To improve road safety, many jurisdictions have adopted laws requiring snow tires during the winter months, but for many, seasonal tire changes also bring considerable expense and inconvenience. Switching tires is not as difficult as many people think. A straightforward task that’s well within the skills of most, it requires only a few basic tools, sparing you a trip to the garage twice a year. That’s why we’ve put together this selection of dependable products to assist not only with changing tires, but also storing the off-season set. All are highly recommended.
If you store your own tires, you know just how dirty you (and the inside of your car) can get when transporting them. That’s why we like these storage bags so much − they completely cover the tread and sidewalls to keep brake dust and road grime off of clothes and upholstery. The bags are very well made with tough, wear-resistant materials and robust stitching. Hook-and-loop closure strips and adjustable, quick release cinch straps make it easy to custom-fit the bags to your tires. Each has a stitched carrying handle. A diagram printed on the side of each bag has a write-on label to indicate the last position of the tire, taking out the guesswork when it’s time to mount it again. Sold in a set of four to fit 13" to 20" tires.
What’s in a Number?
If you’ve ever inspected the sidewall of a tire, you’ve likely noticed a series of numbers and letters such as 195/65R15 or 205/60R16. These indicate the tire size. The first three numbers (A) refer to the tire cross-section width in millimetres. The second set of numbers (B) indicates the aspect ratio expressed as a percentage (e.g., 65 indicates that the height of the tire is 65% of its cross-section width). The letter indicates how the tire was constructed (R = radial) and the last two digits (C) indicate the rim size in inches.
Switching to snow tires for the winter months certainly increases road safety, but also creates an inevitable storage challenge – you must find a place to keep the tires that are not in use. Sturdy in construction and economically priced, these racks are ideal for the job. Both are made from steel with a powder-coat finish to resist wear and rust.
The standard rack accommodates tires up to 26" in diameter and supports up to 300 lb, while the larger heavy-duty rack holds tires up to 36" in diameter and 375 lb. A horizontal bar at the rear of the large rack helps prevent tires from marring the wall. Both racks are width adjustable from about 30" to 48" to custom fit your tires or a given space. Installation is straightforward (all mounting hardware included). A practical, reliable means of keeping your off-season tires off the garage floor and out of the way.
Just How Old Is Your Tire?
Tires made in the year 2000 or later have a DOT (Department of Transportation) code, and the last four digits of that code indicate the date of manufacture. The first two numbers represent the week in which the tire was made; the second two represent the year. For example, a tire with a DOT code of 1317 was made in the 13th week of 2017. If your tire has a three-digit code, it was made prior to 2000.
Concentrated Citrus Cleaner
Made from citrus extracts, this concentrated biodegradable cleaner dissolves stuck-on gum, tar, and label and sticker glues, removes grease and oil stains, and clears pine sap or bugs from a windshield, to mention only a few.
While some natural cleaning products are more well-intentioned than effective, this one really works. It even has a pleasant citrus scent. Can be diluted with water for lighter duties or used undiluted for heavier applications. Made in Canada.
Few of us check our tire pressure as often as we should. These compact gauges give quick readings (in psi, bar, kg/cm² or kPa), accurate to ±1%. Each has an easy-to-read backlit LCD screen, and an LED near the tip that helps when fitting the gauge onto a valve stem in poor light. The 0 to 100 psi gauge is designed for use on standard car, truck and bike tires, as well as the low-pressure tires found on ATVs and riding mowers; it runs on three included button-cell batteries. The 0 to 150 psi version is the gauge you want for the specialized high-pressure tires found on RVs and transport trucks. It can also be used on the high-pressure tires typically found on road bikes with narrow tires, but requires a Presta valve adapter (not included). It runs on two included AAA batteries and has a built-in LED flashlight, an emergency window breaker and a seatbelt cutter. Convenient, reliable gauges.
Always measure tire pressure when the tires are cold (close to ambient air temperature). If tire pressure is checked when hot, readings can be as much as 6 psi higher than if checked when cold. An underinflated tire wears more quickly, decreases handling performance and increases fuel consumption. Don’t forget to regularly check your spare tire too.
Flexzilla Pneumatic Hoses
If you use air tools, you know that the hoses supplied with most compressors are stiff, unwieldy and prone to twists and tangles. In our tests, we found this one remarkably easy to handle. Made from a strong but supple advanced polymer blend, it has virtually no spool memory, so it uncoils neatly, lies flat in use, and won’t recoil spontaneously. Highly resistant to splitting and abrasion, it remains flexible in temperatures as low as -40°F/°C, and can withstand pressure to 300 psi. We offer it in 25' and 50' lengths in a high-visibility color that is easy to spot underfoot, so it’s less likely to snare the unwary. Durable plastic kink-eliminator cuffs reduce strain at the hose ends. Each 3/8" I.D. hose has threaded aluminum fittings at either end that connect to standard 1/4" NPT couplers and plugs, for a secure press-fit connection to pneumatic tools.
Seven-Piece Pneumatic Coupler & Plug Set
This seven-piece set of zinc-plated steel quick-change couplers includes standard 1/4" male and female NPT couplers, as well as three male and two female industrial plugs, allowing you to easily retrofit various pneumatic tools for secure press-fit connection to an air hose. Exceptional value for fittings of this quality.
If Archimedes* had owned a car, this tool would have been in his trunk. Just shy of 24" long, this breaker bar provides enough leverage to loosen the most stubborn lug bolt; no more stomping on the end of a chintzy OEM tire wrench to try to apply more force. Made of strong, polished chrome-molybdenum steel, it has a swivelling 1/2" head with a ball detent. Just add a 2" or 3" extension and the appropriate socket for your lug nuts, and you’re good to go. It’s just the right tool for the job.
* “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”
24" Torque Wrench
While everyone understands the problem presented by a loose nut, is it less common to recognize that “too tight” can be just as problematic. A torque wrench lets you know when you have tightened a nut appropriately. This 24" long 1/2"-drive wrench can be adjusted to signal an applied torque from 50 to 250 lb·ft;* the typical torque setting for lug nuts on a passenger vehicle is between 60 and 160 lb·ft, with most in the range of 80 to 100 lb·ft. Just set the desired torque by holding the shaft and turning the handle to the correct setting, and tighten the nut as you would using a regular socket wrench. When you reach the correct torque, the head will click and slip – a tactile and audible signal that you’re done.
* Accurate to ±4%.
Torque: The term “torque” is used to describe the twisting force that is applied to an object. For instance, when you are tightening or loosening a fastener such as a lug nut using a wrench, you are applying torque to twist the fastener. Because our torque wrench is 24” long, you don’t need much strength to use it. This is because the amount of force required to apply torque decreases as the length of the wrench arm increases. For example, 20 lb·ft of torque equals 20 lb of force being applied to a 1’ long wrench arm. With a 2’ long wrench arm, you would need only 10 lb of force.
Hand A: 20 lb·ft torque: pulling with 20 lb force at 1’ from the fastener.
Hand B: 20 lb·ft torque: pulling with 10 lb force at 2’ from the fastener.
Impact Flip Socket Set
If you change your own tires, this is a great impact socket set to have on hand. Developed to fit the six most common lug nut sizes found on vehicles today, the four-piece 1/2" drive set includes a 3" extension bar plus three double-ended sockets: 17mm & 19mm, 3/4" & 13/16" and 21mm & 7/8". The thin-wall sockets provide improved clearance in lug-nut openings, and have etched markings for visibility and durability. Sockets are made of chrome-moly; the extension is chrome-vanadium.