Tires are perhaps the most underrated vehicle part, however, they play an irreplaceable role.
The major tire problems caused by bad roads and sharp objects are fractures and punctures.
Unfortunately, they happen often and can turn an enjoyable trip into a nightmare, especially if you don’t have a spare. This is where run-flat tires come into play.
In this article, we discuss whether run-flat tires make any difference.
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Many newer cars don’t include a spare tire, so this technology is needed.
Here’s the short answer to whether run-flat tires really make a difference:
Run-flat tires keep your vehicle moving even when there’s pressure loss. This also means there’s no need for a spare tire in the trunk, increasing fuel economy by reducing the overall car weight and freeing cargo space. With that in mind, run-flat tires make a difference.
What Are Run-Flat Tires?
Run-flat tires withstand the effects of a puncture, which is usually a loss of air pressure. This helps avoid tire changes in fast and dangerous lanes. It does this by allowing the driver to continue driving at a reduced speed.
New electric cars also often don’t include a spare tire, in order to save space and weight (wheels on electrics are quite a lot heavier!)
They can operate safely without pressure for some time because they’re manufactured to support the weight of the vehicle. With run-flat tires, you can drive safely to the repair shop in the event of a “flat” tire.
However, they can’t be used like that endlessly.
They provide lasting performance even after a partial or total loss of air pressure for up to 50 miles.
Also, the speed at which regular run-flat tires operate in case of pressure loss rarely exceeds 50 mph. However, both the distance and speed limits may differ depending on the tire quality.
You should check the manufacturer’s limits to avoid pushing your tires too far.
There are different run-flat tires based on the technology used in designing them.
The self-supporting tire has stiffer sidewalls that can withstand the weight of the vehicle in case of air loss. Its sidewall usually comprises an additional layer supported by heat-resistant cables. This keeps the tire in its original position.
The auxiliary supported tire uses a hard rubber ring. The tire tread rests on the support ring, which supports the vehicle’s weight when the tire is flat.
What Are the Benefits From Using Run-Flat Tires?
Using run-flat tires comes with many benefits. To begin with, vehicles equipped with run-flat tires do not require spare tires.
The absence of a spare tire will lead to a redesign of the car’s cargo area. This usually means more cargo space. Other tire replacement tools which are absent give room for more cargo.
Another benefit they have is that you don’t have to stop even if the tire gets ruptured. As far as the sidewall is not damaged, you are ready to go. The only discomfort you’d feel is that you’d have to be mindful of the speed at which you drive.
You also may not have to worry much about the limits. It is enough to get you home or to a repair shop, unless you’re on a road trip on a lonely road.
What Are the Disadvantages of Run-Flat Tires?
While run-flat tires work well in most scenarios, they cannot deliver in others. Where your destination is farther than the distance limits, the driver gets stranded because there are no spares.
Some drivers find a car with run-flat tires awkward to drive. It also doesn’t absorb the effects of potholes as well as a car with regular tires. This is because of the stiff tire walls which lead to unpleasant ride.
They are also very expensive relative to regular tires and are also near-impossible to repair safely. This is usually because of their rigid structural design since they’re not as elastic as their regular counterparts. That is why some drivers prefer to replace them instead.
However, some types of run-flat tires can be repaired. Innovations spring out of the automobile industry all the time.
Run-flat tires also require sensors to monitor tire pressure. Heavier tires can cause reduced engine performance, increased fuel consumption and, sometimes, reduced braking efficiency.
When Are Run-Flat Tires Recommended?
Run-flat tires are recommended for vehicles equipped with TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System). This system will show when the pressure in a run-flat tire drops.
It’s also more logical to keep using run-flat tires if your car came standard with them.
While run-flat tires have seemingly the same dimensions as regular tires, it isn’t always advisable to interchange them.
Hence, it is recommended to continue with whichever type of tire your car came with.
This may be cited as yet another disadvantage with run-flats. You can’t easily switch to regular tires if you’re fed up.
However, if your car comes with a standard tire pressure monitoring system, you may be able to use run-flats too.
Are Run-Flat Tires Good for Highway Driving?
We don’t see why not. Their strength makes them fit for highway drives. Even though punctures are less likely to occur on highways, run-flats, like other tires, would serve the purpose.
Another reason they’re great for highways is because they provide stability. When regular tires get blown out, they cause the driver to struggle with control of the vehicle. This is more dangerous on highways because cars are always on high speeds.
Run-flat tires allow the driver to continue driving without losing control of the car. This is because they disperse the weight of the vehicle over the road surface.
These help in ensuring safety and provide a high level of ride comfort so the driver won’t feel the pressure loss much.
Do Run-Flat Tires Get Worse Gas Mileage?
This is tricky. Run-flats deliver better gas mileage because they reduce the vehicle weight since there’s no need for a spare tire.
On the other hand, they also reduce the fuel economy because they weigh a lot more than regular tires. This is because they’re tougher and have heavier designs.
In essence, two things are involved.
The weights of the tires may be negligible compared to the space freed up in the cargo area. This may be because of the tire grade. In such a case, run-flats get better gas mileages.
If the tires are so heavy that the extra cargo space becomes negligible, the car may get worse gas mileage.
Do Run-Flat Tires Wear Faster?
It appears that run-flat tires wear out faster than normal tires.
JD Power completed a study showing that “on average, people change run-flat tires 6,000 miles earlier than conventional tire owners.” It is not clear why the tread wears out faster.
One theory, however, is that tire manufacturers use a softer tread component to withstand the hard riding. Using a softer component may shorten the tread life.
Run-flat tires are usually made from the same rubber compound as regular tires. To keep your tires in good condition, check their pressure and condition periodically.
Do Mechanics and Car Dealers Recommend Run-Flat Tires?
Many car dealers recommend run-flat tires if one can afford them. However, a major challenge mechanics face is their inability to repair them.
As stated earlier, run-flats are hardly repairable because of their strong sidewalls, unlike conventional tires.
What’s more, manufacturers recommend replacing used ones rather than repairing them. This is because it is difficult to determine accurately the extent of damage to a tire once it is compromised.
More car manufacturers are opting to fit their modern vehicles with run-flat tires.
BMW, Mercedes, Mini, among others, promote run-flat technology because of its benefits to driver comfort and safety. If they are set as standard in cars, the brakes and suspension are usually made to fit the technology.
Run-flats are not only important for proper driving but also for accident prevention. A driver can also drive with his punctured tires to a hospital.
Hence, we’ve established that, for safety, run-flats are better than regular tires.
With run-flats, what’s left is to develop the technology as much as possible to increase efficiency and reduce its weight. With that done, there’ll be fewer complaints about them from drivers.
We can only hope tire makers are doing everything possible to increase and develop run-flat tires for better safety and performance.
Until then, customers may likely continue to have mixed feelings about them.