BMW GS Battery Oops

I never leave the key in the ignition switch of my cars or trucks when they’re not running, but I always leave the key in my motorcycle in my garage. Never had a problem…until recently. One of the obvious problems with leaving a key in the ignition is that it’s possible to inadvertently leave the key ON. After doing some work on my moto and driving it around the driveway a bit that’s what I did: Key ON, driver OFF—for two days!

With the key ON, this was not a good sign.

When I returned to the old BWM 1150GS and realized the key was ON but nobody was home, I had the deadest vehicle battery I’ve had in a very long time. There was not a flicker of electricity to be found or even hoped for in the displays or idiot lights. Starting batteries don’t like to be deep-cycled, and dead and empty for two days is a deeeep cycle. Would the relatively young (2 years) BMW gel battery accept a charge and rave on along the back roads this summer?

My electrical guru friend Paul said to put the battery on a long, slow charge, and hope for the best; “should be fine”. After plugging-in my AccuMate charger—the one that should have been plugged-in when I parked the bike—the dash lights showed a dim glow like an oil lamp on a cold night. I had hope.

AccuMate did the job.

After twenty hours charging, the AccuMate was green. Now the question was, would the battery start the bike repeatedly and keep the ABS lights from blinking, or will it be a one-hit wonder? I pressed the starter and the engine fired easily. Good. After letting the oil pressure build, I turned off the motor, and restarted the horizontally-opposed twin. Five times. Every time the motor sprang to life quickly and idled well without the characteristic staggered wig-wag of the ABS light indicating a low voltage fault. Lucky me…now where is that ignition key going to be stored?

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

Bighorn, little drive

17" TRD Rock Warrior wheel w/o the blig ring.

Mounting the Bighorns on the Tundra and hitting the highway confirmed what the balance machine told us: The Bighorns and 17-inch forged aluminum RW wheels are a good combination and well balanced.

Backing out of my shop I was immediately reminded of how flexible the Bighorns are, at 35 psi the ride was very compliant, almost soft.

Typical 2-ply sidewalls.

Up to 70 mph on the freeway the only thing I could feel was a slight rumble on the rear axle caused by the prior uneven wear. After a few thousand miles on a properly aligned and conservatively driven truck the poor wear patterns should disappear.

Maxxis Bighorns ON, F-C II OFF.


Perceptions and opinions about tire noise vary, and the truck can make a big difference too, though except when new I’ve found Bighorns to be a little on the loud side. This set didn’t disappoint, and the irregular wear added to the rumble.

Noise aside, the Tundra seemed happy with the Bighorns mounted and they’re a nice addition to the fleet for my upcoming multi-tire fuel economy test.

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

Mount and Balance, Maxxis Bighorn LT285/70R17D

Almost enough debris inside to weigh!

It was obvious these Bighorns had been stored outside as there was varying amounts of desert grit inside the tires. A thorough cleaning with compressed air prepared them for a trip to the tire shop.

Inside of the bead, this sand was difficult to blow out.

The Bighorns were not going on my nicest set of wheels, but my local Les Schwab Tires still used their nice, new rim-clamp machine to insure damage free mounting.

Rim Clamp tire machine.

New high-pressure valve stems were purchased for the TRD Rock Warrior wheels.

My experiences with Maxxis tires, all LT255/85R16D prior to buying this set of used 285s, have been positive. The Bighorns are a little loud, a softer, nicely gripping tire, and I’m usually impressed with how little weight they require to balance.

Having the correct, small center cone for the balance machine is important.

Hunter Road Force GSP9700 tire balancer.

These 285/70R17s did not disappoint, the Hunter GSP9700 balance machine indicated the tires needed little weight to balance, even with their uneven wear.

Tire #1. Amazingly little weight for a dynamic balance of a 33" mud tire. The final balance required 1 ounce on each side.

