For plenty of folks in the northern parts of the globe, when the leaves start to fall, the winter tires and wheels go on—and then as the birds begin to chirp in the spring, the summer rollers return. That seasonal tire swap routine can be downright essential to navigating snow- and ice-covered roads.

We wrote an entire article on the benefits of winter tires a while back, but if you’ve already made the jump to a dedicated set of seasonal tires, we figured this companion article would help.

That’s because you’re now faced with the conundrum of what to do with those unused wheels/tires in their respective offseasons. And improper storage can not only shorten the lifespan of your tires, they can make them unsafe to drive on—which kind of defeats the whole purpose of the snow tire thing to begin with.

Check out our five tips below, and if you have any of your own, we’d love to hear them. Please add your suggestions to the comments section at the bottom of this article.

While this daily driver wears sticky rubber on the stock 17 inch rims during the summer (seen up front here), when winter comes, it’s wearing 15 inch rims wrapped in Bridgestone Blizzaks (out back in this pic). Going to a smaller diameter wheel was a practical choice, as it can give you more snow tire options—and less expensive ones too. Just remember to check for brake caliper clearance if you’re thinking about downsizing your wheels for winter. (Image/OnAllCylinders)


5 Seasonal Winter/Summer Tire Storage Tips


1. Check for Proper Inflation (PSI) Before & After Install/Storage

man checking tire pressure psi on an old car
You can usually check the doorjamb of your vehicle or the tire sidewall for the recommended inflation pressure ratings, often measured in PSI. In our experience, it’s usually in the 30 PSI ballpark for a typical street tire, but always check to be sure. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

Look, this one was so obvious we debated even including it on the list—but since it’s also the most important facet of tire safety, it’d be a serious oversight not to put it at number one here. So yeah, check your tire pressure often.

Not only should you check the PSI on the tires that are going onto your vehicle, make sure you check the pressure on the tires going into storage. According to our pals at Goodyear, you should keep the PSI of the tires going into storage consistent with what the vehicle’s manufacturer recommends:

“Maintain Recommended Air Pressure. If your tires are left on the wheels for storage, maintain the vehicle manufacturer recommended air pressure.”

By checking your tires before and after they go into static storage, you’ll be able to monitor for potential leaks too. It might also be a good idea to check your stored tires every month or so, because if you do spot a leak, it’s a lot easier to drop off the offending tire for a repair during its downtime. Make sense?

If you’re not sure how to check you tire pressure, read this: Quick Tips for Checking Tire Pressure 


2. Clean Your Wheels & Tires Prior to Storage

A quality tire shine penetrates into the tire for a long-lasting effect. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

This may be another no-brainer, but a nonetheless vital one: Clean your tires and wheels before they go into seasonal storage.

This step serves two main purposes.

For starters, it removes the grit, grime, and contaminants that may eat away at your tires as they slumber. This is particularly important on winter tires, as they’ve likely endured miles of snow- and salt-strewn roads that can wreak havoc on the tire and wheel. As an added bonus, some tire cleaning products have UV blockers and other protectants to keep your rubber shielded during the offseason.

But Goodyear offers some smart advice on cleaning products too:

“Stay away from using any cleaning products that are petroleum-based, as the products may degrade the rubber’s weathering agents that may lead to premature cracking.”

Secondly, cleaning your tires helps you check for damage and unusual wear patterns. Make sure to notice anything awry prior to storage because, just like our note on inflation in point one, it means you have a chance to repair or resolve the issue while the other seasonal tires are on the vehicle.

And don’t just worry about the tires—give your wheels a thorough cleaning too. Since you’ll have unrestricted access to all the nooks-and-crannies behind the rim, a good cleaning can go a long way towards preventing gunky buildup that can permanently mar the wheel’s finish.


3. Note the Install/Removal Order

Your storage rotation system doesn’t have to be fancy. Even a simple label on your tire storage rack with the new install order can be a handy reminder when it’s time to swap tires for the next season, DF for “Driver’s Front,” DR for “Driver’s Rear,” and so on. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Don’t just yank your wheels off willy-nilly when the weather changes, take a note of the location of each wheel as you remove it. This will help you track and measure for any unusual, uneven tire wear. If you’ve got a toe, camber, or other suspension or alignment problem, the first place you may notice it is via your tire wear. And if you can isolate it down to a particular corner of the car, then you’re already well on your way to diagnosing and fixing the issue.

This tactic also means that you can treat each seasonal tire change as a built-in tire rotation schedule, which can go a long way to improving the tire’s useful life.

We’ve got a handy pair of infographics to help you out here:


4. Store Your Tires Properly

If you’re storing your mounted wheels/tires for an extended period of time, you can safely stack them on their side, vertically in a cool, dark spot. Put them in bags or wrap them in a cover. If your tires will be stored in lighted areas, seal them in opaque bags instead of clear here. In a perfect world, these Blizzaks should’ve been placed on a pallet or some wood blocks to keep them off the concrete floor. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

When it comes to storing your tires, there are a handful of variables. The fine folks over at Michelin have some in-depth guidance on the topic, but here’s a good summary.

First off, we’re assuming your seasonal tires will remain mounted on the wheels here, as unmounted tires have different storage demands.

Michelin recommends storing mounted tires by either laying them on their sides in a vertical stack, as pictured above or, if possible, hung vertically on wall-mounted hooks, like this:

Auto Dolly makes these handy wall hangers that let you store your tires vertically, up off the floor. (Image/Auto Dolly)

For unmounted tires, you can store them sitting vertically, side by side, in one of those wall-mounted wheel and tire storage racks.

The big thing to remember is to store them in a well ventilated, cool, and dry place—indoors if possible. Excess moisture can degrade tire compounds. Cover or wrap the tires, particularly if they’re stored outdoors, but make sure the bags are not completely sealed, as you want to let the tires “breathe” a bit to avoid moisture building inside. If the tires are exposed to sunlight, use dark, opaque bags (aka trash bags) to mitigate light degradation.

Stacking your tires on the ground? Put down some wood blocks to keep the tires off the floor to further prevent potential moisture ingress.

Finally, keep your tires away from any heat sources. Furnaces, boiler pipes, heck—even battery chargers, electric motors, and welders—anything that could potentially ignite the tire compound.


5. Peek Around to Inspect Your Chassis & Brakes

The seasonal wheel change is also the perfect opportunity to see if anything’s gone haywire in here. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Your wheel well is an epicenter of vehicle engineering, where brakes, suspension, steering, and drivetrain all converge to make your car move the way you want it to. That also means, if something’s wrong, there’s a good chance it’ll happen in here.

So you’ve got plenty of good reasons to cram your head in the wheel well and take a look around. Look for leaks from, say, a brake fitting or CV joint. Check for rust forming in the fender lips and see if there are any signs of unusual rubbing or impacts. Replace any of those pesky plastic body fasteners that may have fallen out of your splash shields too.

And this routine is perhaps most important as you bolt your summer tires back on. If our experience is any indication, winter is where rust and wear problems are born.

Stopping a problem before it starts is the name of the game here, and if you’re doing seasonal wheel/tire changes, you automatically get two chances a year to do this.


Got any more tips or tire storage hacks to share with us? Let us hear about it in the comments section below—we’re all about learning new tricks here.

Winter Snow Tires on a Wall Storage Rack
Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in an old Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.