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Friday, September 19, 2014

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Snow Tire Remounted on Refinished Style 30 Wheel

Earlier this week I received my latest order from Tischer but when I first saw the tiny envelope that arrived I figured either Tischer had developed a groundbreaking way to compress aluminum wheels for shipping purposes or they neglected to include the wheel I ordered. The enclosed invoice clearly listed the wheel as one of the line items and I was charged for it yet it was nowhere in sight. Later that day I sent an email to Jason and he eventually replied to tell me that 1) as it turns out the Style 30 wheel is no longer available from BMW and 2) his people screwed up and should not have completed the order and charged me for something that did not ship. He promised to issue a credit for the missing wheel so I really didn't give the billing error another thought.

I did, however, begin to mull over what to do given that I still needed a replacement Style 30 wheel. I recalled speaking with the guys at Wheel Collision Center, a wheel refinishing shop near Allentown, PA some time ago so I browsed their website for a Style 30 wheel and called them to discuss my options.

(Image: Refurbished style 30 wheel remounted on Dunlop Winter Sport M3)The guy who answered the phone was helpful. He quickly pointed out that they had a few of those wheels in stock and could refinish and deliver one for me in 3-4 business days. He offered to sell me a refinished wheel outright for $185 or an exchange for $155. Always out for a bargin I decided to purchase the wheel in exchange, in which case they would send me the refinished wheel out of their stock, charge me the outright price, and the issue a $30 credit when they received the damaged wheel in the same box. After $20 in shipping costs plus tax I wound up with a bill for $220, $10 more than the price I would have paid BMW for a new wheel, but actually $20 cheaper overall than I would have paid Tischer to ship the new one to me. So I was ahead of the game at this point, if only by a few dollars.

The wheel arrived Thursday so I drove it and the damaged wheel over to my dealer technician Friday morning. I explained what I needed and told him that there was no rush. When I asked him what service advisor I should see to square up he said "don't worry about it...you buy enough stuff around here!". While my bank account can certainly attest to that statement I don't expect anyone to do work for me for free, yet he offered just the same. I think that says a lot about how important it is to develop a good relationship with your local BMW technician, or for that matter, good relationships with good people in general. I thanked him for the gesture, wished him a good weekend and ducked out the door on my way to work.

After running a few errands I picked up the newly mounted tire today and it looks great. In fact, that's the problem. The guy at Wheel Collision kindly warned me about how much nicer the new wheel would look in comparison to the old so I knew this going in, but the unintended consequence of this work is that I've decided to keep my old wheel for now and drive the entire set to Wheel Collision in the spring so they can straighten, refinish and color match them. After all, Style 30's are no longer available so I have an added incentive to keep them in great shape.

Check Engine Light

While on the way to the dealer today the Check Engine light illuminated again. I was cruising with the sunroof open and began to smell gasoline as I slowed to a stop at each traffic light. My diagnostic subroutine kicked in and I quickly deduced that because the engine was running smoothly and the fuel gauge wasn't dropping quickly I figured I didn't have a massive fuel leak, so I decided to continue the last ten miles to the dealer and have them look at it.

Upon arrival I asked one of the techs if he could pull the codes. He attached the latest version of the BMW diagnostic computer (Software Service Station, or SSS) and started a full read of all modules. He then instinctually walked over to the gas cap and removed it and showed me where one part of the gasket was more wet than the surrounding area. And then it dawned on me. Sure enough, I had filled up the tank the prior night, the moron at the station evidently failed to reseat the cap properly (again) and the pressurized gas vapor was leaking through the seal, condensing to some extent. The end result: a fuel system leak and a Check Engine light.

The SSS seemed to take forever and a day to complete its scan (certainly longer than the GT1 it replaced) but it eventually confirmed the fuel system leak. The tech then issued the command to reset all codes, reinstalled the gas cap and I was back on my way.

This experience has highlighted two things:

  1. The IQ and/or attentiveness of gas station attendants continues to drop and I didn't think that was physically possible. I suppose the only way to prevent this is to double-check the cap on all future fill-up or perhaps move to a state where the gubmint deems me smart enough to fuel my own vehicle.
  2. I need to buy a diagnostic solution like AutoEnginuity so I can begin to do more diagnostics work myself. At $500 for the BMW-specific package plus the cost of a laptop it's an expensive tool but no less important than anything else in my toolbox.

The Typical BMW Buyer

While my car sat outside one of the bays connected to the SSS, a couple in their 40's pulled up in the monstrosity more commonly known as the X5. They quickly managed to divert the attention of the tech helping me to tell him that they were experiencing a possible leak in one of the tires. They admitted that the left rear tire was "making noise" and they stopped a few miles up the road to fill it up, but that the tire pressure monitoring (TPM) system was still complaining.

I didn't catch the entire conversation that ensued between the tech and this couple, but the gist appeared to involve a complaint about how the TPM system worked. My ear perked up, however, when the woman concluded one of her points with the observation that this was a "fifty thousand dollar vehicle". Now pretending to be distracted with my own car I couldn't help but roll my eyes in disbelief that these two rocket scientists believed that the TPM system was obviously at fault when it in fact correctly highlighted a persistent loss or differential in tire pressure. These people obviously did not own a tire gauge and therefore did not necessarily fill the low tire up to the correct pressure or check the OTHER tires to make sure they were up to the same pressure.

The technician, obviously experienced in dealing with the moronic masses, diplomatically asked all the right questions, made all the right recommendations, and even offered to put the vehicle up on a lift for free to check for damage to the tire (he found none). I couldn't help but think of the irony here: TPM systems were mandated in this country because lots of stupid useless people bought a bunch of overweight Stupid Useless Vehicles (SUVs), never bothered to check tire pressure, and then had the balls to sue everyone in sight when their tires blew out, the vehicles rolled over and exploded. And yet these are the very same people that complain about the system when it correctly points out the fact that they are not doing even the most basic of maintenance procedures -- checking their tire pressure on a regular basis.

And now, because of what has become the "typical BMW buyer" I can't even buy a new BMW that weighs less than 3000 lbs, lacks a turbocharged engine developing less than 300 horsepower (necessary to haul all that extra weight around and meet magazine friendly performance numbers), gets more then 30 MPG and has a frickin' dipstick to allow me to check my engine and transmission oil quickly and easily. Thanks, morons. Thanks a lot.

Mileage: 199000, Parts: $220, Parts Saved: $20