Is it a bad idea using alloy wheels as the winter set?

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Jan 29, 2012
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On a Ford Ranger, I have a set of 225/75R16 winter tires on 16" alloy wheels that I mounted 6 years ago and it seems like in the last few years I've been getting random small leaks at the bead or at the valve stem. I bought these rims used, but personally wire brushed the surfaces clean before installing these tires.

The summer tire set is a 225/70R15 which is on the 15" OE steel rims and I'm thinking about using this set for the winter instead as these tires will need replacing soon. I would then run the existing 16" winter set for the summer and burn them out as the compound has started to get hard for the winter anyways. Problem is, both 225/70R15 (which makes the truck look dinky) and the beefier 235/75R15 don't seem to be common sizes for winter tires. Many AT/MT tires in this size though.

What do you guys think? Is it pretty much a bad idea to be using alloys for winter service? I'd like to use the existing 15" rims for winter service, just weird that the selection in winter truck tires for that size seems limited.
 
No I don't think they're bad. But what I would do for a set ran through winter, is after cleaning where the bead sits, put some tire sealer.
 
I have the factory aluminum wheels on my Ford Ranger that I use to plow snow with, only sees a couple hundred miles a year. I dont remember what size it runs but I have Falken Wildpeak AT3W tires on it that are 2 winters old and zero issues with snow traction. I generally run an AT tire on my trucks because I am far too lazy to deal with summer/winter changeover on my own vehicles. I am also bad about checking tires on my vehicles unless I have the vehicle in the air for service and have not had to add unusual amounts of air to the tires on the aluminum wheels
 
I’ve been doing it 25+ years. No problem. Steelies are ugly and alloys are relatively cheap.
 
it depend. if you have very long severe winter , steel wheels are better. they are heavier and in winter you want traction. i have 17 inches alloy wheels on my 2023 Mazda cx-5 signature and they are not terrible. my car has too much torque and when there is a snow storm and lot of snow, traction is very poor. wheels are simply too light. heavy steel wheels are much better and more sturdy. traction is much better. if your winter conditions are mild. alloy wheels are fine. when i come back from Florida, i will have 17 inches steel wheels installed.
 
Not necessarily. I've been running winter tires on the same set of 16" alloy Subaru OEM wheels for 10, going on 11 winters now. I've never had any problems with leakage.

The only problem I've had that could be related to alloy wheels and not steel wheels, is a temporary severe out of balance condition, when frozen slush builds up on the inside of the wheel "barrel". This has happened to me a couple times when I have driven through very deep, slushy conditions. Then I have let the car sit outside, and the slush become uneven between the top and bottom of the wheel, and freezes up.

But this is an easily corrected and easily avoidable condition. It is corrected by pulling over and knocking the frozen slush out of the wheel. It is avoided by inspecting for it before heading out, after driving in these conditions. Since steel wheel design is different, I suspect there would be no "barrel" surface for the slush to build up on, so they should never have this condition.

I have also found that a good set of used alloy wheels can actually be bought for less than a new set of steel wheels. Personally, I'm not a big fan of used steel wheels, since they are usually covered with rust patches all over. But your luck may vary.
 
i forgot to add that oem alloys wheels are fine. they are more often than not quite heavy and will give good traction. but in my case, they are very light 17 aftermarket wheels. extremely light. traction is mediocre.
 
it depend. if you have very long severe winter , steel wheels are better. they are heavier and in winter you want traction. i have 17 inches alloy wheels on my 2023 Mazda cx-5 signature and they are not terrible. my car has too much torque and when there is a snow storm and lot of snow, traction is very poor. wheels are simply too light. heavy steel wheels are much better and more sturdy. traction is much better. if your winter conditions are mild. alloy wheels are fine. when i come back from Florida, i will have 17 inches steel wheels installed.

I'm not sure I buy your theory. How much is the 3-5# difference between steel and alloy wheel really going to make, when added or subtracted to the overall vehicle weight. You could make more difference than that by keeping the fuel tank full, or throwing a bag of salt or sand in the trunk.

Are you thinking that un-sprung weight contributes to added traction? I've never seen or heard of anything of the sort.
 
I'm not sure I buy your theory. How much is the 3-5# difference between steel and alloy wheel really going to make, when added or subtracted to the overall vehicle weight.

