How would I change my own tires at home?
February 28, 2018 11:39 AM   Subscribe

We change our tires seasonally from all-weather to winter snow tires. If I wanted to do this at home, what tools, equipment and skills would I need to have?

I have two vehicles that we currently take to the Local Discount Tire Place twice a year for them to change out the tires between all-season and winter snow tires. We only have one set of rims for each car, so they swap out the tires each time.

If I wanted to do this at home easily, what tools would I need? Would it be best to just get a separate set of rims for each vehicle? The machine they use to mount the wheel on the rim seems like a big deal. Is there some mess with disengaging brakes or whatever inside the wheel, or is it more like, just unbolt and pull off?

Do you do this yourself? Is it worth saving a couple hundred a year?
posted by odinsdream to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
A friend of mine does this himself, but he has the winter tires on their own rims, so it's just a case of jacking up the car and changing the tires on your own, just like if you had a flat and were putting the donut on.
posted by Grither at 11:41 AM on February 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


I've watched my neighbor across the street and his buddy do motorcycle tires, and based on that I can't imagine that it isn't cheaper to pay someone else who has the big-ass machine that does this automagically to put the tire on the rim. It's more involved than changing a bike tire, and requires a hell of a lot more force.

But if you had your own set of wheels then it's just a jack and a wrench, like Grither says.
posted by straw at 11:44 AM on February 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Switching the tire on a rim is a huge pain in the ass at home without specialized Tire Store Equipment. It *can* be done -- I had done it on a single tire which had a cut sidewall, and had a spare tire (sans rim) of the right size in my garage -- and setting the bead of the tire on the rim is difficult without a nice air compressor and some method to help position it all. Also, breaking the bead, pulling the rim out of the tire, also difficult to do without specialized tools.

If I were you, I would call your friendly neighborhood junkyard, order four rims for the snowtires (or summer tires) for a couple hundred bucks -- then get the tires put on the rims once, then you can store the tires at home, on rims, and switch out with a jack and a tire iron.
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:46 AM on February 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


I think the trickiest aspect of mounting a tire on a rim is balancing the tire. An unbalanced tire will cause lots of vibration in your car at speed.

You can get a set of rims for your snow tires and swap out the tire / rim combo at home pretty easily. The real expense in that option is not the rims but the in-wheel tire air pressure sensors (a set of 4 generally running about $1k).

It’s for the cost of the air pressure sensors that I just pay to have tires mounted on rims twice a year. If I knew I would be hanging onto the wheels for a decade, I’d get a dedicated set of second rims for the snow tires.
posted by Doc_Sock at 11:47 AM on February 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Oh, yeah, we do have TPMS on each vehicle.
posted by odinsdream at 11:48 AM on February 28, 2018


You need to get another set of rims. Go to the local junkyard and get some steelies. There is a machine to change tires out for a reason. It is is possible to do it at home but even I take it to a shop and I was a mechanic for 25 years. The likelihood of damaging the tires comes into play too, not worth it. You should be able to get a whole set for under $100 a car. If you have nice factory aluminum rims, just ask for steel rims from the base model of the manufacturer, each manufacturer uses it's own lug spacing.

Once you get the rims, all you will need are a pair of jack stands and if you want to be fancy a rolling floor jack. Always use jack stands when working on a car in the air on your driveway. Always, do not trust floor jacks. They can kill you. You can use the jack that came with the car but they are just usable enough to function. A 1/2"-drive ratchet and deep-well socket of the correct size is nice to have too but not required. Harbor Freight has package sales that are a pair of stands and a jack for around $150.
posted by peewinkle at 11:57 AM on February 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


Oh, other than that, yes, it's straight-forward. Unblot, remove, switch, bolt on. The hardest part is jacking the car up.
posted by peewinkle at 11:59 AM on February 28, 2018


If I get rims without TPMS sensors, will the car care? If I *do* get sensors, does that mean each time they need to be re-paired to the car or something?
posted by odinsdream at 12:00 PM on February 28, 2018


If you get rims without sensors, the worst that happens on any car I've driven is that the TPMS light stays on forever. It's a mild annoyance, but unlike many other missing/broken sensors, it shouldn't cause any other issues.

But yes, if you have them already mounted and balanced, all you need at home to swap tires easily is a floor jack, jack stands (optional if you take extra care to never position yourself in a way that you will be crushed should the jack fail), a decent wrench, and maybe an air compressor. You can get tools that will suffice for this occasional use very cheaply from someplace like Harbor Freight. I'd expect $200 would make it easy.

Also, depending on what kind of car you have, it may be worth looking into whether you can get a cheap CAN bus interface to easily change the TPMS pairing on your car (You can get a module and the Toyota software on Amazon for $30 or less). If you can and also can find a set of sensors cheaply at a junkyard an extra 5-10 minutes each time you swap will save you from having to ignore the annoying yellow light all winter. But yes, they do have to be re-paired every time. I haven't seen any cars that will remember more than 5 sensors at a once (the extra is for a full size spare), and adding more usually pushes the first one out.
posted by wierdo at 12:12 PM on February 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have been doing this myself, but the last time I did it, I destroyed some tools. The tires had been rotated by a dealership and the bolts were tightened WAY too much. Presumably, if I were doing my own tire rotations as well, this wouldn't be an issue.