Balance Data

On my shop scale these 17-inch Bighorns weighed 55–57 pounds depending on how much rubber remained, and 80 pounds mounted on the very light forged aluminum 17″ TRD Rock Warrior wheels. Although I’ll often use a static, single-plane balance for truck tires, these Bighorns were dynamically balanced.

  1. 1.00/1.00
  2. 2.50/2.00
  3. 2.00/4.75 (The most cupped, unevenly worn tire.)
  4. 3.50/1.50

The lack of wheel weight required to balance these 33-inch mud tires was amazing. Tire #3 needed 6.75 ounces, still very respectable for a new tire, and simply impressive for one that has notable uneven wear.

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

Tire Wear Analysis: Maxxis Bighorn LT285/70R17D

Rear Maxxis Bighorn with 15/32" of tread remaining.

Careful inspection of the tread confirmed what I’d thought upon initial scrutiny: It’s obvious which pair of tires had been on the rear axle of the turbo-diesel Cummins and which had been on the front. The rears were evenly worn but had about 2/32″ less tread than the fronts, an obvious result of the substantial diesel torque, loading, and type of use they received.

17/32" in the center of a front tire.

The additional tread in the centers of the fronts was nice, however the outer edges were unevenly worn due to poor front-end alignment, driving style, or both.

Front Tire Feathering.

Rounded Outer Lugs, Front Tire, Maxxis Bighorn 285/70R17D.

Below you can see there is 10/32″ of remaining aftermarket siping in the center lugs.

10/32" of remaining siping cut into the center lugs.

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

Maxxis Bighorn LT285/70R17D

The End Of The Internet

My friend Paul recently referred to Craig’s List (CL) as “the end of the internet”, and I found it both funny and appropriate. Paul says he and his brother Chuck will visit their favorite sites, and then end up on Craig’s List looking for deals. A recent CL find in a nearby town seemed worthy of investigation…

Normal Cruise Speed In Tundra, 65 MPH

“Almost new Maxxis Bighorns, paid $900, only asking $600, still have the nubbies on them”. Since I’ve used and enjoyed Bighorns before, and had a naked set of wheels begging for new rubber, I called and got the skinny. I was told the tires had “about 1,000 miles on them”, from a few trips to the neighboring city, taking kids to school, etc. The guy said he would take $500, sounded genuine, so I decided they were worth a look and made the 1.5 hour drive one morning.

1,000 Miles x 5

Exiting my truck with my tread depth gauge in-hand, the first tire I measured had only 15/32″ tread in the center. I showed the seller, who used to work at a Les Schwab Tire store in Idaho, and he responded with: “Wow, I didn’t realize they were wearing that fast”. New 285/70R17D Maxxis Bighorns come with 19/32″ of tread, and though they can be a fast wearing tire, there was no way they lost 4/32″ in 1,000 miles, even on the rear of a powerful turbo-diesel with a young right foot driving them. During further discussion one trip from Nevada to Idaho and back was mentioned, and from the wear I guessed the tires had logged at least 5,000 miles. The fronts had more tread in the centers but the outer lugs were feathered from poor alignment or driving.

Maxxis Bighorn Tread Closeup

Since I needed more tires like the preverbal hole in head, and wanted to insure I could resell them if the the Tundra or I didn’t like them, I told the seller I didn’t want to offend him, and then offered him $300. He said he wouldn’t go that low, and that there was a much better market for his tires back in Idaho. I increased my offer to $350 (add $50 in gas to that), and said I understood if he didn’t accept, I enjoyed the drive and would be on my way. He and his wife tossed it around for a few minutes, and then accepted my cash.

LT285/70R17D Maxxis Bighorns, Center Lugs Are Siped

Loaded, strapped down, and heading home, I stopped for a cold drink at the local gas station, it was a warm spring day. I took a few pictures of the new toys, had a snack, and watched a tow-truck driver try to perform a lockout on a new, 5th Generation 4Runner for over a half-hour. This reinforced the value of my practice of always carrying two ignition keys, one in each front pocket. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been locked-out of one of my vehicles, more than sixteen years.

