Thursday, September 24, 2015

BMW's run-flat tire scam

I'm mad. What you are looking at is my fourth flat tire in the 14 months or so that my wife and I have been leasing our 2014 Mini Cooper. At some point, it stops being an accident and starts being the car's fault. This just ain't right.

New Mini Coopers and even most regular BMW's come with run-flat tires standard - in fact, for the Mini, at least, there is no other option. (Or at least there wasn't when we ordered ours.) I finally figured out why with this flat tire, which was the first one to really hit 0 PSI and the first that had us calling up roadside assistance because of the horrible crunching noise that driving on it produced. It doesn't sound or feel much different than driving on any other flat. It's extremely disconcerting. It feels wrong, and like you're going to be shooting sparks any second.

Roadside assistance cheerfully told us that the two options we had were to drive it as it was, or to get ourselves towed - at our expense - to the nearest dealer. This despite the fact that our non-S Mini Cooper actually does have a spare tire - a fact that I know from actually looking at it and asking the dealer "is that a spare tire?", not that you'd ever know from reading the manual, which has no useful information on the subject whatsoever. (Sadly, the foresight to look up things on the internet like "how to remove the spare tire" and "where to place the jack" prior to actually needing to know eluded me.)

It finally dawned on me that the run-flats are a way to keep BMW from having to send someone out to change tires. It's a cost-cutting scam that's now literally cost me $1,000 and one very unsafe trip home driving through the streets of Manhattan, over the Williamsburgh Bridge and through Brooklyn and Queens on a flat tire.

See, I've discovered that the big problem with run-flats is that they would rather be flat than filled with air. I have never had a flat tire on any other car I've owned. It's just not something that I think of as possible, or at least it's something that happens to people with old tires who don't fill them properly. I'm a tire maintenance freak; I check and maintain air pressure religiously, and with any little strange noise I will replace a tire. So four flat tires in 14 months on the same car means the tires are physically defective. This just should not happen.

I don't know how this isn't national news, to be honest. Every time I've gone to the dealer, every single person in the room seems to be asking their service adviser what's wrong with their tires. I don't think I've heard anyone have a problem other than a flat tire - and usually it's not their first.

This is singlehandedly going to keep me from buying another BMW/Mini.

It's also convinced me not to lease anymore either. If I wanted to replace all four tires, I'd have to do it from a Mini-approved list, the cheapest of which is about $175.

Anyone want to take over my lease? I'm serious.

About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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