Snow melts, bulbs sprout, and the breeze loses its bite. When this happens, it’s time to think about taking off your winter tires and replacing them with summer tires. This article will tell you why to change your tires, when to do it, and what to expect during the process.
You may wonder why you need to go to the trouble of swapping out your winter tires for summer ones, since you’ll just be putting the winter ones back on again in several months anyway. But leaving your winter tires on when the temperatures rise isn’t a good idea.
Winter tires are made of softer rubber compounds designed to remain pliable and grippy even in frigid conditions. Along with their tread pattern, this plasticity is what makes them especially adapted to winter conditions and keeps you safe in snow, slush, and ice. But it also makes them inherently softer than a summer tire, which will last far longer in the shimmering heat of summer blacktops.
Giving an exact, universal date for when to put on your summer tires is obviously impossible given the variety of climates and weather conditions across the country. In general, the last snow across most of the central Midwest and Eastern Seaboard is in March, while farther north the final flakes tend to fly in April. In the West many places can even average their last snow in early May. In general, it is better to leave your tires on for slightly longer than seems necessary so you don’t end up spinning out in a surprise spring blizzard.
If you have studded snow tires, it is important to keep in mind that most states have a cutoff date for changing to summer tires, and after that date you could get fined for continuing to run your studded tires (since they can wear out the road surface). This cutoff is anywhere from the last day of March to the last day of May, with an average deadline of sometime in April.
The best time to put your winter tires back on also varies widely based on location. Mountainous Western states and other Northern states usually see their first snow in October, while farther south and towards the coasts it usually holds off until November or even December.
Again, these are average first dates, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and stay a step ahead of any early storms by doing your winter tire change slightly on the early side. The earliest date that states with stud restrictions allow studded tires to go back on vehicles ranges from October 1st to mid-November.
Costs for mounting and balancing all four tires range from $60 to $150. Be sure to call ahead to get a quote before visiting the service center. If you have a second set of rims, the tires don’t have to be mounted and dismounted from the rims each time, and the cost will probably be one fourth to one half as much. Leaving your tires on a second set of rims also gives you the option of swapping your tires out yourself if you want to.
You’ll need to consult your vehicle manual and follow the steps it indicates for how to change the tires of your specific make and model. You’ll most likely need just two tools: a jack and a lug wrench. If you prefer not to do it yourself, contact your nearest tire dealer for assistance.
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