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Insider tip: Putting on winter tires the easy way

Consumer Reports News: November 08, 2010 04:39 PM

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Even though I own a house with a steep driveway in the Northeast, many people think I'm crazy for not having all-wheel drive. The car of choice for my wife is a 2006 Toyota Prius—not exactly a machine known for its all-weather prowess. But all-wheel drive would do little to help keep my wife and kids safe in the bad weather. While all-wheel drive might help her get up the driveway, it would do nothing to help her get down it safely or help her stop to prevent an accident. So instead of getting an all-wheel drive car or SUV, we purchased a set of four winter tires mounted on wheels for our Prius from an online retailer for just under $500 shipped. Normally I'd suggest steel wheels, but we got a set of alloys on closeout for an even cheaper price than steels.

Two-tires-in-back-of-Prius

I've recommended pre-mounted winter tires for many people, but most often are reluctant to change their wheels in their driveways themselves - especially in cold weather.  But here's the trick: I don't, and you don't have to either. Just like many cars, our Prius needs an oil change twice a year, based on how we drive. It's very easy to find a coupon for a shop that offers an "Oil Change and Tire Rotation." For such a shop, it is no more difficult to put on the mounted winter tires than to rotate the tires on the car. As I do every spring and fall, I drove over to a local shop with two wheels and tires in the trunk, and two on the floor of the back seats. (Of course I put them in garbage bags to keep my wife's car clean.)  Sixteen bucks and 30 minutes later, our Prius was now shod in snow shoes.

Fast forward to this morning and our steep driveway is covered in snow. I drove down first in our Audi A4 Quattro test car. Going down the icy driveway was, well, exciting at best in the all-wheel drive car. My wife was next in the Prius with winter tires. She didn't slip or slide at all. I called my wife at work and asked her how her commute was on the icy soup that comprised the Connecticut roads. She only wondered why everyone was driving so slowly, as her sure-footed Prius had no problems at all.

See our winter tire buying advice and Ratings. And our complete guide to winter driving.

 And read the results from our recent tire survey.

Jake Fisher

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