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Ask a mechanic: A wheel of a winter tire question

By Brian Early Wheels.ca

Oct 2, 2022 3 min. read

Article was updated 2 months ago

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Dear Ask a Mechanic,

Three years ago, I bought winter tires and put them on the cast aluminum wheels of the Nissan Murano SUV I was leasing. I had a three-year lease and planned to trade the vehicle at the end of it. However, I have now bought out the lease and plan to keep the Murano for two or three more years. The winter tires have had little use. What should I do this winter, keep the cast aluminum wheels or change to steel rims. – Winter wonderer

Bravo for being among the enlightened folks that go to the trouble and expense of buying winter tires for a leased vehicle. Unfortunately, I can’t give you a solid answer on whether you should purchase a set of steel-rim wheels because there are important variables that come into play.

The first is that you don’t mention what size your factory wheels (and thus the winter tires) are. You did note, however, that you’ve bought out your three-year lease, so I’m going to assume that it’s either a 2019 or 2020 model, giving us only two possibilities: 18-inch (which come with the S and SV trim) or 20-inch wheels (which come with the SL and Platinum models).

If your Murano came with 18-inch wheels, it is possible to buy steel wheels that have the correct bolt pattern and centre bore (the size of the hole in the centre). On the other hand, if your factory wheels are 20 inches, you’re out of luck for buying steel wheels. I did some digging, and it does not appear you can buy 20-inch steel wheels with a compatible bolt pattern for the Murano.

That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. You could buy alloy wheels in the appropriate size and fit instead. Aftermarket aluminum wheels have become far more affordable than they were historically. Finding a used set of factory wheels – which are not only guaranteed to fit properly and use the original nuts but will probably be of superior quality – is another alternative.

Having your winter tires mounted on a dedicated set of wheels has several benefits. Among these is reduced wear and tear and a lower risk of damaging the tires when they are being mounted or dismounted. You also will not be exposing your factory alloy wheels to salt corrosion, and, in the long-term, it will cost you less money.

The labour involved to remove and reinstall tires on a set of wheels and then rebalance them is substantially higher than simply exchanging mounted sets – often triple or quadruple the amount. Even with the added cost of needing four additional tire pressure sensors, after few seasonal swaps, the wheels will typically pay for themselves.

It will be up to you to decide whether buying a set of wheels will benefit you financially for the remaining two or three years you plan to keep the Murano.

Ask a Mechanic is written by Brian Early, a Red Seal-certified automotive technician. You can send your questions to wheels@thestar.ca. These answers are for informational purposes only. Please consult a certified mechanic before having any work done to your vehicle.

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