Flat Tire On BMW i3 – TPMS To The Rescue

DEC 22 2014 BY STAFF 11

BMW i3 tpms 13 750x500 Flat tire on BMW i3, TPMS comes to rescue

BMW i3 Tire

My first experience with the BMW i3’s TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) came on Day two of our long term test. And out of all places in Kansas City, it happened at a Chick-fil-A drive-thru.

We had taken a ramp of the highway and it felt like we ran over a huge rock even though there wasn’t anything visible on the road. While sitting in the drive-thru line at Chick-fil-A, I wondered what the hell we’d hit. Even though there were no warnings on the dash, I pulled up the iDrive to check on the tires. Sure enough, our passenger rear tire is down 15 psi. Three minutes later, I was down another 5 psi and now the low tire pressure alarm goes off.

Less than 150 miles and I am getting the dreaded flat tire.

*Editor’s Note: This post from , along with an extensive image gallery, appear on BMWBLOG.  Check it all out here.

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BMW i3 Tire

Ironically, I am fascinated at the evolving disaster on my i3 and being a journalist at heart, whipped out my iPhone and started snapping pics. Many owners have posted problems about getting flats on the i3 Facebook Group and it’s just day two and here we go!

Interestingly, BMW chose not to install run-flats on the i3 and doesn’t include a spare or even “fix a flat” onboard i3s. Edit: BMW seems to offer a sealant and a compressor included in the frunk.

However, BMW’s newest TPMS i3 tells me exactly how much pressure I’ve lost and exactly which wheel it is, in a wonderful live read out graphical interface. This is huge leap forward from 2007 BMW’s systems and gives me confidence on how to deal with this flat.

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BMW i3 TPMS Readout

It’s now 7:30 in the evening on a Saturday, so my dealer is closed. I’ve had the i3 less than 48 hrs and I do not want to flat bed it to the dealer. My mind races as I am grabbing the food from the drive thru window.  There’s a gas station about a quarter mile away where I can put more air in the tire. I feel confident, I can at least try to make it there without destroying a wheel with live read out of the tire pressures. The tire’s going down so fast, I am sure it’s toast, so I don’t worry about damaging it further.

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BMW i3 TPMS Readout

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BMW i3 TPMS Readout

 Worse case scenario, I stop and call BMW.

We reach the gas station and fill the tire up to mid 40s PSI per the iDrive dash. This is sooo cool. I don’t have a tire pressure gauge but we are able to use the readout on the i3 to guide how much air to put in the tire and I over shoot a few PSI. The live read of the Tire Pressure works really quickly on the i3. When you start a trip, the tire pressure monitor does take about a quarter to half a mile of driving to give you the initial pressures. As we’ve not stopped during this fateful  trip, it’s still giving us a live read on the PSI.

Carefully watching the dash, we are able to make the short distance to the house and arrive with just over 20 psi.  I put the rear of the car i3 up on a jack stand and take off the wheel.

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BMW i3 Tire

No surprise, the tire is toast and I find a huge bolt sticking out of the rear tire.  It’s so big I can’t even pull it out of the tread. Damn. Day two and I trashed a tire.  I can just see the guy at the finance department who tried to sell me the wheel and tire insurance laughing now. For the first time, I notice these tires are staggered.  The front’s are 155/70/19 and the rear 175/60/19’s.  Only the base i3 has a square set up of non-staggered tires.

Monday comes and I go to the dealer with the wheel and drop it off.  Unfortunately, they don’t stock the tire. At just $148, at least the Bridgestone Ecopia EP600 All-Season tire isn’t expensive. Once the dealer got one, I was back on my way for $211.78 with mount balance and tax.

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BMW TPMS

TPMS – A History

TPMS – These four letters are a big mystery to most drivers. TPMS stands for Tire Pressure Monitoring System. Automobiles manufactured for the U.S. market, starting September 2007, have been mandated to have them, though some BMWs made them available earlier. TPMS is designed to warn the driver if tire pressure falls below a certain programed pressure appropriate for the car, typically 25% of recommended PSI. BMW uses a sensor inside the wheel that acts as a high frequency battery operated transmitter to a receiver inside the vehicle which then displays the info on the iDrive and dash. 433 MHz is a common frequency used by BMW.

