Con­sider mi­nus-siz­ing when buy­ing sec­ond set of wheels


The safest way to tackle win­ter driv­ing con­di­tions is with a set of qual­ity win­ter tires. Tires are the sin­gle most im­por­tant safety fea­ture of any ve­hi­cle. They are the only point where your ve­hi­cle touches the road. Tires de­ter­mine how well you can turn, stop or get un­der­way.

The ef­fec­tive­ness of all the elec­tronic safety aids, from an­tilock brakes to sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol, de­pends on the grip pro­vided by the tires. To max­i­mize that grip, you need tires suited to con­di­tions. For win­ter that means win­ter tires. Th­ese used to be called snow tires, but that term no longer ap­plies. Snow tires had an ag­gres­sive grip for deal­ing with snow. Win­ter tires rely on sci­ence to cope not only with snow, but ice, slush and both wet and dry sur­faces.

The dif­fer­ence is tem­per­a­ture. The new gen­er­a­tion of win­ter tires is com­pounded and de­signed to deal with ex­tremely low tem­per­a­tures. As the tem­per­a­ture drops be­low about seven de­grees Cel­sius, all-sea­son and sum­mer tires be­come hard and lose their ef­fec­tive­ness. Win­ter tires come into their own at this point.

When con­sid­er­ing the pur­chase of win­ter tires you have to deal with the lo­gis­tics of own­ing two sets of tires. You can swap into win­ter tires be­fore the sea­son and out of them at the end. This re­quires pay­ing for mount­ing, bal­anc­ing etcetera, twice a year. Or you can opt for a sec­ond set of wheels for the win­ter tires. While this ini­tial ex­pense is a con­sid­er­a­tion, it is off­set against the re­peated costs of swap­ping sum­mer and win­ter tires on the same wheels. If you plan to keep your ve­hi­cle for more than a cou­ple of years, the ex­tra set of wheels may make more sense.

Not only are they eas­ier to swap twice a year, they take up the same amount of space when stor­ing as tires alone, and elim­i­nate the dam­age caused to the fancy orig­i­nal equip­ment wheels that came with your ve­hi­cle, by salt and harsh win­ter con­di­tions.

Hav­ing de­cided to opt for a sec­ond set of wheels here is a tip – mi­nus size them.

Mi­nus siz­ing com­bines taller tires (that have equiv­a­lent load ca­pac­i­ties and over­all di­am­e­ter) with smaller di­am­e­ter wheels. There are four dis­tinct ad­van­tages to mi­nus siz­ing: 1. The nar­rower tire has an eas­ier job cut­ting through deep snow and slush; 2. The taller side­wall of the win­ter tire pro­vides a greater cush­ion against dam­age to the ex­pen­sive al­loy wheel and sus­pen­sion from pot­holes and strik­ing curbs etcetera; 3. The same taller side­wall will also im­prove the ride; and 4. The nar­rower tire and smaller wheel are both less ex­pen­sive than larger wheels and wider tires.

Wheels are widely avail­able from the ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer; tire stores and af­ter­mar­ket stores like Cana­dian Tire. A care­ful read of the own­ers’ man­ual or sales brochure for your ve­hi­cle will likely re­veal that it came with sev­eral dif­fer­ent size wheels. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, as you move up the trim and cost lad­der, the wheels get big­ger and fancier. This means if you have any­thing other than the most ba­sic model, the man­u­fac­turer has al­ready spec­i­fied which wheels and re­lated tire size will safely fit your ve­hi­cle. No wor­ries about proper bolt pat­terns, clear­ing the brakes or caus­ing the tires to rub against the body or sus­pen­sion parts.

It is not un­com­mon for a ve­hi­cle to be avail­able with at least three dif­fer­ent wheel/tire sizes from the fac­tory. For ex­am­ple, the 2018 Kia Forte LX sedan comes with 15inch steel wheels and 195/65 tires. The EX trim comes with 16-inch al­loy wheels, and 205/55 tires and the EX lux­ury with 17-inch al­loys, and 215/45 tires. Swap ei­ther of the al­loys for the base model steel wheels, and tire size, and you’ll have Mi­nus-sized.

In the first case, the steel wheels are one-inch smaller in di­am­e­ter, the tire side­walls one-half inch taller and the tire 10-mm nar­rower. In the sec­ond the steel wheel is two inches smaller, the tire side­wall one-inch taller and the tires 20-mm nar­rower. Yet all have ex­actly the same over­all di­am­e­ter, en­sur­ing the speedome­ter, odome­ter and all safety de­vices work as en­gi­neered.

Warn­ing, make sure the wheel you choose cor­rectly fits your ve­hi­cle. That in­cludes not only size, but also the off­set and bolt pat­tern. If pur­chas­ing from some­one other than the ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer, be wary of buy­ing wheels with­out know­ing they will fit prop­erly. Trusted brand name parts stores and tire deal­ers will know the cor­rect fit for your ve­hi­cle. Buy­ing used wheels is not a good idea be­cause you don’t know if they have been dam­aged at some point.


Win­ter tires rely on sci­ence to cope not only with snow, but ice, slush and both wet and dry sur­faces.


Tires are the sin­gle most im­por­tant safety fea­ture of any ve­hi­cle.

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