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Monday, December 22, 2014

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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August 14, 2006

Flat Tire

When it rains, it pours. Lately I've been blowing a lot of coin on the car in an effort to keep up on maintenance, complete the restoration, and equip my garage with the tools required to do as much work myself as possible. So you can imagine my displeasure when I came out Friday morning, hopped in, and felt the wheel pull hard to the right as I pulled out. I instantly knew I had a flat tire.

Fortunately, my blood pressure remained at textbook levels. Maybe my anger management is really paying off, or I'm getting better at rationalizing the money I spend on these cars. Or perhaps it was just the fact that I had a really nice second car available and it was a perfect day to drive it. I don't know, really. A quick survey revealed a screw planted firmly in the tread of the right front tire, and since no one (including my dealer) will patch high-performance tires out of fear of liability, I instantly knew this tire was headed for the dump. But, of course, things are never that simple.

The next day I began to think about my options. First of all, I knew I had to put the spare on the car at my earliest convenience, since a BMW with a flat tire is about as useful as a submarine with a screen door....or a tank with a kickstand (Thanks very much...I'll be here all week!). But then I remembered that the spare tire is a different make and model -- a Dunlop SP8000 to be precise -- so that wouldn't be a permanent solution.

(Image: Right front jacked up) Oddly enough, over the past couple of weeks I'd noticed the front tires starting to make that lovely "wah wah wah" sound exhibited by the last set. When this happened to the last set I thought it was a fluke, but it's apparently a design flaw. Given that the tires can't be rotated at this point and wear dictated I buy at LEAST two tires, I just decided I'd get ready for winter and put four new tires on the car now and kill several birds with one (very expensive) stone.

Of course, I'm not one to throw good money after bad. A couple of the rims are bent (albeit mildly) and the finish on three of the rims is in questionable shape (to be expected given the eight years of abuse they've taken on my daily driver), so I didn't want to mount another set of new tires on these rims. That got me to thinking about buying a new set.

One of my priorities in the restoration has been to maintain the stock look, so my first choice rim was the 17" BMW M-Contour, which came on the M3 of the same vintage. It's very clear that the M-Contour rim was designed specifically for the lines of the E36 so this was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, sticker shock dictated I avoid it and other BMW OE rims, as I had no intention of paying $2K ($400x5) for rims just to preserve the stock look -- which some might argue looks a bit dated at this point anyway. Fortunately, I stumbled on a rim that is a replica of a wheel that ships on a current model BMW, looks like it belongs on the car (which is saying a lot considering it's an 18" rim) and is the right price.

In fact I managed to acquire five rims and new rubber in 235/40, mounted, balanced, and shipped for less than the cost of a full set of M-Contour rims alone. No need to twist my arm. I'm all about using BMW OE parts, and I'm NOT into the bling of large rims and low-profile tires, but this was a hard deal to pass up. Some of you "in the know" have likely figured out which rims I'm talking about, but I'll leave the rest of you in suspense until I have time to take a full set of pictures.

That decision made, Saturday morning I put the car in the garage, jacked it up (for the first time without a lift, mind you) and swapped the flat tire for the spare. I had a bitch of a time breaking the wheel studs free with the wrench BMW provides with the car and I bruised my hand cranking on it, but I got the job done. With the spare on the car I torqued the studs to 80 ft*lbs, which is at the low end of BMW's recently updated torque spec of 87 +/- 7 ft*lbs. I quickly concluded that I didn't want to repeat the experience, so later in the afternoon I went to Eppy's and bought a SK 1/2" drive breaker bar with a 24" handle. That will hold me over until I equip the garage with air tools.

While I had the wheel off, I confirmed that I'll need brakes very shortly. I expect the brake-wear indicator to trip within the next month, at which point I plan to do brakes myself for the first time on this car. That will save about $500 in labor, which will go a long way toward paying for the tools necessary to do the job in the first place.

I'm expecting the new rims and tires at the end of this week or early next. Look for the photo spread soon.