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BMW TPMS

Older TPMS systems used the ABS to monitor changes in tire pressures by sensing changes in rotation of the tire. Communicating this loss of tire pressure has gone from a simple warning light on the dash, to a more graphical system on the iDrive. Currently BMW has several different types of TPMS depending on your build date. Newer BMWs such as the i3, have the ability to show you the actual tire pressure PSI in the iDrive. The Tire Pressure Monitor Sensor for BMW is an integrated unit built into the base of the valve stem and unfortunately does not have a serviceable battery. This means when the sensor battery dies, you have to replace the whole sealed unit.

Our 2007 BMW X3 3.0 si still has its original sensors which are faithfully transmitting, though I expect them to check out anytime soon now. I think a 4-5 year timeframe seems to be a reasonable life expectancy of the sealed units.

How to install TPMS

BMWBLOG installed a set of TPMS on our HRE FlowForm Wheels and documented the straightforward process. I purchased the set from Tirerack and asked them for directions, only to get a huge pause on the phone because they said “TPMS sensors are so simple that they don’t even come with directions.”  I was compelled to install the TPMS sensors on our HRE Wheels because NTB wanted to charge me a fee for each wheel to install the sensors.

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TPMS Sensors

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TPMS Sensors

Each TPMS wheel set comes with a sensor which was in my case was orange, a valve stem with gasket, a locking nut and a small retaining screw with a square head and finally a valve cap. To install, line up the base of the valve stem with the orange sensor and hand tighten retaining screw. Now slip the valve stem through the valve stem hole in the wheel. Next take the large nut and slip it over the top of the valve stem from outside the wheel and cinch it down with a 11 mm deep well socket.  The square head of the small screw locks into place of the orange sensor and obviates the need for a tiny allen wrench. Finally install the valve cap. Done. Piece of cake.

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TPMS Sensors Installed

If you try to order a stand alone set of TPMS sensors off the website from Tirerack, you cannot find them. They want you to call. The reason being that even with in the same year of model of BMW you can find different sensors.BMW uses Huf Hülsbeck und Fürst from Germany. The TPMS set that Tirerack sent me were made by Huf. They were easy to install and once reset/initialized via iDrive, have worked flawlessly on my E92 M3.

OEM TPMS sensors run $85 each but can be found for just under $70/wheel if you search the web a bit.

Ultimately, TPMS has evolved from being a federally mandated idiot light on a dash to a very useful set of information of live read out on your iDrive. Porsche has had live Tire Pressure read out dating back to 2009, and I am glad to see BMW has evolved their TPMS to such a useful monitor and integrated safety system.

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11 Comments on "Flat Tire On BMW i3 – TPMS To The Rescue"

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Jim_NJ
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Jim_NJ

Having a four wheel TPMS is great. A few years ago we were driving to our daughter’s house (60 miles away) in my Chevy Volt, and the I just happened to have the TPMS info showing under the speedometer. I noticed that my right rear tire seemed to be a little low. Then I noticed it losing a psi every 2 miles. I calculated that I could get to the tire shop about two miles from her house. It ended up working out great. We called our son-in-law to pick us up, and he met us at the tire shop. Now, on long trips, I keep the TPMS as my default.

My previous car had TPMS, but only an ‘idiot light’ which would didn’t tell me which tire was low on air, and not until I was way too low. This happened once and I damaged the sidewall so badly the tire was a complete loss. With four wheel TPMS I could have saved that tire, and saved the time of changing a spare on the side of a busy highway.

leafer
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leafer

interesting that there was no dash warning displayed? the tire was down to 27 psi.
there is a setting for TPMS activation threshold that should be checked, you don’t want it too high as you will get frequent warnings but it seems it should be on by 27psi on the I3

Goaterguy
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Goaterguy

I don’t get why that tire would “be toast” I managed a tire shop for a few years and that tire (from the outside) looks repairable. A portable plug kit would’ve likely give you a better chance if you were farther from home.

Ryan
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Ryan

this is pretty much how any good TPMS system works… thanks for showing it to people… my ’08 Tesla Roadster has alerted me many times the same way, even on my phone app!