My thoughts exactly. I'm trying to decide if I should run winters on my 16" alloy vs 15" steel wheels and I'm pretty sure the 16's are heavier. Either way, there's other variables too like tire size & weight (eg. I can run overall larger tires on the 16's vs the 15's). Weight really isn't a concern as this is a truck so I can easily put sandbangs in the back for the bad days.

I'm moreso getting frustrated at all the little slow leaks that have been springing up...usually discovering them at the worst possible time when it's -30C out.
 
I'm not sure I buy your theory. How much is the 3-5# difference between steel and alloy wheel really going to make, when added or subtracted to the overall vehicle weight. You could make more difference than that by keeping the fuel tank full, or throwing a bag of salt or sand in the trunk.

Are you thinking that un-sprung weight contributes to added traction? I've never seen or heard of anything of the sort.
my wheels are 16 pounds each versus 29 pounds stock. try having traction with that during a snowstorm in northern Quebec. with 320 pounds feet of torque in a fairly light vehicle.
 
Can't see an issue, other than it bucks the norm. Which came into being when steelies were cheaper by far.

Rock the cheaper path.
 
Can't see an issue, other than it bucks the norm. Which came into being when steelies were cheaper by far.

Rock the cheaper path.

Agreed. New steel wheels can run anywhere from $50 for a cheap one to $90 for a good one. I can find a set of OEM alloy wheels, that are in good shape and much nicer looking, for $200 - $250. I suspect depending on car brand, they can be found for even less.
 
Because I like to go against the grain, I use the OE alloys for winter and cheap steel wheels for summer. Furthermore, I put 0w-20 in my old Subaru because I was warned not to go so thin.

So there :unsure:
 
Not a bad idea at all :)

In fact, alloy is less susceptible to salt and rust than steel :sneaky:

In your case, I'd be more concerned about the different diameters :cautious:

What is the stock tire size?
If 225/70-15, you'd go down to 215/80-14 or up to 245/60-16
If 225/75-16, go down to 215/85-15 or up to 245/70-16
 
Agreed. New steel wheels can run anywhere from $50 for a cheap one to $90 for a good one. I can find a set of OEM alloy wheels, that are in good shape and much nicer looking, for $200 - $250. I suspect depending on car brand, they can be found for even less.
I try to keep an eye on CL when I need a set for OEM steelies, 'cuz I'm a sucker for OEM fit. [On a Toyota though the hub centric designs is no joke in the rustbelt! those suckers will freeze on you.] $200 isn't a bad price for a set these days, although I'm getting partial to the steelie look.

I don't see a lot of banged up alloys, I'd think people would be flipping those after curbing them. Maybe NH just doesn't have enough curbs?

Seems like many cars these days don't come with steel rims at all. That surely doesn't help.
 
You reminded me of something. When I bought used tires for my Subaru, the seller included some alloy wheels off a Ford. I just listed the set of 4 for $50 yesterday, just to get rid of them. They're being picked up tomorrow. (y)
 
Been doing it for over 20 years. I have been fortunate to always find some kind of OE alloy wheel set up to use as my winter set.

The key isn't avoiding using alloy wheels in the winter, it's CLEANING the wheels and the car when the winter is over before you put things away for the summer. My current 2011's wheels have seen 12 salty winter seasons and look basically new.
 
I use Alloys and Steel depending what was available. Old vehicles (Civic, Malibu, Sonata) came with steel and hubcaps. I found steel rims cheap so they got the snows with same hubcaps. Explorer, Sequoia, CRV, Pilot, Accord came with alloys, I found factory for most from same or comparable model to use for winter. After about 12 years the Sequoia ones started looking beat. Cleaned them good, scuffed the surface, rattle can silver, good to go.

The Sonata I found 17" alloys from an Elantra, they became my summers. They fit my Accord with a hub ring so became my summer rims on that. The factory 16" Accord alloy rims became the winter set.
 
Another factor - steel wheels are more malleable when cold, so if you accidentally side-swipe a curb or hit a hidden pothole they will tend to bend and buckle, whereas an alloy wheel can crack. A bent wheel may still hold pressure and get you home but a cracked wheel won't.
 
Once alloys start to corrode and leak around the bead, its hard to get them to stop. I got some used OE alloy Mazda3 wheels for the Outback and for the first couple winters, there was no problems, but now every fall now I have to get one or two snow tires resealed and reseated on the rim, years ago we had the same issue on another set of alloys. I've never had steelies do that and will be going back to them, when these snow tires are done.
 
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