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Maybe you’ve been in this situation: stuck on the side of a road, a punctured tire needing to be changed out for the spare one in the trunk. You have a pair of options, do you choose to change the tire yourself, or do you call for roadside assistance. Both options can take a while to get you back on the road, especially if you’ve never changed a tire yourself before. And even if you have, sometimes it can take some serious elbow grease. |
It’s dilemmas like these that have more car makers offering run flat tires on new cars. Run flats can run for at least 50 additional miles following a puncture, giving you the ability to safely get home, or exit a highway and find a repair shop.
What are Run Flat Tires?
Even though changing a tire is an important skill, the idea of run flat tires sounds pretty handy. The added benefit of losing the weight of a spare tire and tools could help with fuel efficiency too.
There are two main types of run flat tires: Self-Supporting, and Auxiliary Supported. Self-Supporting tires have stiffer and tougher rubber, which can temporarily carry the weight of the vehicle under lower tire pressure. If you do get Self-Supporting tires (see right) you will need a tire pressure monitoring system (which is now government mandated standard equipment on new cars), because a driver may not notice their tire has lost pressure without it. Auxiliary supported tires don’t have stiffer and tougher rubber, but are attached to a special rim which has a steel support ring that is attached to the wheel and can support the weight of the vehicle.
Even though run flat tires have been around in production vehicles since 1994, the adoption as a mainstream replacement for conventional tires has been slow for many reasons. Sheri Hermann, Communication Coordinator from Continental Tire tells us “run flat tires provide convenience to a consumer, but conventional tires are typically lower in cost and have better ride qualities.”
Another top complaint is in regards to price. On average, run flat tires are about one third more expensive than regular tires.
That’s not the only complaint though. While the reduced weight of carrying around a spare might seem like an advantage, run flat tires also have an impact on your fuel economy. Thanks to the tires being heavier and thicker they can reduce fuel economy by 1-2%. Also, due to the stiffer and heavier design, the run flat doesn’t quite perform like its price would indicate. They can often be harsh on the road and don’t provide a lot of grip in low temperatures.
Lastly, when you do get a puncture, or lose tire pressure, it’s not quite as easy to get them repaired. While some run flat tires can be repaired, they need to spend some time off the rim, and need to be inspected to ensure they can be fixed. If they can’t, it’s time to buy new tires. Conversely, most punctures on a conventional tire can be fixed with a simple repair kit that costs just a few dollars.
Despite these obstacles and concerns, run flat tires are increasingly becoming standard equipment on new cars and the reasons are simple: safety and peace of mind. Not only do run flats ease concerns, but they make a vehicle easier to control in the case of a tire blow out....
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