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August 28, 2009

Car Talk

Dealer's high-pressure response to tire blowout may be full of holes

Syndicated columnists

Dear Tom and Ray:

My friend has a fancy-shmancy 2007 BMW 3 Series. Recently, one of his tires blew out through the sidewall and left a gaping, scary-looking hole. That tire and the other three all have plenty of tread, so the blow-out seems troubling to me. He took it to the dealer, who told him: (1) All of his tires need to be replaced ASAP, because the same thing probably will happen to them soon; (2) he shouldn't have Goodyear tires of any kind because they're no good for this particular car; and (3) the only tires he ever should put on it are the model and brand they have at the dealership, which cost about $160 each, plus installation. He doesn't do any racing or any crazy driving -- he just drives normally. I'm convinced they're trying to pressure him into buying four of the most expensive tires possible. What do you think?
-- Ernie

Ray: I don't think they're trying to pressure him into buying the most expensive tires possible, Ernie. They're just trying to get him to buy the most expensive tires they have in stock.

Tom: I'd have to disagree with the dealer on all counts here. First of all, Goodyear makes some excellent tires. The only thing that's wrong with Goodyear tires in this case is that this dealer doesn't happen to sell them.

Ray: We don't know why your friend's sidewall blew out. It could have been a defect in the tire. Or he could have banged the tire against a curb and created a weak spot or a bubble that eventually blew.

Tom: We can't see the tires. So, to be fair to the BMW dealer, it's also possible that all four tires are in worse shape than you think they are. Or they could have the wrong load or speed rating for your friend's car.

Ray: But I would suggest going back to the Goodyear dealer where he bought the tires. First of all, he can get a second opinion on the condition of the other three tires. And if the one that blew out failed due to a defect, they might replace the tire for free under warranty.

Tom: Or, if the tires are older but still good, they may be able to sell your friend a used one that's a close-enough match in tread life to its axle-mate that he'd have to buy only one tire.

Ray: I'm sure the tires that the dealer is recommending would work very well on the car, but they're hardly the only ones that will work well. And as long as the tires meet the specifications set by the manufacturer (check the owner's manual), your friend can buy any brand of replacement tires he likes, Ernie.

(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk Web site.)

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