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BMWs and wheel alignment

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BMWs and wheel alignment

Old 3rd Jan 2017, 19:23
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BMWs and wheel alignment

Just got three new tyres fitted to the 3 series. It's a 2010 E90, and needed two new rears (normal wear) and a drivers side front (badly scrubbed on the outside shoulder but otherwise about 2mm better than legal).

The left rear turned out to be nearly slick across the inside half, and four-wheel alignment (not the BMW KDS) showed that both it and the driverside front needed serious adjustment.

So, now the car feels great...steady and true. Only one minor (?) flaw...at the straight ahead, the steering wheel is a degree or two off to the LHS. And, there is a little drift in that direction. I was tempted to take it back to the tyre fitter to get the alignment done again. But I'm wondering could this just be the difference between worn passenger side and new driver side front tyres?

Any advice appreciated!
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 19:33
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Agree with Basil - if you're going to replace tire it's best to do in pairs (or all four). The difference in tire wear between the fronts could easily cause the car to pull to one side.

Easy to spend someone else's money, but if it was me I'd go back and get the fourth tire replaced as well.
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 19:34
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the difference between worn passenger side and new driver side front tyres?
They are different radii so one is going faster than the other at the same roadspeed. The smaller tyre finds it harder to run over the imperfections on the road so it drags in comparison with the larger tyre.

That's a good a theory as any.
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 19:46
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Thanks folks...makes sense.

It will be replaced in due course...with the next pay packet!

Actually fitted Davantis this time round, after having tried both Kumho and Hankook previously. The Davantis seem to be very quiet and comfortable.
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 19:51
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As I read it your tyre fitter put two new ones on the rear and left a worn tyre on the front. Can you tell us who it was so we can avoid him in the future.
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 20:12
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As I read it your tyre fitter put two new ones on the rear and left a worn tyre on the front. Can you tell us who it was so we can avoid him in the future.
How worn is worn?

The remaining tyre is perfectly legal, with significant life still available. The imbalance might be causing a slight drift, but it's hardly dangerous. In fact, I'm quite sure that manufacturers consider such a situation when designing.

Nonetheless, for comfort, it will be changed next month (although, do I then also need to change the one just replaced, as by that time it too will be worn? )
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 20:31
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Always best to buy new tyres in pairs (and fit to same axle!)
The part worn tyre on the front may well cause drift.
However, if the steering wheel is out, it was not centred (or it moved during the process).
Get the other new tyre soon, wear in one month will not be measurable, and get the alignment done again.
Flag this up with the tyre fitter now or you may find you will be accused of hitting a kerb or some-such and have to pay again.
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 22:32
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A part worn tyre is likely to have a different rolling resistance to a new one. Combined with the slight difference in rolling radius, I'm not surprised that the car feels unbalanced.

The latter is unlikely to be much different. If the wheel speeds were different across an axle, the tyre pressure warning system is likely to pick it up (which is how it detects a flat tyre).

I own an E90 and wouldn't ever want to replace just one tyre on an axle (nor on any other car, for that matter).
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 22:40
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Agreeing with all the other voices here.

If you truly are a keen driver, you certainly would like to replace pairs of tyres instead of singles. If you change only left tyre, it doesn't matter how legal your right tyre is: a keen and observant driver will feel the difference. Your used tyre has undergone material degradation even though the mm's are on the legal side. Sometimes this makes the used tyre softer, some rubber blends become harder with age.

BMWs are rear wheel drive so it makes sense that they are worn more on rear tyres, depending on how your driving style is, that could also account for the increased wear on the inside of the rear tyres. I find that regardless of rear or front wheel drive, "aggressive" drivers who use brakes and acceleration a lot tend to wear the insides more. I have no idea why this is, and alignments does not always erase this problem.

As for your replacement of the front pair of tyres, well that is a very hard question to answer. How far have you driven the car since tyre change? What surface are you mostly driving on (potholes, gravel, velvet asphalt etc)? What brand tyre is it? Do you have tyres for grip or for silence or for anti-aquaplaning or studded winter tyres (we have those in Sweden now, I don't know where you live...)?

If you are driving carefully on soft asphalt with a harder rubber blend I would guess you could get away with keeping the new front tyre and only change the old one, even though it is still legal.

If you are driving more like a true BMW driver on rough surfaces with lots of accelerations and hard braking and you are really concerned about your comfort levels, then you might need to change both.

Hope this helps!
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 22:43
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Thanks to all...the remaining tyre will be changed in the near future. And, hopefully, this will address the slight drift (and steering wheel angle) that prompted me to ask. Another alignment at the same time may be in order.
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 22:45
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First the declaration: simply put I'm a motor car engineer by training, specifically suspension systems. I spent many years sorting out suspension systems for motor sport applications, some very successful, others total flops

Second, I've been driving BMW's for 30 years. I'm kinda familiar with them...

My two cents on your predicament:

Three new tyres... first problem. They should be replaced in axle pairs - ie never an odd number. It can seem very wasteful to discard a non fully worn tyre but unless the pair are in balance grip wise you've compromised grip/handling/stability/safety take yer choice...

The problem is that any old tyre/combination will do... until you need to brake hard, swerve etc. It can be the difference in stopping suddenly! or skidding under the truck... Three meters is a long way under the rear end of a semi trailer...

Most Tyre centers are staffed by minimum wage guys, trying to do their best perhaps but totally ignorant of the nuances of modern cars and their requirements.

