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March 4, 2014

Winter Tires, Winter Rims? RNR Weighs the Pros and Con

Dear Bree,

I’ve read a lot about winter tires/snow tires, but I haven’t seen anything about winter rims.  I know salt on roads can damage the finish of wheels if you don’t clean them regularly, but are there other reasons that I should I change my wheels in the winter?  Why or why not?  Thanks for the help!

Snowed In

Dear Snowed In,

There’s a case to be made for winter rims in places where you routinely deal with a lot of snow and ice on the roads for most of the winter months (which could be half the country this winter).  If you have aluminum wheels, you might consider switching them out for steel rims in the winter months when you have your snow tires on.  We know that sometimes making a “pros and cons” list helps people make a decision, so here’s one for you re: the winter rims argument.

Con: Steel rims are much more utilitarian, not quite the fashion statement that aluminum wheels can be.

Pro:  Steel rims are tough.  While you can still dent your steel rims just as often as aluminum, steel are much easier to repair—you can pound the dent out, whereas aluminum wheels tend to crack or break.

Con:  So far as salt on the road and damage goes, aluminum wheels might stand up to that damage a bit better that steel, which may rust and/or corrode.

Pro: Steel wheels tend to be cheaper if you need/want to replace them, and rust can be painted over and repaired fairly easily.

Con: Steel wheels are quite a bit heavier, so they decrease acceleration time, agility and fuel efficiency, and lower the vehicle’s center of gravity.  All of these things may add up to make you feel like you’re driving a tank.

Pro:  The extra weight of steel helps your tires bite the snow harder, and slower acceleration in snowy conditions is a good thing.  This is where driving a tank works for you.

Pro:  Metal contracts and expands with the ambient air temperature, but steel tends to expand and contract less than aluminum, so your tire pressure stays more consistent with steel rims.  Consistent tire pressure means better handling and fuel consumption, as well as longer tire life.

The long and short of it is this: If you’re living somewhere that snow tires in the winter months are a must, then think about winter rims as well.  Weigh the pros and cons, do some research, and feel free to come into any RNR location and talk to us about it.  We know our wheels and tires.:)

Luckily, this winter is beginning to close up shop and warmer temps are on their way.  You can take those snow tires off soon, put them away, and think about winter wheels while you soak up some summer sun.  In the meantime, stay safe on the road.


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