Some auto parts stores have free loaner tools available. Advance Auto Parts, for instance, will lend out torque wrenches (one of which was among the tools I destroyed)
posted by mkb at 12:18 PM on February 28, 2018


No sensors gets you a warning on the dash. Re-pairing is generally easy but model specific. Non OEM sensors are generally much cheaper than $1000 a set.

Minimum tools are the jack and wrench supplied with your car. An hydraulic floor jack, a ratchet wrench and socket and an electric or air impact will make the job go a lot faster and will minimize wear on your emergency tools. The rims need to be torqued after 100kms or so but generally tire shops will do that for free or at nominal cost.

peewinkle: "Always use jack stands when working on a car in the air on your driveway. Always, do not trust floor jacks."

When only changing tires you are not sticking anything under the car so stands aren't required (and because you generally have to reach under the jack only supported car to place remove them actually introduce a hazard).
posted by Mitheral at 12:18 PM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


You can get a little keyfob-sized gadget to reset the TPMS sensors from vendors such as Tire Rack. Just point it near the valve stem and hold the button for 5 seconds.

Steel rims for winter tires are very difficult to find for sizes over 17 inches. You may have to shell out for aluminum rims.

Do not attempt to mount tires on rims at home. I did this once about 45 years ago. It took me and a friend about three hours and the neighbor we did it for gave us three bucks.
posted by leaper at 12:56 PM on February 28, 2018


I have a Toyota Sienna and Nissan Leaf and have winter tires on their own rims, and I swap them myself each season. I'm a bit persnickety so I have TPMS sensors in the winter rims and reprogram the cars to recognize them so I don't have to see the TPMS light on my dash.

The steps needed to reprogram the car to recognize the sensors varies wildly and depends on the car's make and model. It can range from just pressing a hidden button behind the dash to having to connect to the car's computer with a pirated version of the factory service software that can only run on Windows XP. The latter is what I have to do on my Sienna, and it's a pain. The process on the Leaf is a little funny – I use an app on my phone with a Bluetooth OBD-II dongle to put the car into TPMS learning mode, then set each tire at a specific pressure and drive around a bit. There are TPMS reprogramming tools that can reprogram your car with relatively little fuss once you've set them up, but they only work with cars from certain manufacturers.

I've also heard of reprogramming the TPMS sensors themselves so both sets of wheels have the same IDs, which I assume a tire shop can do. If I had to do it over again, I'd probably just do that.
posted by zsazsa at 1:34 PM on February 28, 2018


Depending on what kind of car you have, the TPMS system may be able to talk to more than one set of sensors. On my 2009 Lexus RX350, there's a switch in the passenger footwell under the glove box to select winter vs summer tires.
posted by bradf at 1:49 PM on February 28, 2018


And some cars (the VW Mk7 Golf family at least, so probably some Audis too) have no TPMS sensors per se but instead figure tire pressure indirectly by measuring wheel rotation to indicate size.
posted by exogenous at 2:27 PM on February 28, 2018


I have been doing this myself, but the last time I did it, I destroyed some tools.[...] torque wrenches (one of which was among the tools I destroyed)

You presumably know this now, but never use a torque wrench to loosen a bolt.
posted by spacewrench at 2:48 PM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


Jack stands when changing out your tires one at a time serves no purpose and complicates the whole process way more than it needs to be. But if you want this to take longer, with no added benefit, go right ahead.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:32 PM on February 28, 2018


Put each set of tires on it's own rims, then all you need is a jack and a tire iron. The cross-shaped tire irons are worth the slight extra dollars, and make sure you have a stable jack that'll be sturdy enough for your vehicle.

It's a really common tactic in the PNW for those who detest the long lines at Les Schwabs... because most of us wait to put the winter tires on til the last minute when we actually need them. ;)
posted by stormyteal at 5:21 PM on February 28, 2018


Basic equipment - car jack, one (or two) jack stands, tire iron, torque wrench.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 5:34 PM on February 28, 2018


All the recommended "optional" tools people are talking about are 100% worth it, and I would add a breaker bar to use for loosening rusty nuts! Saves the back something fierce.
posted by Poldo at 5:40 PM on February 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Jack stands when changing out your tires one at a time serves no purpose and complicates the whole process way more than it needs to be. But if you want this to take longer, with no added benefit, go right ahead.

Yet a pair of them enables you to only jack the car up twice if you have an appropriately rated floor jack and know how to put the jack stands in place without putting yourself under the car at all. (and have a level surface on which to work!)

Maybe that doesn't save you time, but it takes me longer to jack one corner than it does to place and remove a pair of jack stands, so it shaves a few minutes off the process and is good practice anyway. It's far too easy to end up with a body part under the car enough to at least get a nasty bruise if not a broken bone should the jack fail or the car slips off or whatever.
posted by wierdo at 6:52 PM on February 28, 2018


My tire store does this for me *for free* every year because I bought the winter tires from them.
Do not attempt this. You will ruin something.
Call around to see who will comp this if you buy their tires.
posted by littlewater at 6:59 PM on February 28, 2018


Do not attempt this. You will ruin something.

No you won't
posted by humboldt32 at 11:22 AM on March 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


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