With all the changes our cars have seen through the years. The one thing that never seemed to change was the tires. Well not anymore! For decades little changed. Probably the most important part of our cars and so little understood. Tires are what connect us to the road and must handle the extreme variations that a road can deliver. Black, round and filled with air. This is what we see.

In the last few years there have been some significant changes. First was "run flat" technology. With late model cars having increasingly larger wheels and wider low profile tires, it was becoming impossible to visually notice a deflated tire. A current run flat tire has a very stiff side wall construction and uses heat resistant materials. These tires also feature a system that keeps the tire from becoming detached from its rim. Many cars no longer come equipped with a spare and utilize this as security in case of a failure. A future method may be to have an auxiliary support system mounted inside the wheel. This would only make contact when a tire would go flat. Most BMW models now come with run flat tires factory installed.

The second major change was the mandated use of a "tire pressure monitoring" system. All 2008 and newer cars now have a mechanism to continuously monitor all tire pressures. This will also alert the driver when a tire falls below a predetermined pressure. The car knows the position of each tire and it's current pressure. This also can include the spare tire if the car is equipped with one. Each wheel has a unique sensor that sends a signal to an individual receiver. This allows a specific tire with a problem to be identified. A complication to this is that whenever a tire is worked on, changed or rotated, the computer needs to be reset and any changes noted to it. This is done with a special electronic tool that interfaces with the system. Most BMW models can also be adjusted through their "i-drive" system as well.

Future tire technology will probably include tires and wheels that can regulate themselves. A tire system that can self-inflate would continuously keep a tire at an optimum pressure. This would then allow for optimum fuel consumption and increased safety for all motorists sharing the road.

All these new tire features and systems help make our cars safer and more efficient. However like anything new and complex, it comes with increased costs and complication when a car is serviced. Well trained technicians with the proper equipment are needed to correctly install tires and reset any relevant systems. This will assure your BMW operates safely and as designed.

Voit Ritch
Autowerkes Maine Inc.