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F11 Tyre & Suspension Upgrades - Advice Sought

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Hi all,

 

I’m a newcomer to the BMW fold, so this forum has been a bit of a goldmine for me. I bought my first BMW last year – a 2014 F11 530d SE (LCI) auto – recognising that this might be the last chance to experience the fabulous 30d engine before 3-cylinder petrol or electric engines are mandated for everybody.

 

The motivation for SE rather than MSport (apart from lower cost and an otherwise fabulous interior with pano roof) was my comfort bias, and the erroneous belief that the SE would be better riding than an MSport on low profile tyres. How wrong I was!

 

Predictably, my biggest bugbear at the mo is the criminally weak suspension on the F11 SE-Spec. The car is shod with 245/45R18 ContiSportContact 3 RFTs at the moment – which, like so many before me have experienced, make the car “tramline like a pissed up whale” (whoever coined that phrase deserves an award). So there’s three things I am thinking about.

 

1. Replace the RFTs with non-RFT Michelin CrossClimate+ (which seem to get good reviews). My existing tyres do have life left in them, but I am deathly afraid of getting another set of tyres with straight cut grooves and shallow tread in the centre (e.g. Primacy 3, Sport Maxx RT2, Premium Contact 6 etc), which I worry will tramline sooner or later, leaving a serious safety risk.

 

2. Neither me nor the wife are corner carvers so I’m not looking for stiffer springs – but the stock dampers seem really weak to handle the mass of the car, and we would both crave better straight line stability and more body control (which even our humble previous car – a 2007 Mondeo 2.0TDCi – was better at). So I’m thinking Bilstein B6 - Chris_91132 seems to have had great results using this route. Of course – this is expensive – are there any other comparable options or is it false economy to go for alternates?  

 

3. The third thing (and this might be a long shot) is thicker ARBs. The objective here is not necessarily to corner faster, but to reduce body roll at the same cornering speed. Although there are plenty of such upgrades (especially in the US) on the F10 – using M5 ARBs for example, I’ve found relatively little on ARB upgrades for the F11. One example is DocKishen’s upgrade of his F11 535d (H&R front, MSport rear), but this “mixed” setup seems like a half-baked experiment than something well thought out. Has anyone else carried out such an upgrade on an F11?

 

I still have to see whether I will be able to afford the (inevitably) increased insurance in addition to the parts costs, but assuming I could my questions are:

1. Has anyone tried this combination (non-RFT with better dampers, with or without ARB upgrades) – and would they recommend some or all of these together?

2. Could you recommend any reliable installers in Greater London (or slightly outside) who are reasonable and know what they’re doing in this space?

 

Any pointers you can provide would be gratefully received.

 

Cheers,

Lee (N57D30).

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Welcome,

 

I have a 530d SE on 19" rims and am sticking with RFT tyres. I'm very happy with the ride quality and I get no tram-lining on my Goodyear Excellence 245/40R19's

 

As someone who hasn't modified the car I can only offer my opinion on a couple of your points:

 

I doubt the dampers are the weak link in "handling the mass of the car" as all they do is arrest the rebound from the springs. For body control it is possible to put the thicker ARBs from the M5  on the front. Not sure if the rears differ on the F11 from the F10. Upgrading the spring rates may also help but as the F11 has airsprings on the rear I'm not sure upgrading just the front is a good idea as you'll throw the natural balance out. 

 

Remember you have bought an F11 which is a comfortable (in my opinion) family grand tourer.

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I'd switch to the crossclimates if you're happy going to very soft, comfy and quiet, then swap the front springs for Eibach prokit which I'd think will be ok with your SE damper and have the rear airsprings adjusted to lower to match. 

Maybe find a f11 msport rear arb from a breaker and try it out - should be easy to fit whereas i think the front arb is fair bit more involved. 

 

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I felt that the front of my MSport F10 (19" wheels) was a bit soft in the bends and I looked into the M5 roll bar upgrade but that went after I replaced the quite worn Michelin Primacy ZP tyres with Primacy 3 rft tyres. Mine will corner spot on. It's a bit wallowy with its 17" winters on at the moment, but they are more forgiving on the potholes.

