Tire maintenance & safety

The truth about your vehicle’s rims and winter [+7 care tips]

A snow covered winter tire and rim, driving through a few inches of snow.
Last updated 10/17/2022 - Originally published 9/28/2020
Written by SimpleTire

Harsh winter conditions can wreak havoc on your rims.

Proper care and maintenance are your best defense against cold-weather-related damage. The truth is, there are some persistent myths and common misconceptions when it comes to winter rim care. Knowing how to care for your rims when the weather turns cold is the first step.

Here are some things you can do to preserve your rims. But first...

The effects of winter on rims

Winter arrives with some of the most challenging conditions for drivers. Not only do extreme weather conditions increase the risks of driving in the cold season, but moisture and corrosive road salt mean extra wear and tear on your rims as well (especially chrome rims).

There are two common rims on the road today: alloy and steel. Both rim types have their own useful features and characteristics.

Unfortunately, they also share a common enemy, corrosion. Winter conditions can spell destructive corrosion without preparation and maintenance.

Car wash worker cleaning a cars rims and tire

7 care tips for your vehicle’s rims this winter

Proper care and maintenance of your rims can keep them in top shape throughout the year. Understanding basic seasonal maintenance adds life and longevity to your rims in any season, but in winter, it's critical.

These seven tips will help you mitigate damage and maintain peak performance season after season.

1. Clean and inspect your rims

The first step of installing your winter tires or approaching the winter season is thoroughly inspecting your rims.

Look for signs of rust or vulnerable points where rust could begin. Clean your rims at the beginning of the winter season and start your winter tire installation correctly.

2. Proper corrosion prevention

Timely and thorough treatment is the only way to beat rust before it's too late. The first step of proper rust treatment is removal. Sand surface rust and finish with paint (if needed) and anti-rust treatment.

These treatments stop corrosion in its tracks and prevent new spots from forming. Addressing rust early can save you time, money, and frustration in the future.

Washing rims with the proper cleaners and coatings

3. Permanent protective coatings

One simple way to protect your rims in winter is to apply a permanent protective coating to the bare steel or alloy of your wheel. There are several options at varying price points. You may choose to have them powder-coated at a shop or take an inexpensive DIY approach.

No matter how it's applied, a barrier between your rim and hard winter conditions is your first line of defense against damage.

4. Temporary protective products

Permanent coatings aren't the only option for protecting rims from the corrosive winter elements. There are many products on the market that provide a temporary coating for short-term protection. Most automotive retailers carry a selection of waxes and sealants that can alleviate the impact of cold-weather driving.

5. Frequent salt removal

One of the most common threats of winter driving is road salt. It's a necessary safety precaution to combat the risk of losing traction in slippery winter conditions.

As helpful as salt is, it can also hasten corrosion of steel and alloy rims. Frequently cleaning your rims to remove salt will minimize its corrosive effect on your wheels.

6. Moisture management

Water is part of life in cold winter conditions. Extreme weather can leave your rims under the constant bombardment of moisture. It's critical for the longevity of your rims to manage the moisture they're exposed to.


Park within sheltered locations whenever necessary and dry your rims when practical.

Driver filling his tire with air using a compressor

7. Maintain proper tire air pressure

A myth persists that winter tires should be kept at a lower air pressure than their all-weather counterparts. This is inaccurate information that can prove disastrous to your rims.

Proper rim care means always keeping your tires inflated to recommended manufacturer levels. Most tire makers recommend keeping tires inflated to between 32 and 35 pounds per square inch of pressure, but check your car’s recommended pressure and stick to that if running the correct OEM tire sizes.

Winter wheels and tires

Winter-specific rims are built to stand up to the rugged conditions of winter driving and get the most out of dedicated winter tires. All-season tires may seem like a bargain but they can't offer the same performance in winter conditions as seasonal tires.

Winter tires are designed to handle the toughest driving conditions. Deeper treads help tires grip in sleet, snow, and ice. Small slits in the edges of the tread called supes give the tire's surface more grip.

Even the rubber that winter tires are made from is designed for peak performance at temperatures below 45 degrees.

Combining a winter wheel assembly with seasonal tires provides several benefits:

  • Dedicated winter rims save your summer set from unnecessary wear and tear.
  • Rotating rims and tires seasonally means both sets will last longer.
  • Utilizing winter rims and tires can increase the safety of your vehicle.

Complete winter wheel assemblies are mounted and balanced for simple and straightforward installation. Installing a winter wheel assembly is a quick and easy way to boost the safety and performance of your vehicle this winter season. There are several benefits of a dedicated winter wheel assembly over winter tires alone.

Rims are often pretreated with a protective coating. Rather than painting or coat your existing all-season rims, you may prefer to buy a dedicated set that doesn't require further modification.

Some drivers prefer to use different sizes of tires for summer driving activities. This is an easy preference to accommodate with season-specific rims.

Red vehicle driving in snow with studded winter tires

Winter driving is a fact of life in cold climates. The extreme weather and harsh conditions of the season cost unprepared drivers time and money in unnecessary vehicle wear and repair.

A little bit of preparation and preventative maintenance can spell the difference between a safe and enjoyable season or a lot of headaches and aggravation.

Save yourself some time and energy by preparing for the cold months before temperatures drop. Understanding what challenges winter conditions pose to your rims is the first step in getting through the season with your wheels intact.

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