DIY : Tesla Model 3 — Winter Tires DIY – Tom Harrison’s Blog

My Rear-Wheel Drive Model 3 now has new winter tires. I did it all myself.

I did the work myself, because hey, it’s just changing tires, right? Getting set up took some research and tools, so here’s what I got and how I did the change.

So far, I have only had one chance to drive the Model 3 RWD in slick weather, and unlike nearly all of the other reports, I was not impressed with handling or traction with all-season tires. Apparently our storm was particularly bad. But winter tires are mainly common sense in the northern parts of the world.

Check out why in this short video comparing all-season to winter tires.

Tesla charges $2000 for a winter-tire-and-wheel package for the 18″ Aeros, and this includes installation. This is a reasonable deal, actually. If this all sounds like a hassle, that’s the right move.

Remember, you’re only really paying for the wheels because you’ll need new tires eventually. I ordered mine from Tire Rack, and maybe saved a few hundred dollars. For me, it’s just more convenient to exchange summer and winter tires myself.

Tire alone versus tire + wheel package

Of course you can just get just tires to mount on the original rims. Instead, I got new wheels and TPMS monitors because:

  • Each time a tire is unmounted and remounted, it can damage the rims
  • Have to drop off my car, transport tires, and hope the place knows how to lift a Tesla
  • I am a cheap bastard
  • I can exchange one wheel for another myself, thank you very much.
  • More pros and cons here.

The rims are nice enough. Mine came with shiny lug nuts and a hub cover, and are set up to fit the car. With TPMS monitors, and the tires mounted and balanced, extra cost for wheels is $760. I bought a jack pad that fits the Model 3, and a torque wrench, too — not expensive — so I have made an $800 investment.

Assuming I save $100 per swap, with a twice-a-year change I’ll break even in four years. When I told my coworkers that I changed my own tires, they were impressed, and that’s worth something, right?

Tires, wheels, and tools

Tire Rack has a tool for selecting tires and wheels that fit your car. I got:

  • Michelin X-Ice XI3 Tires, 235/45R18
  • Tire Rack’s 18″ P8 Wheels

And some other things you’ll need:

Jack — I have one similar to this that worked just fine. Low profile needed for low cars like the Model 3. A scissor jack from another car might work, too.

Lug Wrench — Tesla uses 21mm lugs, same as most cars. $12 from Amazon.

Jack Pad (Puck)— fits the jack-point for the Model 3 so you don’t hurt the battery

Torque Wrench — let’s you tighten lugs just right, also includes sockets

How to exchange tires

Total time to change four tires and store the old ones was about an hour.

  1. Park on flat hard surface, turn wheels straight, and set the parking brake. Not a bad idea to block the wheels with some wood to prevent rolling.
  2. Slightly loosen each lug on the old wheel with lug wrench
  3. Locate the jack point, insert the jack pad (see below)
  4. Center the jack on the pad and lift the car just until tire is off the ground
  5. Remove 5 lugs and save. Slide off the wheel and note which it came from.
  6. Identify the correct side for new tire (mine were marked passenger/driver)
  7. Slide the wheel on, tighten the lugs by hand in a star pattern
  8. Using either wrench, make sure all five lugs are firmly set (no torque yet); the wheel should not wiggle or wobble
  9. Lower the car to the ground
  10. Set the torque wrench to 129 foot-pounds. Use an extension to avoid scraping new wheels. Tighten until the wrench clicks, again in a star pattern. Torque the nuts when the car’s off the jack since the effort of torquing could cause the car to fall off the jack.

Locating the jack points

It’s important that you lift the car from the right place so as not to damage the battery. There are special divots underneath the car that are the jacking points. You’ll need the rubber “puck” that has a plug sized to fit this divot. It’s about 8 inches behind the front wheel and a couple inches inboard. Same relative position in the rear. You should be able to feel the divot with a finger.

Some people seem to want to place the car on jack stands. This might be safer than just leaving the car jacked up for any long period of time, but to just change a wheel, it seems unnecessary to me. Make sure your jack is solid.

Store and label summer tires, lugnuts

I marked the position of each tire with marker as I removed it. I also recorded mileage. I have 3,200 miles on my car, so those tires are not ready for rotation yet — they’ll go back on the same spots in the spring.

Centering ring

My new wheels came with a centering ring that slides inside the part that mounts on the hub. I didn’t have to do anything special during installation, but when I remove the wheels this spring, this ring may not come off. Make sure to remove it, as the original wheels will not fit, otherwise.

Needed a thin socket for my spiffy new wheels

I used the lug wrench to remove the Tesla lug nuts, but it was too big to fit in the recessed holes in the new wheel. Fortunately the socket that came with my torque wrench was fine.

TPMS Reset

My car helpfully detected that I had new TPMS sensors after a few minutes, and let me reset them from the display. Sweet! It takes a few minutes of driving for all of this to occur.

Fill to 45 PSI

Tires were filled to around 30 psi, but Tesla specifies 45 psi (inside drivers door has spec).

Conclusions

I am no car mechanic, but I am handy with stuff like this. Obviously you’re not going to save any real money, so if it all sounds like a hassle, get the bits from your local shop and have them install. Or go Tesla.

Also, if there’s anything I have said here that is wrong or unsafe, please add to the comments or DM me!

And drive safely!

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