Ask about your options when shopping for winter tires

On page 2 of the October 20 Grainews, I wrote about buying winter tires for my car, a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica. I also said that I was looking for a set of used rims. In December, I ended up buying new steel rims instead. They were “on sale” at Canadian Tire for $138 each. Last year I had bought only the tires because new rims were $168 each at the time. I thought that was too much, so I just switched my winter tires onto my existing rims. My goal over the summer and fall was to find a used set of rims so I didn’t have to switch the tires over twice a year.

I tried to shop around but apparently 17-inch Pacifica-specific rims are rare. The Chrysler dealership in town said their rims would be way too expensive, and the service manager recommended I buy from a local tire shop. But that tire shop couldn’t even get Pacificasized rims from its supplier in B. C. So I called a big used parts store in Winnipeg, but it would have to bring in single rims from all around the country to make a set of four. I would have to pay shipping on each rim separately. I balked. So I went the Canadian Tire route.

My set of winter tires and rims cost me $1,700. They work great, and the peace of mind is worth the cost, but I could have saved a bundle if I had known one key fact ahead of time: Pacificas can take 16-inch wheels. I didn’t even think to ask this question when I bought the tires last year. I just ordered winter tires the same size as my all-season tires. I learned about the 16-inch option when shopping for rims, but by then I already had the tires.

Smaller tires and rims are much more common, and thus much cheaper. My dad has a 1997 Buick LeSabre with 15-inch wheels. He found used aluminum rims for $30 each at a wrecker, and his new winter tires were only about $50 each. He got a complete set for around $320.

It’s too late for me to change to 16-inch tires, but my one question, in hindsight, is whether I could have used 17-inch wheels in the summer and 16-inch rims in the winter. Does the speedometer has to be recalibrated for smaller wheels. Are there other more major issues? I posed the question to Jim Kerr. He answers it this issue in his rejuvenated “Backyard Mechanic” column on page 36.

—Jay Whetter

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