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They are there for the fuel economy, you might lose some MPGs, but driving in the snow and up and down mountains will have more of an impact than aerodynamic resistance and if I was dealing with mountains, I'd probably decide to do what you are planning to do.

Are they easy to take off and put back on? I haven't done had to pull mine off yet, do they just yank off or do you use a tool? I'm assuming you are pulling them off to put the chains on and then putting them back on when you remove them.
 

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I took a look through the manual and saw that there were the two screws along the bottom on each side that faced outwards. The manual made them look like you unscrew them from the inside but it wasn't until I looked at them from the outside of the car that it seemed like you actually unscrew them from the outside of the wheel well. Seems easy enough.
 
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