July: It's a great time of year to take off the snow tires.
Now that I'm 75 percent certain that there will not be another major snowstorm in the Northeast, I want to switch from snow tires to summer tires. Do I need to have them balanced and aligned, or can I just swap them out? -- Erin
RAY: They don't need to be aligned, Erin -- unless the mechanic is still trying to pay off his alignment machine. Alignment is something you do to the car, and it's independent of the tires.
TOM: But you DO have to balance the tires, unless your summer tires are mounted on their own set of wheels.
RAY: Balancing involves adding small weights to the inner and outer rims of the wheel to make up for the small inconsistencies in weight in different parts of the wheel-and-tire combination. If you didn't balance the tires, you'd probably notice a wobbling sensation or a vibration, particularly as the tires got up to higher speeds.
TOM: That's why we recommend that those of you who live in the freezer sections of the country consider buying four steel wheels when you buy your snow tires, and mounting the snows permanently on those four wheels. You can buy a set of used wheels for 150 dollars, or a new set for 250 dollars or so. And then you'll never have to mount or balance your snow tires or summer tires again. Just pull the winter tires off, toss the summer tires on and ... three weeks later, put the winter tires back on again.