 

Continental tyres are very good and are an OEM tyre. What's the wear like on them?

 

Your car shouldn't tramline, there is something wrong and I don't think it's down to your type of tyre or suspension set up. I suspect you have something out if spec in terms of tyre pressures or a tyre defect or something worn in a suspension joint. Make sure your rear air springs are fully functioning inc the compressor, the rear air springs have leaked on a number of owners cars.

 

These cars ride quality and handling  is second to none which makes me think something is amiss on yours.

 

 

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11 minutes ago, 535i Andrew said:

 

Your car shouldn't tramline, there is something wrong and I don't think it's down to your type of tyre or suspension set up. I suspect you have something out if spec in terms of tyre pressures or a tyre defect or something worn in a suspension joint. Make sure your rear air springs are fully functioning inc the compressor, the rear air springs have leaked on a number of owners cars.

 

These cars ride quality and handling  is second to none which makes me think something is amiss on yours.

 

 

 

Could be in need of wheel alignment.

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7 minutes ago, Matthew Ashton said:

 

Could be in need of wheel alignment.

 

Yes, I meant to add that in, I thought I did. :blink:

 

I got a full alignment done as part of the sale deal and it should be done regularly to keep things handling like it should, perhaps every two years.

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I have an F11 SE with std suspension running 18" summers. The ride and handling when on the old RFTs was appalling especially when they were worn. It was so bad I considered changing the car. I switched to none RFT Michellin Primacy 3's and have not had the same issues since. Now had the car over 4 years. Tyre pressures are very important - I run 32/3 front 36/7 rear none loaded.  

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I love my SE and have never had any issues when pushing it, maybe I don't push it hard enough?

 

If I wanted something like a go kart, I'd but a go kart, I did a 300 mile return journey last night without a break and I felt fully relaxed and appreciative of what a great comfy bus it is.

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Many thanks for all your inputs folks - incredibly helpful. 

 

So there are three problems I am trying to solve:

Tramlining - this happens most frequently whenever there is a join between two layers of asphalt (or concrete). Whenever either of the front tyres goes over such a "seam", the car begins to wander and corrective steering input is required to keep it going straight. The effect is worse if there is a camber change between the two layers. An example is the concrete section between J24 and J25 of the M25, where such "seams" occur in the middle of driving lanes.

 

Float - Chris_91132 had put this perfectly - "the car does not inspire confidence on undulating roads". It occurs on 40mph B-roads as well, but is particularly disconcerting when accelerating, for example, from 50-70mph (in kickdown) on a rough section of the motorway (where I can sense a degree of squat as well which makes the front end feel even lighter). It also feels like there is undue bounce in the car when going over undulating surfaces - which is why I think the dampers are the problem (they're not arresting the rebound well enough).

 

 Body Roll  - This is absolutely fine at lower speed (in fact, I'm delighted by the flat cornering at 20-30mph), but becomes a pain at motorway interchanges for example - example being turning from M25 clockwise onto M11 south (going towards London) which has a reducing radius curve. By gut feel alone, the roll seems to emanate more from the front (the rear seems better planted).

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13 hours ago, 535i Andrew said:

Continental tyres are very good and are an OEM tyre. What's the wear like on them?

 

Your car shouldn't tramline, there is something wrong and I don't think it's down to your type of tyre or suspension set up. I suspect you have something out if spec in terms of tyre pressures or a tyre defect or something worn in a suspension joint. Make sure your rear air springs are fully functioning inc the compressor, the rear air springs have leaked on a number of owners cars.

I've attached pictures showing current wear (two front and two rear). Knowing the weakness in the air springs, after I got the car I had it independently checked and was given the all clear. To be honest haven't had anyone check for microscopic leaks, but in practice I find that my rear air springs work really well at absorbing bumps, so the chances of this being an issue are low. 

 

I've also set different tyre pressures depending on load, based on the recommendations in the door sill (have a 12V powered pump so can set the pressures at home in the morning before setting off). TPMS gives fairly consistent readings in both left and right tyres. I will try and give 32/3psi front and 36/7 rear based on E39mad's recommendations and see if that makes a difference. 

