Piston Slap: Keeping A Low Profile on Boston Streets?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap keeping a low profile on boston streets

TTAC Commentator slance66 writes:


The B&B helped me choose a car three or four years ago, and now I’m thinking of its replacement, ahead of time. I bought a CPO 2007 BMW 328xi, which has been nearly flawless to 67k. I only drive 8,000 miles a year with a 3.5 mile commute each way, so it should last a long time. I love the car and do plan to keep it a few more years, but, I don’t know if it will survive the potholes.

I live in the Boston ex-urbs, and six months of the year we have what some might call roads, and others might call random chunks of asphalt in a rough trail like pattern. I can exceed the front suspension travel in the 3 series just on some manhole covers. Hitting actual potholes produces a major crash/slam. The car is good for dodging them, but you can’t miss them all and oncoming traffic both. It’s not the RF tires either, as I have 4th gen versions that are a big improvement.

Since I buy 2-3 year old used cars, I thought I’d ask now what 2013-14 car, trucks, SUVs would best equipped to survive roads like this? Gas mileage matters a little, so a V8 half ton might be off my list, but otherwise I’m open to most anything if it has four doors, heated seats, is reliable and isn’t smaller than the BMW. Crossovers might fit, but while my wife’s used RX350 feels better on these roads, it’s cost us two bearings and two struts, so durability is a factor in my thinking. Thought the B&B would know what vehicles can really absorb this punishment and not punish the driver. No, not a Panther.

Sajeev answers:

I’ve been to Boston a coupla times, I can see your concern. That said, no Panther? No truck? Really?

Odds are your BMW will not survive Boston without cratering your wallet: to the tune of new lower control arms, struts, strut mounts(?) miscellaneous bushings and who knows what else. If you like the BMW, by all means, replace the worn suspension bits as they fail. If not…

Well, get over the German tuned suspension for something more Third World friendly. Seriously, how can you not want a Grand Marquis now? Fine. I can imagine the cold, Panther Love-less world you clearly live in.

And while I’d never live in such a sad place, I’d recommend a Panther-Like world. A car that’s had a good track record (recently) for cost-effective suspension engineering, proven in fleets of some sort. Not cop cars, not limos…maybe rental cars. Maybe a Camry LE with the big sidewalls on 16″ wheels. Maybe any CUV with the base wheels, with the most amount of sidewall you can find. ZOMG I CAN NO HAZ A RENTAL CAR AFTER MY BEEEMER!

Long story short: remember when all cars came with these things called tires? Their rubber to metal wheel ratio was definitely more Boston-friendly. I recommend finding a vehicle with more sidewall and a reputation for a more robust suspension. Even if it isn’t a Panther.

[Image: Shutterstock user paul rushton]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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2 of 104 comments
  • Power6 Power6 on May 07, 2014

    Buddy where are you driving? Losing struts to potholes? They were probably going anyways. Rims do bend sometimes on the big holes but Boston is survivable for any type of car. I've had plenty with 17 or 18 inch wheels and low profile tires. May I then suggest an old Lexus I sail right over the worst streets while the Range Rover drivers swerve around every pimple. Don't need to suffer in a wrangler.

  • Fishiftstick Fishiftstick on May 07, 2014

    When test driving the Accord in 2013 I compared the ride on the LX (16"), EX-L (17") and Touring (18") trims. There was a major difference, with the ride getting worse as the trim and rim size increased. I ended up with the EX-L because I wanted leather, etc., but said no to the Touring because of the worse ride. Wheel size is a case in which style has trumped function. If the car were not leased, I'd swap the 17s for 16s. (For 2014, the LX too has 17" wheels.)

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