The ubiquitous season is about to be upon us, and that means winter tires. Alternatively, you hit a tree branch and now you’re on the side of the highway. Time to change tire(s)!
Unless you are a body builder with laser-precise torque vision, you’re going to need a few things. First and foremost, a tire mounted on some sort of wheel that matches your vehicle, a floor jack (or scissor jack) and some jack stands, a decent sized ratchet with the appropriate sized socket for your lug nuts (the things that keep the wheel on the hub threads), a ½ drive torque wrench, and some caulks or anything heavy enough to block off the car when it’s jacked. A pneumatic impact wrench is nice to have on a job like this, but not necessary.
Some people opt to mount different tires on one set of wheels. While this is a good way to keep your car looking good all-year round, this method requires a large machine to remove and replace tires on a wheel. Die-hards will note that this is also possible by hand, but it can be difficult and much more likely to damage your wheel – and patience. A nice cheap set of black steel wheels (“steelies”) is a great way to minimise risk and cut down on the time for this job.
Start by parking the car in your flat service area of choice and remove any hub caps/nut covers. Take your ratchet (an impact gun or a breaker bar is helpful) and loosen the lug nuts without removing them. Now, make sure the car is in park (or in gear) with the handbrake on and with the opposite tire blocked off. Start to jack up the car by the pinch welds under the bodywork. These are usually indicated by little slots at either end of the car and are very obvious. Check your manual for specifics if you get lost. Lift the car enough to clear the ground and the new tires.
Remove the lug nuts completely and remove the wheel, being careful not to bang on any brake components in the process (don’t lift with your back!). A dolly comes in handy at this point. Older cars with older lug nuts might be tough to get on with some corrosion and you may want to spread a tiny amount of anti-seize to the base of the lug nut (or new lug nuts), as long as you make sure the lug nut threads (studs) are completely clean and dry. A good wipe with an old rag should do it.
Once you’ve mounted the new wheel on the studs (again, not using your back!), screw the lug nuts in by hand. You can even give it a couple of turns with a ratchet to make sure it stays snug to the hub. Lower the car. With your torque wrench, complete the tightening of the lug nuts. Most cars take between 80 and 100 ft.lb of torque. If your car has a five or more lug configuration, you will want to do this in a “star” pattern, i.e. tightening the lug nut opposite of the one previous. Make sure NOT to do the final tightening with a breaker bar or an impact wrench, a common mistake. Check your tire pressures and that’s it! (Mostly) ready for winter driving.