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Car Talk

Bigger wheels are no deal in this case

Dear Tom and Ray:

I live in Albany, N.Y., and I own a 2009 Dodge Journey, all-wheel drive, with 19-inch wheels and tires. I didn’t realize it at the time, but getting these optional huge wheels has made it impossible to find winter tires. So I have to buy another set of smaller, 17-inch wheels to put my winter tires on. Here’s my question: The car has a tire-pressure monitoring system that tells me when the pressure is low in one of the tires. Do I have to buy new tire-pressure sensors for each of these new wheels, or can I get by without them? Or can I buy a cheaper, aftermarket system? — Kevin

RAY: Those 19-inch wheels looked really great in the showroom, didn’t they, Kevin? What you don’t realize when you buy monstrous wheels is that (A) it’s going to cost you a fortune to buy replacement or snow tires for them, and (B) you’re going to feel every cigarette butt in the road.

TOM: We understand your desire to save money, Kevin, especially since you already spent $600 upgrading to those 19-inch wheels. But we can’t recommend that you save cash by disabling the tire-pressure monitoring system.

RAY: The sensors can be expensive. For some cars, they’re several hundred dollars each! In that case, an aftermarket system may make sense. But in your case, the original Dodge sensors are not that pricey.

TOM: At the dealership, they’ll cost you about 50 bucks each. Figure on spending about $300 to buy four of them and have them installed and programmed on your new set of wheels (the computer has to be told which particular wheel each sensor is monitoring).

RAY: You have to do it, Kevin. Most people think that having a tire with low pressure is no big deal. But it can create a cascade of problems.

TOM: When a tire’s pressure falls, that tire’s sidewall flexes more than it should. If nothing else, that compromises the car’s handling.

RAY: And if you keep driving on an underinflated tire, the deformation can lead to an intense buildup of heat. Excessive heat can lead to belt separation and a “catastrophic” tire failure —better known as a blowout.

TOM: And if you think driving on 19-inch tires is exciting, wait ‘til you have a blowout and go asphalt over teakettle into a nearby pine forest.

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Stop the madness! You can stop driving like a knucklehead, and you’ll help your car in the process. Learn how your driving habits can harm your car in Tom and Ray’s pamphlet “Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even Knowing It!” Send $4.75 (check or money order) to Ruin, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.

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Get more Click and Clack in their new book, “Ask Click and Clack: Answers from Car Talk.” Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper, or e-mail them by visiting the Car Talk Web site at www.cartalk.com.

(c) 2009 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman Distributed by King Features

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