22 inch rims voided my BMW transmission warranty!

Joe Free

BMW transmission warning lightIf you’re thinking about buying a car with big wheels or rims, you might want to think twice!  I recently had a customer bring his BMW with aftermarket 22 inch rims into the shop with a transmission warning light (looks like a gear with an exclamation point in the middle).

One might think, “No problem!  My car is still under factory warranty!” or, “I’m glad I bought that aftermarket, extended warranty for my used car!”  Not so fast…

I’ve been repairing and servicing European Asian & domestic car transmissions and engines with aftermarket warranty contracts for nearly 30 years, and for the first time ever, I had a normally-covered claim turned down flat for oversized tires!

BUYERS BEWARE:  Those 22 inch wheels and low profile tires may look great on your BMW, but your warranty company sees it as a contract breach.  Check your warranty carefully!  Most warranties include a “modified vehicle” clause.

In this case, our customer’s warranty claim was denied, even though the aftermarket wheels and tires were on the vehicle when he purchased it.  The dealership that sold him the vehicle also sold him the oversized wheels and the warranty contract.  Needless to say, they denied all responsibility for the damage to the transmission.

We have rebuilt transmissions for 4 wheel drive monster trucks, with 30 inch wheels and larger.  Many custom & modified parts are used specifically for that purpose, which allow the transmission to deal with the added torque and horsepower output.  This is not the case with your standard factory parts. In most cases, your factory transmission is engineered to work with the original wheels and tires, and nothing more.
Regardless of whether your transmission can handle the large wheels and tires or not, I can say for sure that an oversized tire is going to reduce your actual odometer reading.  Honestly, the is likely the big problem that the warranty companies are having with the instalation oversized tires.

Additional Information:

Obviously, this post is about a BMW, but it applies to Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Audi, etc.  The BMW instrument panel has a warning light as described above.  Other vehicles might have a message something like:

  • transmission failure
  • gear box fault
  • check engine
  • service engine
  • gear ratio error
  • transmission over temp

Whatever the case, be sure to pay attention to your instrument panel and get your vehicle checked out as soon as possible if you see a light or message like this.  Sometimes these warnings appear at the first sign of trouble, before any major damage occurs.

About 

I've been managing transmission and auto repair shops for over 25 years. Prior to that, I worked as a mechanic in Dallas TX. I have always had an interest in fixing cars, and still love it to this day.

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