Ash09
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Ash09
TPMS in theory is great, as seen in this article. Unfortunately the way the government mandated how to do this was incredibly stupid and costs people even more money if they want to do it correctly. On my 2014 Toyota Prius, I have the idiot light version, which has a sensor come on if the air drops on a tire. But it doesn’t tell me which tire. Unfortunately the car will only recognize 4 sets of TPMS sensors. Meaning that if you live in an area where it snows, and you have a second set of winter tires mounted on their own rims, you need 4 additional sensors on them unless you want to spend time swapping the TPMS out. And doing that twice a year risks breaking them. A local Goodyear wasn’t able to read my sensors for whatever reason. And a Toyota stealership quoted me $420 to install and calibrate the second set of TPMS. When I asked about swapping back to the summer set, they said it would cost $100 to re-calibrate it again. So instead of adding enough memory to the car so it could retain 8 TPMS sensors, Toyota wants me to pay $200 a… Read more »
lewl
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lewl

Not sure the procedure for Toyota’s, but I bought the GM tool to relearn TPMS
Takes a couple mins to scan each tie in sequence and then you’re good to go.
If someone was even considering paying every year, the tool pays for itself. Especially with multiple vehicles/share with friends.

Plus I got mine on clearance for about $50 all in with shipping from the US. 🙂

dan
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dan

My Toyota RAV4 is the same way, HOWEVER, The RAV4 won’t bitch about the missing sensors for up to 40 miles and/or 60 minutes of driving (based on my experience).

So I didn’t put any sensors my winter rims, and put the summer tires near where the vehicle parks (garage), so when I get home from work, it sees the tires, and ‘resets’ this counter.

I’ve been doing this since 2007, and I’ve seen the low tire pressure warning light probably less than 10 times since (usually when I have to make a long trip). Even the dealer told me this isn’t possible, so doesn’t look like too many folks know.

The sad part is, many vehicles are equipped with a system which can monitor the tire pressure of each tire, it’s just the manufacturer choosing to display a ‘dumb’ light, instead of the separate values.

sven
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sven
Ash09 there is a very simple solution to your problem since you drive a Toyota. Buy a $29 Toyota TIS Techstream cable and software from internet sites or eBay, then plug it in to your Prius’ OBD port and change the TPMS ID numbers yourself every time you swap tires. You just have to write down on paper the ID# of your current sensors as shown by the Techstream software on you laptop, and also write down the TPMS ID numbers of the new sensors that you buy before you have them installed in your second set of wheels with snow tires. Just google “toyota TIS Techstream” to find how-to articles/forum-posts and YouTube videos. The Techstream software is pirated version of the software that Toyota dealers use to diagnose and fix your car at the Toyota dealership at a fraction of the $1,500 cost of the licensed version. The cable is a cheap copy of the $400 Mongoose cable used by Toyota dealships. You can also adjust all the other settings on you Prius that the dealer charger you $50 to $75 fo them to do it. http://www.vvdifactory.com/wholesale/xhorse-vvdi-mini-vci-for-toyota-tis-techstream-single-cable.html?gclid=CM_4mbHz3MICFUto7AodPmYAMQ As an alternative you can buy blank Schraeder EZ-sensors and have then… Read more »
sven
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sven

Here is the programable TPMS sensor. You have to look up which one is the correct one for your car since there are two different radio frequencies used by automakers. Schraeder actually invented the auto tire valve 70 years ag,o and make OEM branded TPMS sensors for automakers. So Schneider is not some fly-by-night company.

http://www.amazon.com/Schrader-33000-EZ-Sensor-Programmable-TPMS/dp/B007NK2NDC

http://www.amazon.com/Schrader-33100-EZ-sensor-Programmable-433/dp/B007NK2Q20

lewl
Guest
lewl

Had a screw in my volt last weekend. Had no idea until the dash message popped up and showed me right rear was low.
Sure enough, get out and hear a hissing sound.
Pump in the trunk got me back up to 40psi and drove safely to get it fixed.
A plug kit for the glove box is on my to-do list 😉

NILGAZ
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NILGAZ

TPMS have been required by the DOT for nearly 5 years now in an effort to reduce under inflated tires and improve fuel economy.