Piston Slap: Extra Rims for a Simplier Life?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap extra rims for a simplier life

TTAC Commentator talkstoanimals writes:


Much to my dismay, in less than a year my job will move from downtown Washington, DC to suburban Maryland. This means I will be forced to drive to work every day rather than being able to rely on the Metro system for the work commute. Currently, my main ride is a 2011 BMW 135i with the M Sport package and some Dinan tweaks. However, since it does occasionally snow and sleet around here, and since I’m unwilling to sell the 135 or swap the summer treads for all season rubber (I regularly flog the car out in the twisties of VA/WV and prefer the feel of summers out there), I’m presented with a twist on the new or used question. Should I:

1. Invest in a set of winter tires, perhaps in a minus 1 size on dedicated wheels? This would require that I rent storage for the wheels/tires not in use or move out of my apartment to someplace with dirty item storage space. I could maybe beg a friend with a garage to loan me a dark corner, but it would make me feel guilty.

2. Buy some sort of cheap – $3500 to $5000ish – but reliable winter car? I wouldn’t mind having a second vehicle for hauling stuff around – maybe a small pickup or a wagon/SUV. Also, since most of my social life still revolves around downtown, I wouldn’t mind having something I could park on the street without a care whether it gets doored, dinged or scraped.

If the answer is two, what car or truck should I look for? The only caveat is that, after the fiasco with my 2010 lemon-lawed Mustang [can’t find the link to the Piston Slap on the issue], I won’t buy a FoMoCo product. (Sorry, Sajeev. But Ford ticked me off so much in negotiations over the Mustang that I refuse to give them my money anymore, even in used car form. I don’t want them making a nickel off of me on parts or anything else.) The ideal would be something small enough for city life, durable, utile and easy to insure.

Sajeev Answers:

I remember your quandary quite well. Shocking as it may sound, who cares if you love or hate FoMoCo? Not me! My shameless promotion of Panther Love is shallow, laser targeted in scope. I never was a big fan of coloring outside the lines, if you know what I mean.

I feel bad that you had to Lemon Law your ride, but at least you learned plenty in the process. With any luck, we can smooth things over with your current quandary. I wouldn’t entertain the idea of a “winter beater” because I’d keep winter tires in just about any of my friend’s places. As I note the irony of buying winter stuff for Houston, think about the costs associated with multiple car ownership: insurance, wear/tear items and unexpected major repairs. Of course, your BMW is probably under warranty, and you can often buy a $5000 sled that needs very little in upkeep. If you keep the miles down. But that 5 large buys a lot of storage and plenty of social libations in the DC area.

More to the point, how long to you expect to live as you currently live? From your last two rides and career info given here, you sound like a single guy who’s, um, living life to its fullest. Which usually doesn’t last forever. Especially with BMW’s rather awesome cost-value proposition after the warranty runs out. I’d mark time by getting some winter rubber on spare wheels, and judging by what I see on Tirerack.com, the snow-friendly rubber is quite easy to get.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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2 of 59 comments
  • Forty2 Forty2 on Jun 06, 2011

    I have a set of Continental winter tires on the OEM 14" steelies for my old Volvo 240. Not-winter = Yokohama AVID TRZ on a set of 15" alloys from a 740T. The (actual) winter tires let me drive the old Klanker around morons mired/tits-up in their $80,000 4WD/AWD whatevers. Incidentally the Yokos are awesome in wet weather. In snow, not so much; the Contis are like night and day.

  • DC Bruce DC Bruce on Jun 08, 2011

    As a 40-year DC resident, I would suggest one of two options. Option 1 is to put all-seasons on your 1- series, not that they're that terrific in snow, but that your summer tires suffer a serious lack of grip on even dry pavement once the temperature falls below 45 degrees and simply have that as your year-round tire. Snow in DC is highly variable. Some winters (like this past winter) you can get nothing or next to nothing; other winters you get snowmageddon. Your back up transportation for big snows is either public transit, or telecommuting. Unlike, say Wisconsin, its unlikely that snow is going to be on the roads in significant quantities for more than a day or two. Option 2 is the dedicated snows, which you should mount on separate wheels and mount the wheels on your car the weekend after Thanksgiving. Take them off your car on March 15. These will keep you going until the snow is too deep and you are asking your car to be a snowplow. More importantly, these will stop your car much better on the hard-packed snow and ice that are often "snow" in metro DC. Buying a second "winter beater" might make sense in Wisconsin; it doesn't in DC. It's just a waste of money.

  • JMII This is why I don't watch NASCAR, it just a crash fest. Normally due the nature of open-wheel cars you don't see such risky behavior during Indy car events. You can't trade paint and bump draft with an Indy car. I thought it was a sad ending for a 500. While everyone wants a green flag finish at some point (3 laps? 5 laps?) red flagging it is just tempting people too much like a reset button in a game.The overall problem is the 500 is not a "normal" race. Many one-off competitors enter it and for almost every driver they are willing to throw away the entire season championship just to win the "500". It sure pays way more then winning the championship. This would be like making a regular season NFL game worth more then the Super Bowl. This encourages risky behavior.I am not sure what the fix is, but Indy's restart procedures have been a mess for years. If I was in charge the rule would be pit speed limiter until the green flag drops at a certain place on the track - like NASCARs restart "zone". Currently the leader can pace the field however they wish and accelerate whenever they choose. This leads to multiple false and jumped starts with no penalty for the behavior. Officals rarely wave off such restarts, but that did happened once on Sunday so they tried to make driver behave. The situation almost didn't happen as there were two strategies in the end with some conserving fuel and running old tires, driving slower with others racing ahead. However the last caution put everyone on even terms so nobody had advantage. It always gets crazy in the last few laps but bunching up the field with a yellow or red flag is just asking for trouble.
  • Tim Healey Lol it's simply that VWVortex is fertile ground for interesting used cars!
  • Jalop1991 I say, install gun racks.Let the games begin!
  • EBFlex For those keeping track, Ford is up to 24 recalls this year and is still leading the industry. But hey, they just build some Super Dutys that are error free. Ford even sent out a self congratulatory press release saying they built Super Duty’s with zero defects. What an accomplishment!
  • Norman Stansfield This is what you get when you run races to keep the cars bunched together for more excitement. F1 doesn't seem to have this problem after the first few laps.