S550: Second Thing Fixed - New Wheels
Further inspection revealed that all four wheels had cracks, although the other three were not yet bad enough to leak air. Sigh. It seems almost certain that this damage was there when I bought the car (there's no way I cracked all four wheels in less than 1,000 miles). And since the front left tire was showing low on air when I first test drove the car, it also seems almost certain that the dealer knew about at least that one and didn't tell me. Caveat emptor, anyone buying from Mercedes Benz of El Dorado Hills. I should have had all the wheels pulled and inspected before purchase.
So this brings us to the question of replacements. Since my S550 came with the "Sport Package" option (mostly appearance changes to the bumpers and side skirts), it came from the factory with 20" AMG wheels. Those weren't the wheels that were on the car when I bought it. And, sadly, the AMG wheels are not available in black, which I think is kind of mandatory on these white cars. Many S550 owners apparently dislike the 20" wheels, complaining that they make the ride rougher when compared with 19" alternatives (especially with the run-flat tires that come from the factory). There are also reports that the 20" wheels are more easily damaged by potholes and the like. As a result, lots of S550 owners move from the stock 20" AMG wheels to 19" aftermarket alternatives and replace the run-flat tires with regular Michelins. (If you do that, of course, you'll need to call a tow truck if you get a flat, since these cars don't come with spare tires.)
Since switching to 19" wheels would necessitate all new tires, and also because I think the 20" wheels look better, I decided to stay with the 20" stock size. New from Mercedes, however, the AMG wheels are $2,000 each. So that's not happening. I did find a local, very nice, used set of four for $2,000 (including near-new tires!), but they were the stock silver/gray. Yes, I could have had them all repainted in black, but that would have added hundreds more to the price. And anecdotal reports suggest that the aftermarket replica wheels are a bit more durable than the stock AMG wheels. So I ultimately opted for a new set of aftermarket wheels that replicate the AMG design, but in black. Total cost, installed, came to just over $1,900.
So it begins -- the expensive part of owning a "cheap" Mercedes...