Completely fed up of my BMW's 18-inch alloy wheels in India

If I could, I would move to 17-inch rims in a jiffy, but I cannot because I have 650 Nm of torque going to the rear wheels.

GTO recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Recent visit to the shop as the rear-left rim was bent and caused a slow puncture:

The stupidest, dumbest new trend among Indian cars is that of large rims with low-profile tyres. Single advantage = looks. On the disadvantages front though, I could write a damn book! Stiffer ride, easy to damage the wheels, easy to damage the tyres, more expensive replacements, etc.

Please do read my detailed thread (Tall tyres & regular wheels versus low-profile tyres & large wheels) on the topic. 84% of enthusiasts voted against this idiotic trend that is just not for India and its broken, potholed roads. Read here (18" wheels of my car are troublesome | Frequent tyre damages | EDIT: Moved to 17-inchers) about the saga of a Volvo owner who sensibly moved to 17-inchers.

My car sees a lot of highway running (two road trips in the last month itself) and wheel repairs are now a bi-annual affair for me. If I could, I would move to 17-inch rims in a jiffy, but I cannot because I have 650 Nm of torque going to the rear wheels. The 275 mm tyres slip & slide around noticeably. 245 mm tyres in the 17" size at the rear aren't even an option. The car won't have grip. Further, am not sure if there will be enough clearance for the 530d's brakes.

The challenges

  • Two bent rims minimum per year due to lots of highway running. Luckily, I haven't faced a damaged tyre yet (touches wood).
  • 4,000 - 5,000 bucks on repair costs every time. That's 10,000 a year on wheel repair alone.
  • Running on a skinny space saver when the regular wheel is damaged & driving like my grandmother in the middle lane.
  • Time wasted in dealing with punctures, swapping to the spare, driving at 80 km/h on the spare, sending wheels for repairs, coordinating etc.
  • Now, a new problem came up. One of my wheels has been repaired so much that it became structurally weak! Sent it to two wheel experts and both of them said, "it cannot be repaired further". 8 years of repairing them has taken its toll.
  • Meanwhile, the heroes at Kia (Seltos X-Line), Hyundai (Alcazar), Toyota (2021 Fortuner) & others continue to inconvenience their customers by launching variants with 18-inch wheels. Look ma, how awesome it looks in the brochure - who cares about the real world where our customers will be harassed? Mercedes even gave me an S-Class with 20-inch wheels. Drove to a hill station close by, had to encounter rough roads (not even a pothole) and here's what happened. Good luck taking your S-Class on a Mumbai-Goa run. S-Pressos & Santros were overtaking me on the way back home.

The solution

  • I plan to keep the 530d for another couple of years. Hence, instead of buying a single wheel, I actually bought a FULL SPARE SET on OLX. What a colossal waste of money, just to have those 18-inch wheels. No choice though = all of my 4 rims have been repaired several times and soon, the others will be unrepairable too. Luckily, the used set of 4 wheels that I bought is flawless and the price was fair (60 grand). But not everyone has the spare-storage space.
  • If your car allows a swap to 16 or 17-inchers, please do so for the robustness & practicality. It'll be the best automotive decision you made this year!

Here's what BHPian VW2010 had to say about the matter:

Makes economical sense and practical sense. On a German road, upsizing is even ok. For our Indian roads, neither the big rims nor the run-flat makes sense. It's good to have but if we get a chance to downsize and get regular tyres I would always take that route. Purely because of our roads.

Problem with bent rims is exponentially visible when you start touching highway speeds. The vibration and shuddering make you hate your vehicle. I had to change rims in Jetta for the same reason.

Beyond a point, even repair is not a viable solution and you have to spend over 40k for decent rims in non-OEM. OEM on BMW should cost double I guess.

Here's what BHPian Vid6639 had to say about the matter:

Can you please wrap those wheels in plastic or bubble wrap so they don't have aluminum corrosion in the open terrace/garage?

Here's what BHPian Dr.AD had to say about the matter:

Very good points GTO. Totally agree with all your points. I have friends who own BMWs who have also bought a spare set of wheels just like you. It is a common pain.

Luckily, my 320d has 17" wheels with 225/50/R17 tyres. From my 3 years of experience of using the car on all sorts of highway and rural drives (including some terrible roads), I found this to be a good compromise. The tyres are not so high profile to make them look bad on this car, and at the same time not so low profile to get me in trouble on bad roads.

However, even with 17" wheels, I have had my share of bent rims. Luckily, no tyre damage yet (touch wood), but bent rims, yes! In fact, my BMW SA told me that almost all cars that come in for service have bent rims. Most of the time it is so minor that you can live with that, but theoretically, the cars do have bent rims. I feel bent rims is a problem with BMW alloy wheel designs as much as with lower-profile tyres.

I have heard that the new wheel design on M340i (for example) is much stronger and even with lower-profile tyres, those wheels do not get bent.

But yes, in general, 17" wheels seem ideal for Indian conditions and anything bigger than that is asking for trouble. I love the 18" BMW Style 397 alloys, and I thought many times of getting those. They look the best on the F30 3-series. But exactly this thought mentioned in this thread has kept me away from even trying 18" wheels.

Here's what BHPian vigsom had to say about the matter:

I'd say that it is the aspect ratio (sidewall height) that has a role to play here rather than the rim diameter. An aspect ratio less than 60 isn't good for our roads. Except with the 2016 Crysta ZX that had 55 profile tyres, Toyota has by and large been offering cars with above 60 aspect ratios for their other offerings here. In fact, the old Fortuner with 265/65R17 and the old Altis with 195/65R15 were the best. Even with the 65 profile, the old Fortuner was still rather bumpy. I think it is important for manufacturers to look at conditions in various geographies and choose rims+tyres suitably.

Here's what BHPian Hayek had to say about the matter:

Not had problems with the 18” rims running 245/50 R18 run-flats on my X3 so far. Suspect part of the problem with your 530d is the low profile nature of the staggered set-up. With 275/40, your sidewall height is just 110 mm VS the 122.5 mm I have on the X3. Guess the 10% difference in sidewall height matters. Of course, even the narrower profile tyre on the 520d at 245/45 has the same sidewall height of 110 that you have.

Here's what BHPian androdev had to say about the matter:

While looks certainly play a role, the increased power does require larger rims due to larger brakes and wider tires. To provide high profile tires on larger rims, you need bigger wheel wells - like Rolls Royce - which may look very odd.

I think all tolled highways are in pretty good shape. Remote village roads are also pretty decent and if there are bad sections, they remain bad for long stretches so you can drive cautiously. The real culprits are urban roads and high-density non tolled roads closer to big cities. TN and KL usually have very good roads. KA, AP, TS require caution. I have developed some sort of sixth sense about Indian road conditions and I fear Bangalore the most! I also try to avoid driving at night and under poor visibility.

The problem is not with BMW wheels. I consider the BMW brand to be #1 for mechanical solidity. RFTs contributed a lot to this bad reputation. Also, BMW can't be driven slow. Poor BMW gets a lot of blame, but if other brand cars are driven like a typical BMW, we will be seeing things far worse than bent rims.

I keep both 17" and 19" wheels for my S class and I try to use both. It's a bit of a healthy workout on a lazy Sunday to change tires. On good roads and at higher speeds, 19" wheels definitely feel far superior. They also look way better, it's hard to accept the 17" looks all year round.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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