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rbright
11-09-2002, 07:28 AM
Ok, don't laugh. I just got my 330Ci, upgraded from a 98 Ford Taurus and I think the two cars handle quite differently.

Stop Laughing.

I have the coupe, with sport package. Yes, the BMW is much sportier, and the steering is much heavier. I have the 17" Michelin Sport Pilots with 32F and 38R pressure. As I drive down the road, I constantly feel the car pull to one side or the other, depending on the road slant, or bumps in the road.

I know I am supposed to "feel" the road more now than from the cushy ride of the Taurus, so I wonder if this extra pull on the steering wheel is my new-found love of a sports car feeling, or if there might be something wrong with the car.

Yes, I feel dumb asking this question, but I need to know. It is the first time I have ever had a car this "sporty" with these kind of wheels and tires, which are much "harder" than I am accustomed to. Should I feel the wheel pull with each bump and hole or road slant, requiring me to keep a tight grip on the wheel most of the time?

Once you stop laughing, please help me understand. Is this the tramline feeling of the Pilot Sports?

Thanks.

OBS3SSION
11-09-2002, 08:29 AM
That is normal, and in a week or so you won't even notice it anymore.

I'm not laughing, because I asked the same question the day I installed 17x7.5 wheels with low profile summer tires on my car when I was used to the cushy ride of 15x7 all seasons.

You're "feeling" the road more because there is "less" tire to absorb the road irregularities. Like I said... given a few days time, you won't even notice it anymore.

LilEccentricJ
11-09-2002, 09:08 AM
Rbright -

This is a very subjective sort of issue and can only be responded to by ones own experience and interpretation of your explanation of the symptoms.

I have had what I came to describe as trammeling because others described it as such, yet it is not a true descriptive of my symptoms and I suspect yours either. Trammeling is the lack of free motion, where in reality what I experienced and it seems you are now, was an over active interaction with the road surface. Let me briefly describe my conditions:

At speeds under 50 MPH or so, the car tracked perfectly straight on flat surfaces, no pull at all. When on uneven or rutted surfaces the car would fight (yes, fight) to fall into the rut or follow the slope of the road surface.

At speeds over 50 MPH and most notably, Hwy speeds of 65 and 70, the car was very shifty and would wander side to side in the lane, even on flat surfaces; and would fight to fall into ruts, easily moved by wind and vehicle air displacement.

These conditions were caused by what was later found to be a poor alignment from the dealer (excessive toe out). Once corrected by an independent alignment shop, the car once again tracked as the day I bought it. Things you might notice and are normal with a perfect alignment; feeling from pot holes, road reflectors, brake pull if any, rotor shutter and so on. When hitting any anomaly in the road surface however, i.e. pavement changes, bridge or tracks gapping etc. the feeling should be no more than an instantaneous jolt in the wheel yet should not alter your path or be anything you should have to consciously correct to maintain heading. If you are “fighting” the road, have a proper alignment done on the car.

joema
11-09-2002, 10:12 AM
rbright -- I noticed the exact same thing on my 2003 330i SP with ContiSportContacts. Some people say the Pilot Sports (although better tires) tramline worse.

Usually tramlining is described as a tendency to follow road ruts. But it could also include the tendency to follow road crown (pull left on L-crowned roads and right on R-crowned roads). How much cars do this is a product of suspension and tire design. For a given suspension, it appears these tire factors increase tramlining:

- increased width
- lower profile
- unidirectional tread
- softer rubber compound

However it's not *solely* tire design. If it were, then cars with extremely wide tires (e.g. Dodge Viper with 275/35-18 and 345/30-19) would be totally undrivable.

My VW Passat tramlined very little, likewise my wife's Ford Focus barely does it any.

When I first got my 330i SP, it tramlined pretty bad, plus had a slight vibration. Two tires were 1/2 oz. out of balance, plus the front toe-in was too much. After balancing and alignment, it's much better. You could have your balance and alignment checked to be sure.

