Adventures at Devils Playground - 2007 Mini Cooper S Long-Term Road Test

2007 MINI Cooper Long Term Road Test

2007 Mini Cooper S: Adventures at Devils Playground

January 24, 2008

I was pressed for time as I left Vegas yesterday morning, but I couldn't live with the reality of not taking a back-roads detour in our 2007 Mini Cooper S. So when I reached Baker, California, I turned down lonely Kelbaker Road, which runs between I-15 and I-40 through an area called Devils Playground.

Evidently, the devil doesn't like to drive, because although there were lots of ominous rock formations, the road itself was a disappointment -- nowhere near enough tight turns for a Cooper S. There were lots of potholes, though, and although I drove with care, I eventually hit one. I pulled over, and sure enough, there was a bulge in the left front tire's sidewall just like that time with our BMW 330i. In other words, terminal damage to the Mini's run-flat tire.

I mentioned I was way out in the desert, right? The nearest city that I was certain would have a new 205/45R17 tire (of any variety) was Barstow -- almost 100 miles away. So off I went.

The owner's manual says that with 1-2 passengers aboard (or in my case, 1 passenger and some luggage), you can drive 155 miles at 50 mph following a tire puncture. But the speed limit on I-40 is 70, so I had to go about 73-75 to keep with the flow. The low pressure warning light didn't come on until 30 miles after the injury occurred. When I checked the pressure, though, it was holding at about 4 psi over the cold spec.

All was still well when I exited onto Barstow's main drag. I turned into a 76 station with a sign promising auto repairs and tire replacement. The mechanic on-duty was polite and responsive, but the only tire he had in the Mini's size was of course not run-flat and it was more money than I wanted to spend on what amounts to a disposable tire -- $149.99 for a Dunlop Direzza DZ101 summer tire. Now, obviously, I could have driven around Barstow in search of a better price, but I was hurried so I OK'd the swap.

When they pulled the tire off, I saw that the inside of the wheel was slightly bent. I hadn't noticed a vibration in the steering that would indicate this, and I still haven't, so it's not certain that we'll have to replace this.

The shop had me ready to go in 30 minutes and the cashier relieved me of $190.36, including labor and tax.

She let me have a banana on the house. Afterward, I went over to the Starbucks, strategically located next door, and bought a coffee to steel my resolve for a rainy slog across LA.

This morning I ordered a new Dunlop SP Sport 01 DSST tire for the Mini from Tire Rack for $269 plus $15.44 shipping. We're having it shipped directly to Stokes Tire Pros, which means we'll probably have it installed early next week. And I figured out to reset the low pressure warning light by reading page 57 of the owner's manual.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 10,844 miles

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