Scary part no 1: Most BMW Dealers will farm out tyre/alignment work to the nearest (cheapest) independent

Scary part no 2: Same goes for all manufacturers.

Key fact: BMW specify that weights are added to their cars during alignment, most places add the prescribed weight and get on with it, in fact, the weights are a guide to arriving at the required ride height, if weights are added but the ride height is not measured... not done right.

BMW make wonderful drivers cars, but they are uber dependent on skilled maintenance.

Buy new, trade in when the warranty expires would be my counsel for any modern car.

Left out a shed load of tech stuff for clarity, PM if you want more
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 22:50
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Thanks mini...sage words!
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Old 3rd Jan 2017, 22:50
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Maybe you could comment on my totally non-scientific experience based only on people I know and have talked to..

..but it seems that those who do much acceleration and braking often wear the insides of the tyres more than the outside, regardless of front/rear wheel drive. Alignments help somewhat with this, but never removes it completely.

What is your experience with this? Have I only spoken to the few unlucky that were mishandling their cars without knowing?
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Old 4th Jan 2017, 02:09
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mini! I wish I'd known your boney-fidoes a while back.

Hundreds of quid. Hours and hours of driving, arguing, arguing and driving. Jacking up. Seeking evidence before accusations of lying. Paying more. Saying Fuk a lot. (only to myself)

Still, I'm not convinced I've got my 635d twin turbo thingie perfect. After a main agent (yes, they used to farm out - to a company I used for half the price) used a 'dedicated ramp' and charged me 170. The kept the car all day and still the in' steering wheel was slightly left hand down. In desperation, I jacked the car up again and 'moved the rack across'. i.e., made fine adjustment to both sides so that it was like moving the rack.

It was a lot of footling for 1/8th of a turn but at last it was as near perfect as I could expect on a huge Germanic Lump.

Some cars seem to be arrow straight. Others seem to be crabbing. Only I notice these these errors. Well, only me 'n folk like mini, and many of the blokes on this forum.

Twice the Guru from the main dealership has come out with me and driven the car on the best roads they use all the time. He says it's okay.

In truth, I've only owned one car that was perfect. An 85 Supra before Lotus screwed it up. It had swivels made by Lockheed IIRC and after a year of touching perfection, it failed its MOT. Oddly by the dealership that was about to sell me the same model before I found mine at Toyota Wickford for much, much less.

These swivels were like large stainless egg cups fine-thread screwed into one-another. One having a ball, the other a cup. It turned out they had a dispensation for the lift, and the dealer didn't know. The dealer was an acquaintance, and I didn't want to go to battle with him. Don't know why, bloody would now.

Anyway, that was perfection. Also, the ratio was .000000000001 degree to cross the road. Loved that car.

The BMW 640 Grand coup I tried was pretty nifty. Should have been, it was 72,000, now only 12 grand more on the deal I finally got. Wish I'd gone that route but I didn't, and I didn't get a three stage sport mode sexy steering either. Very, very good, but fantastically complex and a nightmare when it goes T.U.

But back to mine. I now have 9 wheels for it. 5 12-spoke and 4 ? less. It is so nice going out not worrying about touching a curb or scrubbing million-quid tyres, I just have fun, and keep the Y-rated on 12 spokes for selling the darn thing.

When I become involved in technical niggles like this, I'm like a dog with a bone. However, one that I will need to just lie an gnaw for a while. Full of aesthetic and stitches tonight.

Bloody Nora. Just read that. Mostly true, but will come back when brain not partly numbed. It's a subject close to my heart.


Last edited by Loose rivets; 4th Jan 2017 at 02:27.
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Old 4th Jan 2017, 05:10
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In France, the big tyre garages will only permit you to change tyres in pairs, front or back, citing the law. Makes sense to me on my 520.

I got an exception last time because I drove out of the garage and the next morning ran over a nail. The garage was reluctant to replace one but I convinced them that the tyre had been changed there the previous day.

Also, I wanted tubed tyres for improved ride comfort but apparently the law says if the car is designed for run flats you cannot installed tubed and vice-versa.

Expensive but safer. Don't ask about driving standards.

Old 4th Jan 2017, 06:26
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Rotate tyres for even wear, replace all four when required, in my case min. 3 mm.
I would never consider driving with unmatched tyres, too much difference in behaviour, which you will find out at the exact moment you don't want to.
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Old 4th Jan 2017, 06:48
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Buy a good mattress and a good pair of shoes because you are in one or the other. Add tyres to the list as on an average car you have about 1 square foot of rubber in contact with the road at a time when you are doing 70mph in the wet with your family onboard.
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Old 4th Jan 2017, 07:34
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Why not start with the no cost option? Put the new rear tyres on the front and see if that cures the issue , ( check the tyre pressures ) !
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Old 4th Jan 2017, 09:44
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What worries me is not the tyres on my car. I can deal with them. It's the tyres on the car behind/beside me on the motorway that may not have been fitted or maintained properly. Especially in the wet when the car behind is following too closely.
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Old 4th Jan 2017, 10:14
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In Sweden it is part of getting our driving license to know tyre science. Maybe because it is so very important with all the snow, ice and large wildlife roaming around.

I thought, up till now, that everyone was this educated but seems I was wrong.

We have a mandatory test drive on a special ice road with real cars, some fitted with great tyres, others not so much. In order to pass this we have to do a few maneuvres that the teacher throws at us. Unless we pass this test, we can not get a driving license.
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