On perfectly flat, smooth asphalt, my car feels fine -- no pulling or wandering or "hunting". On cambered roads it pulls noticeably (but not excessively) left and right, depending on the road. This is normal.

On uneven concrete freeways at over 60 mph, it tends to very slightly wander left/right when on center. This requires small steering corrections. I think this is normal, as it varies with road surface. At any speed, certain bumps and road imperfections cause steering forces which I must correct.

I drove a 2003 325i (non-SP), which had 205/55-16 tires. Tramlining was much less, ride was smoother, and the car tracked straight ahead better. However when pushed it had lots of body lean, turn-in was slower, and didn't corner near as well.

By contrast I drove a 2003 330i SP with 225/40-18 and 255/35-18 tires. It tramlined worse, road noise was higher, and ride was rougher.

Considering all these E46s have the same basic suspension design, it shows tires really affect tramlining.

For the most part I think what you describe is normal and after a while you'll get used to it. After the Pilot Sports wear out you could probably get different tires that tramline somewhat less, although it's hard to say what those might be.

It's unfortunate the available tire reviews and magazine vehicle reviews don't talk about tramlining more. It should be possible to design a suspension/tire combination that tramlines less.

-- Joe

ak330i
11-09-2002, 11:10 AM
When i upgraded from 17" conti to 18" s03 with lower profile and alignment done, i feel the same pulling and fighting. I attribute this to a lower rolling resistance of s03. The car just like to roll to the side when the road is combed.

AF
11-09-2002, 12:22 PM
My 01 330Ci tramlines like crazy and I have M68's with the Michelin Pilots.

I had bought a set of non-sport BMW 330Ci wheels last year and put them on last winter. The tramline was next to nothing. The tires on those wheels are 205/50/17 with Conti allseason tires that came from the factory when you don't order the sport package.

Not only did the tramlining cut down a lot but it also smoothed out the ride, caused more bodyroll and were much quietier.

Since it was a very mild winter last year I switched back to my sport package wheels and tires after only 2 or 3 months.

WHEW . . . . was it nice to have those wheels back even with the tramlining.

It took about a week for me to get used to that feeling again . . . there is no doubt what your feeling is totally normal

LilEccentricJ
11-09-2002, 12:49 PM
Interesting read from:

http://www.autospeed.com/A_0879/P_1/article.html

Article:

The term 'tramlining' describes the errant automotive behaviour where the car wants to follow longitudinal grooves in the road, rather than obey the driver's steering input. Many vehicles tramline to a just detectable degree; for example you may notice that when you change lanes, there is a tiny resistance felt through the wheel when crossing a bitumen patch. But there are cars that can, in some conditions, tramline atrociously. How badly? Well, the steering wheel can be literally yanked from your grasp as the car sniffs out a rut in the road and follows it with dog-like determination. And if you're travelling quickly and that rut leads straight into the gutter, watch out!
Both my current 1995 Audi S4 and my previous car - an R32 Skyline GT-R - can tramline very badly. Some GT-R owners just put up with it - that's the way the car is, and that's that. However, other GT-R owners look quite blank when the tramlining problem is raised. (And the S4 drivers? I can't find enough S4 owners with the right-hand drive steering system to discuss the issue with!) The reason for some drivers always experiencing it and others not even being aware that it's a problem with the car is related to one factor - tyres. All other things being equal, it is the tyres that determine how badly a car will tramline. And not only is the tyre design important, but so is the amount of tread left on the tyre.
When I bought the Audi's current Kumho Ectsas, I thought that they made the car a bit more tramliney than I'd have liked, but not overly so. But as those tyres have worn down - and I do so many hard kilometres that the fronts have lasted only 6 months - the tramlining has got worse and worse. Driving the car across the continent from Adelaide to Brisbane showed just how tiring constant steering corrections can be - the Audi on bad road surfaces was literally darting all over the road. And the Audi's problems were really thrown into sharp relief when I experienced the absolute stability and composure of my recently-acquired '89 Saab 900 Turbo - in comparison, the Audi was impossible to drive in a straight line over patched bitumen.
(The propensity that a car has for tramlining depends on its suspension geometry and the amount of feedback that the designers have built into the steering. Aspects like scrub radius, castor, camber and so on.)
So when I found that the insides of the Kumhos were badly worn - probably as a result of the large amount of toe-in being run in a vain attempt to reduce the tramlining - I needed to make a decision. What good tyres could I buy for the front of the Audi that would very substantially decrease the horrible tramlining?
I started off thinking expensive tyres - Bridgestone S02, that kind of thing. But for tyres of that standard we're talking about a helluva lot of money - especially if the tramlining remained just as bad! What would I say - "Sorry Mr Tyre Retailer, I don't like these and I'd like my money back." Yeah, right. But what if the dealer was aware of the problem before I bought the tyres? Perhaps we could work something out before hand? I rang a tyre retailer and told him that my car really liked tramlining - and what was his suggestion for tyres that would fix this?
"Yair well, you need a tyre that's not directional," he said.
"Right - why is that?" I asked.
"Well, directional tyres have really coarse tread that grips right into the road," he replied.
'Er - but what's the directionality got to do with it? Haven't some non-directional tyres also got a coarse tread?" I asked.
And I didn't get a satisfactory reply to that.
Tyre wall stiffness? Nothing to do with tramlining, according to this bloke. (In fact he said that all tyres had the same wall stiffness!) Shape of the shoulder? Not mentioned. Since those were the things I'd been thinking would be most significant - and in fact later proved very relevant - I ended the conversation fairly quickly. Why is it that when tyre retailers don't actually know the answer they never simply say, "I don't know"?
Time for a Google web search on the subject - perhaps others would suggest a tyre that had in real life reduced the degree of tramlining being experienced. I searched under "tramlining" and found that there is definitely a tale to be told! This is typical:
"When I decided to get wheels (Oettinger RE 17x8 ET 35) and tires for my 2001 [Audi] A4 I opted for the Yokohama AVS Sport because a lot of people were going on and on about what a great tire it was... Well I've got about 750 miles on them...and in terms of grip and traction they rock, nearly as good as the S02 PP's. But they have this one very disconcerting behavior...they tramline like crazy...AKA they follow road anomalies to the point it's down right scary."
BMW, Audi, Mazda MX5 owners - all could be found in discussion groups complaining about problems of tramlining on particular tyres. Unfortunately, the tyres that were named as tramlining comprised a who's who list of the top performance tyres!

I also found a very interesting test carried out by US magazine, Sports Compact Car, on the Toyo Proxes T1-S. I take product tests conducted by that magazine with a grain of salt, but this test was particularly interesting because it detailed how the Toyo Proxes T1-S differs in design and construction to the previous Toyo T1+. And all the differences in the new tyre were designed to make it more user-friendly - reduced tramlining, a more flexible sidewall, and rounded shoulders. It was almost as if the T1+ had been just too hard-edged for the marketplace, and in the redesign the engineers had been forced to consider real cars on real roads. Additionally, the magazine tested the tyres on a car that they said had tramlined badly on the previous model T1+ tyre, but the new Proxes had fixed the problem.
So here was high performance tyre designed to reduce tramlining, and a test that actually mentioned the subject!
Interesting.
I then priced 225/50-16 Proxes TS-1 at just $200 each.
Very interesting!
Next I rang Toyo's 1800 number and sought out a tech expert from the company. His response was as different from the tyre retailer as it is possible to get.
"There's no way of saying how the tyre will tramline until you try it on the car," he said. "I know that's not too helpful but that's the way it is."
"Anything at all I should look for?" I asked.
"Well, you want a tyre with as few circumferential grooves as possible, " he said. "Most tyres these days have a V-shaped pattern - like the TS-1 - and that's what you need. And softer sidewalls. I know that will reduce performance, but it will also reduce the likelihood of tramlining."
"I've read a test of the TS-1," I said. "And they said the new tyre was designed to reduce tramlining - is it?"
"Not really," said the honest company spokesman. "I can't really tell you whether they'll work on your car or not."
Time to consider what I had learned. Firstly, tyres without stiff sidewalls and circumferential grooves are less likely to cause tramlining. Secondly, really hi-po tyres - the ones with ultra-stiff sidewalls - can worsen tramlining, and tyres with square shoulders, likewise. Finally, the second model topline Proxes had been designed with some of these points specifically taken into account - and the TS-1 is only two hundred bucks a tyre.
I bought a pair of them, and had them fitted, initially retaining the same alignment. And the result? At this stage they are excellent - zero signs of tramlining and excellent grip. In fact, an astonishing transformation. So mission accomplished?
We'll see when they start wearing down....

