The Spun Bearing: Snow Tires, Batteries, and Top Gear

Featured Posts, Interesting | December 2nd, 2011 by 6

Snow Tires I waited as long as I could, but finally the temps had dropped enough that the summer compound Contis were beginning to act …

Snow Tires

I waited as long as I could, but finally the temps had dropped enough that the summer compound Contis were beginning to act like bricks, so on went the snow tires this week. It’s a ritual around here; get the floor jack, the snows (mounted on alloy wheels with TPMS sensors), the old time-y four armed wheel wrench, anti-seize lube, and a torque wrench.

For a change the process went really smoothly. I kicked the boss’ car out of the garage, laid the tires in the center of the two garage stalls and just moved the 135i from side to side to change the tires. In the past I’d get squeezed badly on one side trying to swap the wheels out.


Getting the car up in the air gives me a chance to check each corner of the suspension. How do the brake rotors look? Is there any seepage from the shocks? Does anything look damaged or loose? Also a little anti-seize lube on the hub face (and the threads of the lug bolts), keep things from rusting together. It sure makes a difference, I’ve had to take a rubber mallet to the rears to get them loose once and that was enough, so anti-seize is the trick.

The bolts get torqued to spec when both front and rear on one side are done. The tires get inflated to spec when all four snows are on. The bolts’ torque are re-checked and then the car gets started, the TPMS is reset, and then there’s a two or three mile drive around neighborhood streets. Once back in the driveway torque is rechecked again.

The snow tires themselves are Bridgestone Blizzak WS60s, 215/45, on 17 inch rims. They work well for the the typical winter storms we get in Kansas City. If the weather patterns were different, another make of tire may be better.

The snows feel really soft compared to Conti ExtremeContact DWs they take the place of. Steering feel is pretty much a bust, it’s like the steering wheel was injected with novocaine, or like someone put galoshes on the wheels (which is probably the more apt analogy).

But this annual ritual is a must if snow and ice are likely during the winter. The real snow tires (look for the mountain and snowflake symbol) and the BMW’s ideal weight distribution make for undramatic winter driving. Who needs front wheel drive when you have snow tires and a BMW.

i8 batteries 655x489


BMW and Toyota have entered into an agreement where BMW will supply diesel engines to Toyota and BMW gains access to Toyota’s hybrid technology. Toyota’s need for diesels is for increasing the appeal of their models in Europe. The speculation on what hybrid tech BMW is seeking is a bit murkier. I suspect that BMW would like some of the under-the-cover components and software expertise. Possibly, some of Toyota’s knowledge of implementing regenerative braking systems and the software that keeps all of the various bits playing well with each other. But that’s just a guess.

And then this evening, there was a report that Toyota and BMW were looking jointly at lithium ion battery technology. That makes a lot of sense based on what BMW has said in the past. Even with an incredibly less efficient conversion of energy that an IC engine has compared to an electric motor, the energy density of batteries is so low that it limits the applications of electric mobility.

That report was accurate and on Tursday, December 1, BMW and Toyotajointly announced a mid to long term research collaboration on next generation mid to long term environmentally-friendly technology.

The three keys to the success of electric vehicles are range, rate of recharging (‘refueling’, if you will), and useful performance. Range and performance are interrelated. You can increase one at the detriment of the other. But one factor can reduce both, and that’s additional weight. Reduce weight and you have more wiggle room to optimize both range and performance. But what really would make a dramatic difference is about a four or five times increase in energy density for the batteries used in electric vehicles. That’s what will take battery powered electric vehicles out of niche uses and into the mainstream.

Top Gear

Well Clarkson evidently stepped in it again based on tweets from this week. I haven’t seen what it was exactly, but someone somewhere has been offended. Comes with the territory. But Clarkson isn’t the CEO of some large firm or the head of state of some staid European country, rather he’s an entertainer (and a very good writer to boot). It should be expected.

I can usually find a reason to laugh harder during an episode of Top Gear than most of what happens during the rest of the week. I like to think of it as ‘Three Stooges Meets Cars’ and the writing and acting are top notch. But take it seriously or regard it as real? Nope, that’s what Consumer Reports is for. But given my druthers . . .