When I bought my current 2005 MCS I opted (almost against my better judgement) for tire and wheel insurance. The plan was listed $500 and was good for five years and any tire and wheel I put on my car. Since my MCS came with the ultra pricey JCW 18″ (R95) wheels and runflats I figured the odds might be in my favor to recoup the investment. 18 months later I’ve done just that.

Last summer I sold my JCW wheels and bought 18″ OZ Ultraleggeras. They’ve given the steering a light yet knife edge quality to it – exactly what I was hoping for. The 18″ version of the Ultraleggeras (leggera is light in Italian) weigh in at a mere 16.9 lbs and have proven to be incredibly strong over the notoriously 3rd world like roads of Chicago. Up until last week I had hit potholes and frost heaves that I swear cracked my sunroof. We’re talking bad enough to give you temporary double vision. Yet the OZ’s had always come out unscathed. This experience seemed to back up what the fine folks at Tirerack claimed when they mentioned lower than normal damage rates for the Ultraleggeras – something I assumed at the time was just lip service.

So as I entered a particularly nasty onramp on Lake Short Drive in Chicago (you can see it here), I knew an impact was coming. I had hit it before many times, each successive time growing more confident in the OZ’s ability to take the punishment. However this particular day traffic was thick and flowing fast. I decided to take the right lane (by far the worst of the two) and get around a group of cabs while I had a chance. This would prove to be my wheel’s undoing.

I hit the buckled pavement (an irregularity there for years due to two section of road coming together) at a slight angle while steering to the left. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this delivered the brunt of the impact to one area of one wheel – the right front. I immediately recognized the impact and begin to assess the situation. There was no change in handling and at speeds of 60mph there was no obvious affects of a bent wheel. So I continued on a few miles home where I parked the car. I didn’t check the wheel because I simply forgot – a testament to the number of major potholes I’ve hit over the years (despite perfecting the art of avoiding them).

A few days passed before I took the MCS out again to make a Saturday morning run to Peet’s Coffee. The car drove fine and I didn’t think to even check the front right for damage. I parked across the street and looked back (to admire the OZs of course) as I crossed the street. To my horror there appeared to be a 30 degree angle where there shouldn’t be one in the right front wheel. I blinked and looked again. Still there. I repeated. Yeah, still there.

But my reaction was more awe than anger. The damage was so bad that it was almost beyond belief. Yet the tire was holding air perfectly. I looked closer. The rim was not only bent – it was split. And you could clearly see through where the lip separated from the rest of the wheel. I was standing in the middle of a busy street with a look of a proud father staring at a wheel bent to grotesque proportions. Thoughts on garage wall-art came to mind.

So yes, wheel and tire insurance may not be a bad idea for those who (A) own small side-wall tire/wheel set-ups and (B) live in areas where roads approach 3rd world country status. Just read the fine print carefully and make sure that any tire/wheel combination you put on the car is covered. Also feel free to negotiate – there plenty of room for you to get a better deal and the dealer to still make money.

The total bill btw was close to $600. And yes, everything was covered.