 

13 hours ago, Matthew Ashton said:

 

Could be in need of wheel alignment.

When I experienced the tramlining wheel alignment was the first thing I had sorted, but the problems have persisted even after the alignment.

 

Cheers,

Lee (N57D30).

Front 1.jpg

Front 2.jpg

Rear 1.jpg

Rear 2.jpg

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Looks like fairly new rear tyres.

 

The first front one looks like it is really scrubbed at the outside edge compared to the other front. This tells me that something isn't right on either side at the front of your car.

 

Any vibrations when driving, felt thru the drivers seat or steering wheel or brake pedal?

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3 minutes ago, 535i Andrew said:

The first front one looks like it is really scrubbed at the outside edge compared to the other front. This tells me that something isn't right on either side at the front of your car.

 

Any vibrations when driving, felt thru the drivers seat or steering wheel or brake pedal?

 

Nope - none at all. I got the car with 59k miles, and even on first independent inspection it was noted that the tyres had uneven wear. I've since put on 4.5k miles on it, but haven''t had any unnatural vibrations at any point. On a perfectly smooth surface (read continental motorways), I can let go of the steering wheel and it will keep going straight - no pull either side.

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10 minutes ago, N57D30 said:

, I can let go of the steering wheel and it will keep going straight - no pull either side.

 

So that's how it should handle then.

 

Is it a particular road you experience tramlining on then?

 

Mine felt just plane wrong on a bit of the A8. It was resurfaced and all was well on the new Tarmac.

 

I would check out the uneven tyre wear as it shouldn't do that, that points to a problem. If both fronts wear the same and both rears wear the same that's ok but differences left to right, no.

 

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I used to get tramlining om the RFT's - and it was a real pain as like pointed out you really had to fight to wheel constantly. I don't have this issue any more.

 

There is a known "vagueness" in the F10/11 steering around the dead ahead which again was accentuated with the RFT's. 

 

There is a theory around that the car was set up to be best run on 18"s with none RFT's in Germany. They use std tyres over there with RFT as an option. 

 

In summary changing my tyres made it a much more relaxing car to drive due to less steering input. It does not have the superb ride/handling combination of say an E39 5 series of two generations prior but it is a much much bigger car. 

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So tried 32.5psi front and 36.5psi rear this evening using E39mad's suggestion but sadly no improvement. I guess the next step for me is to get the suspension joints checked, and failing that, switch the tyres and see if that cures it. Will report back once I have an answer.

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12 hours ago, E39mad said:

There is a known "vagueness" in the F10/11 steering around the dead ahead which again was accentuated with the RFT's. 

 

 

I tried to get this on a quiet bit of motorway today and everything felt responsive, slight movement of the steering wheel had mine changing direction. I'm currently on narrower 17" winters (8") than my 8.5" x 19" summers, perhaps that's an issue on wider tyres? But I don't recall that sensation on my summers.

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If you want a summer tyre that will improve straight line stability and offers tenacious cornering with a quick turn in, go for Nokian Z Line tyres. Quiet and great in the rain.

 

Good value too.

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Know it sounds odd but check none of your wheels are buckled. I had a slightly out of round wheel and it made for a some very odd handling character.

 

I also had a duff rear shock which - oddly - made the front seems bit floaty under braking.

 

 

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On 1/23/2018 at 11:29 PM, Matthew Ashton said:

I have a 530d SE on 19" rims and am sticking with RFT tyres. I'm very happy with the ride quality and I get no tram-lining on my Goodyear Excellence 245/40R19's

 

 

Same here, albeit 520d M Sport.

 

I am frankly amazed at how well the car handles. Not a trace of understeer (benefit of almost no engine up front?). It's well ahead of my previous E91 325i in the going round corners stakes. (OK, there is almost no steering feel but I knew that when I bought it ...) 

 

It shouldn't tramline on 18's with 45 profile tyres so it must be tyre or suspension related. Too much toe out can cause tramlining so I'd probably start with a proper alignment ... KDS if you can get a decent price on it.

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