BMW i3 Tires Seem Flat Prone

MAR 6 2016 BY STAFF 25

BMW i3 Tire

BMW i3 Tire

BMW i3 owners have an interesting competition amongst themselves and that’s to see who gets the most flat tires.

For some reason, despite the i3’s very narrow tires – 155mm to 175mm – the damn little things have an unusual attraction to sharp objects on the road. This brings up interesting challenges for us – the i3 owners – because the little BMW electric car does not have a spare tire. Though it does come with a can of “fix a flat” and a small underpowered air compressor, therefore many flats have resulted in a tow truck to the dealer.

BMWBLOG holds the record for the quickest flat after purchase at Day 2 of ownership and less than 150 miles. Our first was caused by a 4-inch bolt that killed the tire. And I do mean killed it. It was too big of a hole to patch or plug. It costs us $148 for a new tire from the dealer along with install mount, balance and tax, ended up totaling $211.78. Happily we made it about 14,000 more miles before we had our second flat.

…Enter one of my favorite things I’ve purchased for my garage – Griot Garage’s Tire Repair Kit. The kit includes a set of tools to remove the offending object from the tire and plug it, as well as a wicked 12-Voit air pump up tires crazy fast by simply plugging the air pump into the cigarette lighter.

*Editor’s Note: The rest of this post (authored by i3 owner Chuck Vossler), including an extensive “DIY tire repair” write-up, appears over at BMWBLOG. Please do check it out here in its entirety if repairing your own flat interests you.


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25 Comments on "BMW i3 Tires Seem Flat Prone"

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Selling cars without a spare tire is just a poor idea. You save 25 pounds, tops, but you really put the passengers of the car in jeopardy. I ran over something in the Fort McHenry tunnel in Baltimore last year and was lucky enough to realize I had a problem before the tire tore itself apart. I pulled over on I-95 in a relatively safe spot, but I still had 70 mph traffic just 10 to 15 feet away. I tried to use the infation kit with goo the Volt has and it was flaked out, nothing happened. A US Navy NCO stopped and tried to help, as did the MD safety patrol, but none of us could get it to work. OnStar called a flat bed and it arrived an hour later. I was sitting in a secure location 20 feet from my car, traffic wise, but not secure from any random mugger who decided to slip through the unsecure fencing. So the flat bed gets there and I realize I had two holes in my tire, the little puncture I had spotted at first and a huge honking tear on the other side of the tire. So even… Read more »

I got a rear left flat on my Volt while on I-95 in Wilmington DE. Watching the pressure dropping on the TPMS screen was rather disconcerting and there wasn’t much of a median to pull over to. Got out at the next exit and pulled into an empty church parking lot. The tire was still on the rim, completely flat. Didn’t even bother with the goo, called OnStar, tow truck came and took us to Diver Chevrolet who had to replace the tire, it was beyond repair. It took about three hours and I missed my meeting, but managed to contain the damage to the tire and not damage the rim or the TPMS with the goo.

I have the same compressor as shown on the picture, it’s made by Viair and it is fast and quiet. Use it to top off tires:

Isn’t there a physical principle concerning displacement of impact? The idea in reverse is that a sharp object will have more penetration than a blunt one. Also are the low rolling resistance tires any thinner than normal tires, not wideness, but the depth of the tire, the thickness?

Btw using fix a flat is considered bad for tire rims,as it will cause the rims to rust, if they are ferrous based, over time.

See Mark’s comment below.


I can’t image there’s a new car sold that does not come standard with aluminum alloy rims, not ferrous based.

Plenty of new cars come equipped with steel wheels and plastic hubcaps.

I believe the early i3’s came with poorer tyres in terms of a defective compound. Later i3’s got improved tyres courtesy of Bridgestone.

If you replace with current compound tyres, they should last much much longer.

I work at a Goodyear plant and we make the fuel max tires… They are crazy thin, especially the sidewall. On the other hand, tire review sites say they hold up pretty well.

That’s very interesting. Thanks for the info.

Plus Mark EV tires run at much higher pressures, harder making it easier to puncture.

I’ve had two flats in less than 8000 miles on a 2014.

Always thought the weird tires on the i3 would be problematic… And not just for handling.

I have had my i3 for 18 months with no punctures.

Same here, although we’ve driven only ~4,000 miles. We’ve driven a 2000 Honda Insight with its very low rolling resistance (LRR) Bridgestone tires (165 mm width, so similar width to those on our i3) for ~40,000 miles with no flats. So I don’t know what to make about the flat proneness of narrow LRR tires.