It takes effort to accidentally lock the ignition key inside a new car as long as it stays in the switch, or in your pocket. Lay the key on a seat and all bets are off.

While driving home I planned the mount & balance and test-drive with the new to me Bighorns.

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

Fuel Economy And Wind

Driving in the wind can be a drag, particularly if you’re driving a high-profile vehicle, hauling a camper, or pulling a trailer. We live in an area that often has wind, and unless it’s coming directly from the rear, wind is an impediment to good fuel economy.

Don't Hit The Farmer

A perfect, direct tailwind is like the perfect anything, nice to dream about but difficult to find and enjoy. In the real world roads twist and turn, and wind swirls and comes from multiple directions. If you’re on a one-way trip with a direct tailwind, embrace and enjoy the smooth ride.

Watch Out For Semi Trucks

Strong headwinds are of course the worst, but lateral winds also inhibit forward progress and add to the always-present aerodynamic drag that increases with speed and reduces miles-per-gallon. Ascending hills consumes fuel, particularly if we insist on charging them at full-speed, but driving in strong winds can be like constantly driving up a grade. Of course it’s not just wind that reduces fuel economy, other weather conditions can be a drag too, heavy rain, snow & slush…

It Takes More Than a Breeze To Make Clouds Like These

Heavy Wind MPG Impact

Over the past month two lightly loaded trips to pickup and deliver cargo reinforced the impact wind can have on highway fuel economy. Though not to the same destinations or on the same highways, the distances were very similar, and both trips were mostly on rural highways with which I am very familiar. Both trips included a few minor passes and grades, though I would not call the routes mountainous, relatively level for around here. In my mind, the first trip should have produced better fuel economy, though both were through areas that are often windy, and during trip one it was extremely windy.  On both tests my top speed was the same 65 miles-per-hour, though the second test did include some two-lane highway with a lower limit for several miles, mostly 60, which improves fuel economy. There were very few stops and starts.

The Return Trip

Test Vehicle: 2011 Toyota Tundra, lifted with Old Man Emu suspension, 2-inches in the rear, 3.75-inches in the front, LT285/70R17D Dick Cepek F-C II tires, tailgate removed.

  • Trip 1: Reno, Nevada, to Susanville, California, via U.S. Route 395.
  • 181.2 miles / 11.142 gallons of unleaded = 16.26 mpg.
  • Trip 2: Reno, Nevada, to Mason, Nevada, via I80, U.S. Route 95 ALT.
  • 172.1 miles / 9.979 gallons = 17.24 mpg.

The mpg trip computer in this Tundra has proven quite accurate much of the time, though when the second test was completed the PCM was pessimistic, indicating 16.9 mpg. We always calculate and record our true mpg, and compare it to the PCM’s readings. The math doesn’t lie, but liars do math. Speaking of liars…

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

Gas Price Surge Of 2012 Is Over?

Over the last few days many news sources were chanting that the gas price surge of 2012 was over. They quoted Patrick DeHaan, senior analysts for gas, who said, “By the behavior of the market, things are just running out of steam”… unless there is a major political event to reverse things, he thinks prices have peaked. Many websites are carrying this story and I’d be thrilled if he’s correct, $4 is plenty for my wallet.

2005 Wrangler window sticker EPA estimate.

With a little digging I did find alternative views, including the federal Energy Department that predicts that prices will still be 6% higher during the peak driving months of April–September 2012. These predictions are based on higher crude oil, which is down a little as I write this.

I don’t follow crude oil prices, I follow the price at the pump and the miles from each gallon, something I have some control over through careful shopping and driving. I hope the fuel surge is over, all of us would welcome fuel below $4, and below $3 would seem relatively inexpensive these days.

Anyone holding their breath waiting for a return to sub $3 gas?

Copyright © 2012 James Langan