End

joema
11-09-2002, 01:13 PM
LilEccentricJ, thanks for digging that up. However the statement about circumferential grooves increasing tramlining, and V-shapped tread decreasing it, seems to conflict with my experience and that of others. Maybe it was just a mis-statement of the phone conversation.

Many E46 owners have reported the Pilot Sport (V-shaped directional tread, no circumferential grooves) tramlines worse than the ContiSportContact (non-directional tread, several circumferential grooves).

Likewise on a previous car I switched from Bridgestone Turanza EL42 touring tires (non-directional, circumferential grooves) to Michelin Pilot Sport A/S (directional, V-shaped tread, just two circumferential grooves). The Pilot Sport A/S tramlined much more.

It's too bad there're so many people seeking advice about this, yet so little decent information. Thanks again LilEccentricJ for digging that up.

-- Joe

LilEccentricJ
11-09-2002, 02:36 PM
Well, tramlining (IMO) is not a great word to describe this in that it's not a readily definable word by any means... mainly only by those in the car business and even then the definition varies greatly. That is why I originally said it was "very subjective". I have SO3s and AFTER i got the alignment from an independent shop I have not experienced this problem outside of severe rutting. Prior to the alignment however, not only did ruts in the road control the side to side movement of the car but also grooves left by rims (flat tires on trucks) would influence my directional stability. Though I equated that to the grooves in my tires, after the alignment, this did not happen any more. I am at a loss as to an adequate solution or explanation other than in my case, toe-in and a rear camber correction solved ALL my problems.

AF
11-09-2002, 03:02 PM
My experience has been that the tramlining has been bad from day 1 with my car.

When it hit about 20 months old I had the steering retrofit and they performed 2 alignments and the tramlining conitnued.

If anything as the front tires are wearing it is getting worse.

LilEccentricJ
11-09-2002, 03:22 PM
Alan,

I finally went to an independent alignment shop (that's all they do, since 1959) and they corrected my car without the use of a laser guided alignment or any lookup tables. In fact, they corrected it primarily from driving it 5, different road tests during the 45 minute alignment process. I can say that mastery rates over computer aided systems any day!

You should not have to drive a car with this condition. I would suggest you seek an independent alignment. Ask a body shop who is best in town, that's how I found one.

DINANISR3
11-09-2002, 03:48 PM
17's have a nice ride.. i have 19's on my benz and man the ride is very bumpy... you can feel every little thing on the road.. on smooth roads though they ride really nice... the bigger you want to go.. the more you sacarfice in ride comfort... and tire prices kill me too...

joema
11-09-2002, 04:32 PM
LilEccentricJ -- does your car have the sport package and staggered tires? I ask because the SP version seems more prone to tramlining.

If yours is non-sport, yet tramlined before getting the alignment fixed, that was indeed bad.

I had my 4-wheel alignment checked at the best independent BMW shop in town. They did a fully weighted alignment (specified passenger-simulation weight in each seat plus the trunk). My total toe-in was over the limit. They brought it to mid-range on each wheel. All other alignment settings were mid-range.

My car's steering is still quite sensitive to the road surface, but less so than before the alignment and balance. I'm assuming this is normal since many E46 SP owners report likewise.