Narrower tires have a higher ground pressure, so if something sticks out, it will stick into the tire.

Wider tires generally have so much compliance and lesser ground pressure that they just roll over most things. Until you try to steer the wheels on a dead stop to get out of a parking space and drive it into the tire.


I’ve had less luck with my narrower winter tires (175/65/14) then I had with my summer tires (195/55/15).

Then there was this time I picked up and entire screwdriver blade with my tire, yes, that can apparently go through. You should have seen the look on the mechanics face when I said “There’s something in the tire”, he just quietly repeated that sentence after shaking it 😀

Technically, the Griot repair kit is really only supposed to be a temporary repair until the tire can be dismounted and a proper mushroom patch/plug can be installed from the inside to permanently seal the the tire.

The tires and wheels are the Achilles heel of the i3. It takes about 10 paragraphs to fully go into all of the downsides of their choices.

I keep really wanting to like the i3 REX, until I’m reminded of the wheels and tires, the neutered US ECU that has to be hacked, the suicide rear doors that suck for unloading groceries/people in a single car garage, the unsealed frunk, and the undersized gas tank.

The tire are a non-issue. In fact, they week better in the rain than any other car I have ever driven. Coding take 15 minutes and $15 and it’s as close to a “hack” as changing the settings on your phone. Millions of pickup truck owners have managed to work that style of rear door, it’s not that hard to do. The leaky frunk is easily fixed with a bag. See my previous note about coding for the gas tank.

>>The tire are a non-issue. In fact, they work better in the rain than any other car I have ever driven. This article only scratches the surface of i3 wheel/tire problems. 1) BMW has bad history with using special tire sizes. Like the TRX wheel/tire combo, which can now only be bought from Coker tire for $400 each. What happens if this tire size dies, and is never used on other vehicles after this generation of i3? They get expensive are rare. 2) No runflats, no spare. Bad combo. All the other BMW’s with no spare have runflats. 3) No 20″ snow tires. You have to buy an entire new set of wheels, just to get snow tires. 4) Most of the wheels are staggered. That means no tire rotations, on a vehicle that is known for wearing rear tires. 5) Front and rear wheels have a different backspacing, so if you are buying a set of narrow front wheels for snow tires, the backspacing is wrong for the rear. 6) Greatly limited number of tire manufacturers. If they stop…. 7) BMW dealers don’t even always have all the sizes in stock. >>Coding take 15 minutes and $15 and it’s… Read more »

Let me clarify one thing.

I realize me expectations of the i3 REX do not fit what BMW designed the i3 REX to do.

The REX is supposed to be there for rare/occasional use, just in case you run out of charge, and need to drive less than roughly 75 miles to get back home to recharge.

What I want the i3 to do is to extend my range to whatever range I want it to go, on whatever hill I can throw at it, at full interstate speed, without having to refill any more often than an ICE car. AKA, I want the Volt experience out of the REX.

I realize that my expectations don’t match the product that BMW is currently selling.

I think I may have beaten BMWBLOG. I had a cracked sidewall on one of my rear tires less than 36 hours after I picked up my i3. No problems since then though.

WE had 2 flats on our Nissan LEAFs with Dunlop tires. Our SOUL EV had 1 flat already in 9 K miles.
I have never had a flat or leak in my 2013 FORD Focus EV with Michelin tires. It could be luck of the draw but I think the Michelin are the best.

The same weight of car is distributed over a smaller surface area, due to the narrower tires. That’s why this car’s tires have to have higher air pressure. Even if they didn’t have abnormally thin sidewalls, as Mark posted above, we should still expect to see more tire punctures.

The only thing that’s puzzling here is why anyone would be puzzled about something that’s so straightforward.

The contact patch area is a function of the weight supported by the tire and the tire’s inflation pressure; it is not a function of the width of the tire. So the contact patch area of the i3’s tires is identical to that of wider tires at the same inflation pressure supporting a car of the same weight. Because the diameter of the i3’s tire is larger than normal, its contact patch is longer than normal.

The recommended inflation pressure is not due to a smaller contact patch area; the inflation pressure determines the contact patch area. The maximum load carrying capacity of a tire is a function of its inflation pressure. The 33 psi recommended front tire inflation pressure isn’t abnormally high, but the 41 psi rear tire inflation pressure is higher than normal which could increase the rear tires’ propensity to be punctured.

A narrower tire is less likely to run over a sharp object than a wider tire because a sharp object that might pierce the edge of a wider tire would not be run over by a narrower tire.

It’s not as straightforward as you think.