When highway speeds brought vibrations through the steering wheel I knew something was up. I’ve felt this before and my concerns were confirmed Sean put my 2008 BMW 535i up on the lift. The passenger side front wheel was severely out of round. In fact, all four wheels were bent. Say it ain’t so! This can’t be true! What am I to do?
I used the RFD Wheel Repair Shop directory and called around town. The cost of straightening the wheels ranged anywhere from $120 to $150 per wheel. All four of the wheels have curb rash so it would be silly not to get that repaired at the same time. Suddenly the cost of refinishing is $200 per wheel. This is definitely not what I had planned after picking up this car two weeks ago.
But there’s another variable to complicate matters. The tires on my 535i are the dreaded, hard as rock, run flat tires! The front 245/40/18 Dunlop DSSTs were recently replaced but the 275/35/18 rear tires are nearing the wear bars. Do I dare replace the rear tires with more run flats? What do those things even cost? TireRack lists them at nearly $375 a piece. That’s nearly the cost of a complete set of four non-run flat tires! I pop the trunk and lift up the trunk mat, fingers crossed. A full size spare! Well, that puts a stamp on this decision. No more run flat tires for me!
So what am I to do about the tires? Sitting in the corner of my garage are a full set of tires taken off of a low mileage 2015 Subaru STI. They’re the sticky 245/40/18 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx RT’s… and since I already own them, the price is right! But Dunlop doesn’t make this tire in a 275/35/18 which means I’ll have to either run a square setup or sell this set and buy different tires. That’s not such a clear decision.
Unfortunately everything is now getting hazy and with all these variables I’m starting to form an endless list of questions. I begin to scour Craigslist and all of the BMW community forums in search of alternative OEM and aftermarket wheel options. Maybe I can find a deal on a full set of wheels and tires.
Did I find anything? Yeah. I found lots of options. So many options that it just made this whole ordeal more frustrating. I think the factory 18″ sport wheels look good but 19″ wheels look even better! And wow, 20″ wheels can really fill out the fenders and look great! Another freaking variable I didn’t need.
What I needed was a budget. $800 is what I’d spend on repairing the factory BBS sport wheels and I know a decent set of aftermarket wheels would cost at least $1k so we’ll start there. Now if I sell my Dunlops for $500, I’d probably need an extra $300 to cover the new set. So that’s $1,000 plus 300 out of pocket. Well, I did just get my tax return… screw it, I’ll toss in another $200 to increase my odds of finding something nice. $1,500 it is!
It didn’t take too long before I found a set of replica BBS LM wheels on Craigslist with a set of tires for the appealing price of $1,000. But they were 20’s. 20″x9″ and 20″x11″ with Hankook Evo tires. Hankooks. Hankooks… meh. And when it came time to replace those tires, 20’s would cost more than 18’s. Probably not a good choice.
How about the stock E60 M5 wheels? Eh. Far too common.
I found lots of local sellers but nothing really appealed to me until I was browsing M5Board and spotted a set of 18″x9.5″ CSL style wheels wrapped in Continental slicks. These weren’t just any knock-off wheel. These were ARC-8’s, made by APEX Racing Parts, a company well known for producing strong and lightweight track wheels for BMWs. They were hyper black, super concave and damn did they look good! Even better is that the seller was just 30 minutes away!
But would they fit my 535i and what tires would I be able to squeeze? All four of the wheels are the same size with the same +22 offset. The factory rear wheels are 9″ wide with a +32 offset. Using the 1010tires.com wheel offset calculator I determined that the rear wheels would stick out an additional 16mm and only another 4mm inboard. Perfectly acceptable. But when I compared the front it looked like the wheels stick out 17mm extra and a whopping 21mm inboard! That last number raised a concern. If that’s true, then I would likely need at least a 10mm spacer to keep the wheel from contacting the strut. And that meant that front wheel would not stick out 17mm, but 27mm or more and may be too much to clear the front fender!
BUT GOD THOSE WHEELS ARE GORGEOUS! Only one way to find out if they fit and that’s to actually fit them so I arranged a time to meet with the owner after work. I couldn’t wait to check them out so I left the office 30 minutes early and rushed out to Leesburg.
The seller was a very nice guy and let me use his jack and some tools to test fit the wheels in front of his house. I knew as soon as I pulled the stock front wheels off from the car that this was going to be a tight squeeze.
I kneeled down and rolled the hyper black beauties in to position. I lift the Arc 8, which was easily 5 pounds lighter than the factory wheel, up and over the wheel hub.
Thunk. Contact. The back of the wheel was contacting the strut just as I had thought it would. Luckily the seller also had a set of 12mm spacers from when he ran these on his E60 M5. With the 12mm spacers in place the wheel now cleared the strut by my pinky’s width. How far does it stick out from the fender? It’s hella flush, that’s for sure. Unfortunately the wheel bolts were too short for the threads to catch with the 12mm spacer so all we could do was eyeball it and I was not very confident that it would clear the fender as-is with the 275/35 tire mounted. But I wasn’t planning on running 275’s all around anyway.
Then I remembered the free camber mod on the E46 M3 and wondered if the E60 had the same thing. The free camber mod involves pulling a centering pin from the strut hats allows the struts to be pushed inboard slightly more to gain what could be ever so critical fender clearance. It was likely a half a degree or but I’d take what I could get.
Then I remembered I had a 7.5mm spacer in my trunk. We pulled the wheel back off, tossed the 7.5mm spacer on and remounted the wheel. No contact with the strut. So far so good. Does the wheel spin without contact? Yes, but we both know it’s gotta be damn close back there! Now when I eyeballed the fender clearance I felt much better. Oh, this front fitment is gonna be tight but now I’m starting to believe it can be done with minimal work!
I agree to purchase the wheels for $900 and am hoping to recoup a few hundred of that by selling the Continental slicks. Fitting all four wheels in the 535i without removing the Recaro baby seat was equally as tight as the test fitment. But I made it work.
Next up, removing the slicks, sourcing 7mm spacers with longer lug nuts and test fitting a set of 245/40/18 tires. Would like to avoid fender rolling but if it means squeezing 265/40 or 275/40’s all around, then it may just happen.