LilEccentricJ
11-09-2002, 04:43 PM
SP w/ SO3s and the bushing TSB replacements

these things:

joema
11-09-2002, 05:14 PM
LilEccentricJ -- did the new control arm bushings make any difference in the steering?

ashecnc
11-09-2002, 05:23 PM
Originally posted by LilEccentricJ
Rbright -

This is a very subjective sort of issue and can only be responded to by ones own experience and interpretation of your explanation of the symptoms.

I have had what I came to describe as trammeling because others described it as such, yet it is not a true descriptive of my symptoms and I suspect yours either. Trammeling is the lack of free motion, where in reality what I experienced and it seems you are now, was an over active interaction with the road surface. Let me briefly describe my conditions:

At speeds under 50 MPH or so, the car tracked perfectly straight on flat surfaces, no pull at all. When on uneven or rutted surfaces the car would fight (yes, fight) to fall into the rut or follow the slope of the road surface.

At speeds over 50 MPH and most notably, Hwy speeds of 65 and 70, the car was very shifty and would wander side to side in the lane, even on flat surfaces; and would fight to fall into ruts, easily moved by wind and vehicle air displacement.

These conditions were caused by what was later found to be a poor alignment from the dealer (excessive toe out). Once corrected by an independent alignment shop, the car once again tracked as the day I bought it. Things you might notice and are normal with a perfect alignment; feeling from pot holes, road reflectors, brake pull if any, rotor shutter and so on. When hitting any anomaly in the road surface however, i.e. pavement changes, bridge or tracks gapping etc. the feeling should be no more than an instantaneous jolt in the wheel yet should not alter your path or be anything you should have to consciously correct to maintain heading. If you are “fighting” the road, have a proper alignment done on the car.

I agree with that 100%, because I have kept my car aligned correctly, I have NEVER experienced any "tramlining"

LilEccentricJ
11-09-2002, 06:03 PM
Originally posted by joema
LilEccentricJ -- did the new control arm bushings make any difference in the steering?

I cant answer that. 1) The car had a perfect alignment prior to the bushings 2) The new SO3 were installed at the same time 3) They did an alignment because of the bushings

So I took the car in for tires and got it back in dire shape to say the least.

bmw325
11-09-2002, 11:49 PM
Tramlining is quite a large and complicated topic. Its one of those "you know it when you feel it" types of things-- and its bothered me on my car ever since I got the steering retrofit 1 year ago. I think that tires, suspension alignment and steering systems all play a role. In the case of my car, my theory is that the original "over boosted" steering in the car was better able to resist the Continsport tires tendency to follow grooves in the road. From reading lots on the subject, I've gathered that it can be corrected in a number of ways-- but changing tires from a Z-rated 17" or greater tire seems to make the biggest difference. Supposedly, more toe-in on the front wheels can help reduce tramlining-- but it increases tire wear. I tried that on my car, and it made the steering heavier, but the tramlining was just as annoying. I have read of several people (including people on this board) who were able to get good alignments that did indeed cure the problem even w/ high performance tires. I tried about 7 different places and never got what I wanted-- but I'm sure I screwed up my alignment quite nicely in the process.

In theory, it makes sense to me that tires w/ a V shaped pattern should tramline less. If I look at the grooves in my contisports I can imagine them acting like train wheels and hooking on the grooves in the road. This theory was not supported by driving ALan F's car w/ the V grooeved Michelin Pilots-- his car did tramline more than mine. Perhaps its possible that the Pilots have a stiffer sidewall, and that that plays a bigger role than tread pattern.

I've been on the brink of trading my 17s for 16"ers for quite some time, but can't quite bring myself to do it (I just love the type 44s too much). I think I'll just replace the contisport tires w/ some nice soft squeal-like-a-pig all-seasons when the time comes for new tires. I just haven't found the right tire in a 225/45 size yet.

