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We’ve all heard the mantra; “Use narrower snow tires (than your standard summer tire size) because the narrower tire will cut through the snow and exert a higher pressure per square inch of contact”.
Makes sense, right?
While this makes sense in basic unsubstantiated theory, it is true?
A recent independent test was performed using three different sizes of one winter tire, on the same car, on a snow covered surface. The testing showed that the narrower tire did indeed have slightly better traction on acceleration (slightly = less than 1/2 meter in about 3mph to 20mph acceleration). However, the widest tire, with the lowest profile, had very slightly better braking performance. It’s worth noting that these slight differences could look different with a different tire. The key is that there really wasn’t much difference between the narrow tire and the wide tire. Finally, if the road surface is heavily covered, this may change the results and we may see a deeper advantage with the narrower tire.
Winter tires are NOT just for snow!
While some of us, in the US, may experience snow covered roads for much (if not all) of the season, most only deal with actual snow for short periods with combinations of rain, wet or dry surfaces for the majority of the season. During these periods, we need tires that perform well in both dry and wet conditions. Winter tires are designed to stay pliable in freezing temperatures, assuring full traction in all conditions. In wet conditions the narrower tires had more resistance to hydroplaning, but the wider tires had better braking (as long as they were not hydroplaning). As expected, in dry conditions, the wider tires did better in all categories. The more rubber we can put into contact with the road surface, in dry conditions, the more traction we will have.
Ok, So what?
In actual use, it’s more important to consider the actual tire being used (tread compound, sidewall construction, tread pattern, etc.) than the specific size of the tire. We could purposefully skew the results of a test like that above by choosing different winter tires that perform better in one area than another. This is why we use and recommend the Hakkapelitta winter tires for our BMWs and MINIs.
Nokian Tires developed the Hakkapelitta line of winter tires to provide the best overall winter driving safety envelope possible. These tires are superb in snow and also offer great wet and dry performance. Click HERE for an article on the Hakkapelitta tires.
The main key is that you DO install specific winter tires if you have to drive in winter conditions. All-season tires ARE NOT snow tires and perform very poorly in winter conditions. Anyone who has claimed the phrase “BMWs are horrible in snow!”, has never run a BMW (which, of course, is no different from any other rear wheel drive car) with four good snow tires.
Click image below for BMW & MINI winter tires:
Oil usage in the BMW N54 twin-turbo 6-cylinder engines is quite common. Not only is this inconvenient and potentially embarrassing (oil smoke from the exhaust), it’s unhealthy for the engine. The most common cause for excessive oil usage (in the N54 engine) is a compromised Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) system. The N54 PCV system is a poor design in the first place and allows, what most would consider to be, an excessive amount of oil vapor to be introduced into the intake system. This is the root of the need for periodic walnut media blasting of the intake ports and valves.
Now that these engines have increased age and/or miles on them, the PCV systems are showing signs of failure along with the associated increase in oil consumption. This shows itself as oil smoke through the exhaust and an increased need for adding oil to the crankcase. The excessive oil running through the intake system can actually collect in low lying areas (such as the intercooler) and greatly increased the build-up in the intake ports and on the intake valves.
The N54 (and most late-model turbocharged engines) employs two PCV circuits. One that operates under no/low boost (from intake vacuum to low boost) and a second that operates when the intake system is under actual boost (pressure in the intake system). Each of the systems employs check valves to direct crankcase venting and to prevent boost pressure from entering the crankcase. Either of these systems can degrade and fail to properly vent the crankcase and/or allow boost pressure to reach the crankcase.
The “low side” of the PCV system works through internal passages in the valve cover and cylinder head, along with an internal check valve. This part of the system has two main fault areas:
1) The check valve is weak and tends to leak boost pressure back into the PCV ports and into the crankcase, causing oil usage through the valve guides and past the piston rings. The original valve is technically non-replaceable. However, BAVauto offers an upgraded valve from FTP, which installs in place of the original valve and not only renews the valve, but is capable of holding higher boost pressures without leakage.
2) The PCV ports that run internally through the valve cover and to the ports in the cylinder head (and ultimately into the intake ports) are sealed by the valve cover gasket. An old, worn, valve cover gasket can allow leakage between the ports in the valve cover and the cylinder head. This causes two separate problems; a) Under intake vacuum, oil can be pulled into the ports, b) Under boost, boost pressure can leak past the gasket (through the ports in the head) and pressurize the crankcase, causing oil usage through the valve guides and past piston rings, as well as increasing the PCV flow through the secondary PCV (Boost) system, which will increase oil vapor flow. Replacing the valve cover gasket AND applying a small amount of gasket sealant around the PCV ports (being careful not to apply in a manner that would “squish” and clog the ports) is the fix for this issue.
The secondary, or “under boost” side of the PCV system employs a check valve that is internal to the PCV hose that runs from the rear of the valve cover to the intake tube. The original check valve can fail and allow boost pressure to enter the crankcase, causing oil usage through the valve guides and past piston rings, as well as increasing the PCV flow through the “low side” PCV system, which will increase oil vapor flow as well. Replacing the PCV hose, provides a new check valve.
We recommend a general PCV service on all N54 engines (135i, 335i, 535i, Z4, 1M), to include:
Sealant (click image):
3) Replace the PCV vent hose (click image):
BMW enthusiasts who have been with the marque for more than just a couple years are well familiar with the Cosmoline preservative compound that BMW used to prevent bare aluminum parts, under-hood and under-car areas from corrosion. The Cosmoline was sprayed on at the factory and solidified into a nearly impervious waxy film. While the anti-corrosion properties are welcome, the Cosmoline itself is … well, ugly.
For an enthusiast who enjoys keeping a detailed engine compartment, Cosmoline is the bane of his/her automotive existence. The compound is impervious to common cleaners and solvents. We’ve tried all kinds of cleaning methods with the goal being a well detailed under-hood with bright aluminum and clear inner fender paint. Years ago, we finally found a product that works.
Zymol (makers of high quality, environmentally friendly automotive waxes and detailing products), introduced their Strik product years ago and we found that it worked quite well to dissolve the Cosmoline without causing damage to the underlying metals and paint. We were reminded of the Zymol Strik when our friend, Phil, asked about cleaning the Cosmoline off of his newly acquired 1990 Z1.
We sent Phil some of the Strik and he went to work. Check out his initial efforts, below, after his first pass.
Phil did note that he needs to do a second application and it did require some mechanical abrasion (minor scrubbing), but the Zymol Strik worked far better than anything he had tried up to this point.
Click below for Zymol Strik: