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Rob's Garage

Can I ignore my BMW's tire pressure monitoring system? Add to ...

TPM and Wheels

Hello Rob, I have a new BMW X3 SUV with tire pressure monitors and “run flat” all-season tires on BMW wheels.

I was wondering about my winter tire options. Given the number of potholes on the roads and chances for sliding into curbs under icy winter conditions, I had always been told that alloy wheels were not recommended in the winter and that steel wheels and winter tires are recommended. I do see the value in using winter tires for the extra traction. I currently have a set of four steel wheels and Bridgestone winter tires that I used on a previous vehicle. The sizing of the wheels and tires would work on the current BMW.

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However, the steel wheels do not have the TPMS and the tires are not “run flat”. Does that make a difference to the vehicle? My previous vehicle (which also had TPMS) did not care and would just show a warning on the dashboard about no communication with the TPMS. However, the BMW seems to have a high level of sophistication when it comes to the TPMS. I plan to ask the local dealership this same question but suspect they may tell me I need to install TPMS and they would gladly sell me a new set of wheels and tires for $1000s.


Thanks, Russell

Your question touches on what is quickly becoming one of my most popular auto maintenance topics, and I wish I had a short answer for you.

When a car owner makes any type of modification to a new vehicle, it is always best to talk to the manufacturer – and I don’t mean the dealer. Send a note or an e-mail to:

BMW Canada 50 Ultimate Drive Richmond Hill, Ontario L4S 0C8 Phone: 1-800-567-2691 http://www.bmw.ca/ca/en/general/contact/contact.html

There are aftermarket manufacturers of TPMSs but the trick is to find one that communicates with the factory installed system. If you can’t find one, you may have to resort to buying from the dealership.

You may find out that the manufacturer will support using non-TPMS wheels. The problem is they may balk at any warranty claim that could possibly be traced back to the non-TPMS wheels.

The good news is that TPMS sensors can be installed as part of the tire valve and stem assembly. The other good news is that the normal operation of the vehicle will not be affected by the absence of TPMS. As you have mentioned, you will just have to put up with the TPMS warning lamp remaining illuminated.

In your case, you may certainly drive with conventional tires instead of run-flats, but if you don’t store a spare tire in the vehicle and you have a flat, you’re hooped. In most cases, run-flats are installed because there simply is no place to locate a spare tire. With your X3, you be challenged to find room for a spare.

So Russell, the final decision becomes personal, philosophic and pragmatic. I wish I could tell you definitively which way to go, but there are many factors to consider when modifying a new vehicle, especially considering the possible effects to your warranty.

Send your auto maintenance and repair questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

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