I really enjoyed driving my mother's new Passat wagon w/ 16" tires last weekend-- it tracked dead straight on the highway w/ a nice firm on-center feel. Made me start really thinking about getting ride of my tires ASAP. I wonder if those passat wheels would bolt on to my BMW so that I could just try it out... :yikes:

Anyway-- don't descend down the path of obsession that I did-- either forget about it-- or ditch the high performance tires if it really bothers you. :)

rbright
11-10-2002, 07:48 AM
I appreciate everyone's input on this discussion. I have learned a lot.

The tugging doesn't bother me, since I now know that it is normal. I was concerned that my car was out of alignment or balance. Of course, with the tramlining tugging that I feel everyday, I have no idea how I would ever know if the car was really out of alignment, unless it pulled constantly.

The tugging is only when hitting bumps, or holes, or ruts in the ugly roads of Atlanta. If I am on the interstate, it tracks fine, granted I still feel the road, but that is expected.

I love the new feel, much better than my cushy Ford feeling. It doesn't bother me at all, I will probably keep these wheels and tires and just get used to the new sporty feeling in the ride.

Thanks for the invigorating discussion.

AF
11-10-2002, 08:51 AM
Originally posted by rbright
Of course, with the tramlining tugging that I feel everyday, I have no idea how I would ever know if the car was really out of alignment, unless it pulled constantly.


It's funny you write this because I've had my 330Ci for 2 yrs & 3 1/2 months and to this day I still have no idea how I would know if I needed an alignment. Even on a perfect highway my car has never driven a complete straight line . . . it always manages to find that tiny little slant in the road that you never knew was there . . .

joema
11-10-2002, 08:57 AM
I've done a little more research and wanted to add a few things. The steering kickback when hitting small bumps is called "bump steer". It's partially steering and front suspension design, but tires and alignment can affect it also. You sometimes read about a new car where the engineers made design changed to reduce bump steer.

The tendency to wander slightly when on center is called "steering wander", or "rain groove wander" if the road has rain grooves. If rain grooves then it's probably normal, although the particular suspension, alignment and tires all affect it.

I don't know if there's a technical term for pulling left/right based on road crown. Like the above tires, suspension design and alignment can all affect it. I've seen big changes just from changing tires, so that's a big factor.

I think some of this is normal on an E46 SP, however I'm curious about some owners who say their car is totally lacking all of these characteristics.

LilEccentricJ
11-10-2002, 09:11 AM
Originally posted by joema
I think some of this is normal on an E46 SP, however I'm curious about some owners who say their car is totally lacking all of these characteristics.

I have an E46 (2001) SP, stock rims, SO3s with 6k miles on them now. Replaced bushings from TSB...

I have no wander, I feel bumps in the steering but it does not influence my direction, I feel standing water in rain but it barely influences my direction and I have great on center feel.

After many miles of disappointing steering, and finally a masterful alignment, I can now say that when done properly, an E46 should not wander in the road. I might reiterate my alignment was done by a shop that is very old, since 1959... I swear they had the original equipment and personnel that started the business. They aligned the car with wrenches and string + 5 road tests. After the alignment, my tires did smell from a 100 mile trip I made but after that I have not noticed anything and I was countering a 6k mile bad alignment. At this point I do not believe my tires are wearing at any abnormal or aggressive rate.

JayKayo
04-24-2013, 11:06 AM
11-year bump!!!! :D
My other '05 325Ci never tramlined so I don't know why this '05 330Ci does.
I had it properly aligned and balanced but it still does it. Heard that it's because of the tires though, the way the rain grooves are lined on the freeway causes the tires to follow it, even more so if you have "sticky" tires. Or the bigger wheels.
Either way, I give up on trying to correct it.

GoForthFast
04-24-2013, 10:57 PM
If you don't have new CAB's, get them on there.

lgr122
04-24-2013, 11:11 PM
In my case tires are the reason.
Nothing else changed when switched from winter tires to summer tires, but now need to hold steering wheel much tighter.
Trying to adjust tire pressures bit and i think i already got it bit better.