What’s Winter Doing to Your Wheels and Tires? RNR Explains.

Protect your wheels from salt and brake dust!

Protect your wheels from salt and brake dust!

Winter is officially here, and your wheels and tires are feeling it.  With winter, at least in our mid-Atlantic, western and northern states, comes snow and ice–as well as salt on the roads, potholes, and drastic temperature changes.  Combined, these new road conditions and hazards can wreak havoc on your wheels and tires unless you’re vigilant.

What to Watch for on Your Wheels and Tires

Wheels and tires can take a beating during the winter months.  Salt on your car, if left there to do its corrosive work, can eat away at the finish on your custom wheels, leaving them scratched, chipped, and dull.  And you don’t want that.  Our suggestion: First, wax your wheels regularly.  Wheel wax works just like the wax on your car–it makes the wheels shinier and makes it harder for brake dust, dirt and salt to adhere to the wheels’ surface.  If you wax your wheels regularly, the only thing you should have to use to clean them is water.  Another option is a product like  Pinnacle Black Label Diamond Wheel Coating, which covers your wheels with a rock-hard, impenetrable, protective coating (and it lasts for up to 18 months!).  Road salt, brake dust, tar and oil worries are a thing of the past with this coating, so it’s a great way to protect your custom wheels if you live in the frozen North.

Cleaning your wheels and tires during the winter is important, as well.  Since moisture is the active ingredient in the whole corrosive process of salt, you may think that once the salt dries, it won’t hurt the finish of your wheels (or the paint on the rest of your vehicle), but you’re wrong.  Moisture (or humidity) in the air gives the salt all it needs to keep that process going, so wash it off.  Keep an eye on the weather forecast and pick warm days to clean your car.  We suggest, if you want or need to use a car wash, that you frequent a do-it-yourself wash with high-pressure hoses so you can blast away the salt on the undercarriage of your car, as well as the backs of your wheels and under-wheel wells.  Being thorough is the best bet when it comes to protecting your wheels.

Out of Whack Alignment

Winter’s camouflaging effects on potholes and other hazards can scuff up wheels and muck up alignments.  Maybe you can’t tell just how close that curb is because of the snow piled on it, or maybe that puddle is deeper than it looks because it filled in a brand-new pothole (hitting potholes can also weaken the sidewalls of your tires, so beware!).  Any of these things and more are enough to knock your alignment out of whack (and scuff your wheels!).  Something to remember: You may not always feel that tell-tale pulling that comes with an uneven alignment, so keep an eye to your tires for uneven wear.  One more thing–build up of salt and other debris on brakes can cause them to bind; you’ll see this on your tires as well, in premature and uneven wear.

Temperatures Drop and So Does Tire Pressure

Cold temperatures can cause your tires to lose pressure, sometimes in a big way.  Over the long-term, low tire pressure can cause uneven wear on tires and a shorter life span, but in the immediate, it can also cause handling problems.  Your TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) will let you know when your tires get too low, but they won’t alert you until your tire is 25% lower than it should be.  We suggest vigilance; take a minute to check your tire pressure every now and then–don’t wait for your TPMS.  Better yet, we suggest nitrogen fill for your tires.  Nitrogen keeps tire pressure more constant and keeps pressure fluctuations due to temperature changes to a minimum.  To learn more about nitrogen fill for tires, click here.

Tires tell the story, whether it’s low pressure, brake problems or alignment issues, and during the winter months, they can develop quite a story to tell.  Keep an eye on them and listen to their stories.  And since we know you’ve put a lot of time, energy and cash into the custom wheels on your car or truck, be forward thinking.  Wax them or coat them before the season starts and maintain them during the winter months.  With some TLC, your wheels can stay looking brand new for a very long time.  If you’re looking for some maintenance tips or recommendations for wheel and tire protectants, come see us at RNR.  We’ve got lots of ideas and know the best products on the market–we can help!


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