall Tire Tips: What to Look For When Swapping to Winter Tires

Fall Tire Tips: What to Look For When Swapping to Winter Tires

It’s fall and for many motorists that means it’s time to get the all-season tires off and install the winter tires on for some harrowing icy road trips. For those of you who install your own tires at home here are a few tips/tricks to consider while doing the tire swap.

  1. Inspect the tread on your tires. If you don’t have a tread depth gauge you can always judge by eye. Modern tires include a bar/stack of rubber across the tread pattern referred to as “the wear indicator” and you can compare the height of your tread to this bar. Once the tread hits the same height as the indicators you know its time to replace your tires. This is good to inspect in the fall because, as you know, tires aren’t cheap. If you catch in October that you need tires you can start setting aside your pennies to buy a new set of rubber for next summer. In addition you can observe if there are any unusual wear patterns on your winter tires, suggesting an alignment issue. Remember that pothole? Curb you bumped at the mall? These could have thrown off the alignment enough to unevenly wear your tires. Good to catch this before installing your all winter tires and wearing them out as well.
  2. Observe. Once you’ve got the wheel nuts loosened and the car raised on jack stands here are a couple of things to consider. Did your tires come off easily? Or did you have to hit them with a hammer/object to get them off the hub? If they were difficult to remove have a look at the hub/surface of the brake device. Clean with a wire brush and apply a small ring of anti-seize to the hub. They’ll come off easy next season!
  3. Take a look at the brakes. Once you’ve got the wheels off you’ve got an unobstructed view of the braking components and suspension. If you know what you’re doing you can open up the callipers or brake drums and clean and service the front and rear brakes in addition to measuring how much pad material you have remaining. Ontario provincial safety standards recommend that below 1 millimetre of pad material remaining has become ‘unsafe’. However, in my experience, if you find approximately 4mm or less you will require brake work at or before your next tire changeover. If you’re not so comfortable with these types of things you can look for a few key things: Are the rotors rusted on the surface? Can you see a lot/little amount of brake pad left? Notice any unusual grooves/lines?
  4. Have a look at your steering and suspension joints. Look for things like grease leaks, broken/loose components, and if you can see the side of the motor look for other fluid leaks. Any thing that looks concerning should be noted and taken to your local Mechanic (or give it a shot if you’re comfortable with repairs).
  5. Proper torque. Once you’ve put your all season tires on you should tighten the lug nuts in the air as best you can and once its on the ground make sure to torque the wheel nuts correctly. You can purchase a Torque wrench fairly inexpensively at your local auto parts store. A good generic guide for torque: Passenger Car (Including cuv and small suv) = 90-100 lb-ft. Light Truck (Including Minivan and Large SUV) = 115 lb-ft +. Heavy Truck = 125 lb-ft +.

Once your tires have been torqued we need to remember the most key step – Those tires have been stored all summer. Remember to check your tire pressures! Either at home in the driveway or (if they aren’t flat) at your nearest public inflation station. Typically found at gas stations and car washes. If you don’t know how much to inflate your tires to just check the sticker on your drivers door jamb. This will give you the recommended inflation pressures for the front and rear tires (see photo for reference).

As always – If you have any concerns with the job or anything you’ve seen you should consult your local mechanic or automotive shop and get an expert opinion!

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