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Changing tires on your own? These tools can help

Changing tires is a tough job to do by hand. But these tools will help get the job done if you're changing to winter tires this season.

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Changing tires is a tough job to do by hand. Lug nuts on most vehicles are tightened to 100 lbs.-ft. of torque, so this is a serious chore – even more so if nuts are rusted in place.

Auto garages typically use compressed air-powered impact guns for this task, but many techs now opt for cordless tools instead. As an added benefit, cordless tools can “hit the road” rather than being tethered to the shop’s compressor.

With the annual winter tire changeover period upon us, I visited a recent tool show, along with master technician David Gerson of GB Auto Service in Thornhill, to assess some new cordless impact wrenches.

For the pros, the Milwaukee M18 cordless impact wrench claims 450 lbs.-ft. maximum torque, fast recharge (a half-hour to one hour), overload/overheat protection (auto shut-down), and a “no fade” 18-volt battery that provides consistent power throughout its useful charge.

More: The telltale signs it’s time to switch to winter tires

More: All-weather tire now a Canadian Tire story

It claims up to 40 per cent more run time, and 20 per cent more speed and torque.

This is a pro-grade tool, so Gerson wasn’t deterred by the $469 price tag or the 3 kg tool weight.

“It’s a serious tool that not only takes lug nuts off easily, but also has the torque to put them on properly using a torque-stick,” Gerson says. With this torque-limiting device, which isn’t included, impact guns must be run at full power to ensure lug nuts are on squarely and torqued correctly. Lug nuts will not be over-tightened when using the correct torque-stick for your vehicle, regardless of force used, he notes.

For the home mechanic/handyperson, we looked at the Ryobi P260 18-volt cordless impact wrench. It claims 200 lbs.-ft. maximum torque and has built-in LED lighting to illuminate your target area.

This consumer-grade tool is ideal for home projects (e.g. repairs, new deck, seasonal tire changeover) or changing a flat at roadside.

The Ryobi P260 is $119, for tool only, at Home Depot. You will require a battery and charger. These can be bought individually, but the cheapest way to get started is to purchase a Ryobi cordless tool kit (with batteries and charger) and then buy additional tools out of the 40 items available.

The Milwaukee M18 kit includes tool, hard case, two batteries and charger, and is sold at Home Depot and pro tool retailers. Impact sockets are sold separately.

When changing tires yourself, finish the job with a torque wrench (unless a torque-stick is used). Tighten nuts to the automaker’s specs.

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