Sep 052011

Happy Labor Day to all. This year really is flying by – often a cliche I know but true. It seems like yesterday that I sold my 2001 530i sport and bought my 2002 M5, not four months ago.

Last week I finally took care of an issue that’s been on my mind since I made that purchase. Almost all E39s (the name of the body style of the BMW 5 series produced from 1997 to 2003) had a full size spare tire. My 530i sport came with one. However, BMW sold the 2000 – 2003 E39 M5 with no spare, just a “mobility kit” in case you had a flat.

Basically this kit shoots goo into your flat tire to fix a flat, then you put air in again and try for drive for help. It doesn’t work if the hole is too large, and its worthless if your sidewall is damaged. After nine years, I’m not confident my kit would even work.

BMW didn’t even include a jack with my M5. I have AAA, but wasn’t comfortable not being able to help myself in an emergency. What happens if I’m stranded hundreds of miles from a dealership? Plus, many shops don’t carry the tires these cars require. I’ve read horror stories of some owners staying in a motel waiting for the right tire to be delivered for their cars.

So I decided to get a space saving spare tire, aka a donut. You might think I could get one from BMW but that’s not the case. No such solution was ever manufactured, which doesn’t seem to make sense. BMW imported almost 10,000 E39 M5s to North America, so you’d think they’d see a market they could and should address.¬†Thankfully for E39 M5 owners, a company called Bimmerzone stepped into this vacuum and made a donut spare for the car.

I educated myself on this topic in typical social media fashion. First I researched what other owners in the M5forum have done on this front. I also started a thread in the BMW group on LinkedIn, asking other BMW owners their opinions. The discussion has received 45 comments and counting, so this seems like a pretty hot topic with BMW owners. Vincent Chin, president of Bimmerzone, got involved in the thread and we started a conversation. Vincent was kind enough to offer me a small discount on the donut spare in exchange for me sharing my first hand impressions via Work, Wine and Wheels.

Installed, right front

I received the spare tire two days after ordering online. Like any kind of insurance, I hope I never need it. But it looks ready for action when required. With the included spacer and the longer wheel bolts the spare clears the M5’s large brake calipers. The tire came with air in it, but needs to be inflated to 60 pounds per the instructions. I saved a little money and picked up a used E39 jack from my mechanic, but I did get the tote bag to keep the trunk clean.

A quick note on run flat tires, a separate but related topic. The BMW E39 thankfully never came with runflats, which degrade handling due to their extremely stiff sidewalls. Many newer BMWs come with runflats and the mobility kit, and there is passionate debate around whether this is the proper way to address the issue of flat tires. A lot of the comments in my LinkedIn discussion veered off topic into an argument about runflats. If you’d like more background on this topic, check out that link and here is a two part story from BMWblog with over 300 reader comments.

I’m very pleased with my purchase. The Bimmerzone donut takes up some trunk space but its not too bad. Most of the long distance trips are done in my wife’s Toyota Highlander, but the spare gives me great peace of mind. Obviously I hope never to need it for more than that, but if I do I’ll update this post.

Ready if needed

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