In certain instances, car technologies spark healthy debates. One such case concerns run-flat tires, which represent the most highly developed tire designs currently available.
Essentially, run-flat tires are built to do exactly what their name suggests: keep on rolling despite having been punctured or otherwise deflated. Run-flat tires allow for far more than just limping to the closest service station in the event of an emergency – most designs are good for distances of at least 80 kilometres at highway speeds. That can easily mean the difference between spending the night in a gas station parking lot and making it all the way to a hotel, or even your planned destination.
The safety advantages of run-flat tires are clear: no stopping on the dangerous highway shoulder to slap on a spare, no waiting for a tow truck after a blowout and increased mobility that is especially useful when driving far from home. This list of positives would seem to indicate that the entire industry should have, by now, moved over entirely to run-flat technology.
Clearly, that hasn’t happened yet, as standard tires still enjoy the majority share of the market. You might be wondering what particular aspects of run-flat tires have prevented their wider acceptance. Actually, there are a few factors that have kept run-flat tires from putting a stranglehold on the tire industry.
The first has to do with price. Most run-flat tires are able to keep going after a puncture because they feature an extraordinarily strong sidewall that is internally reinforced to the point where it is capable of bearing the entire weight of the car. The additional engineering that goes into this type of design, combined with the specialized manufacturing and extra materials used, typically boosts the price of a run-flat tire above that of a comparable standard tire.
While car companies might be able to absorb some of these extra costs by not having to include a spare with a new vehicle, drivers facing the prospect of replacing a worn-out or damaged run-flat tire often find themselves facing sticker shock. In addition, once a run-flat tire has been driven on while flat, it must be replaced – repair is impossible. Costs can quickly escalate in the event of an incident.
The reinforced sidewall design on a run-flat tire also has an effect on driving feel. As it is stiffer than a regular tire, some drivers find that run-flats offer a rougher ride. Performance cars outfitted with run-flat tires are particularly singled out as being poorer performers than the same vehicles featuring high-end, standard-design tires. For many drivers, the increased cost and rougher ride of some run-flat tires is more than outweighed by the security and peace of mind the tires provide in the event of a blowout.
If you are considering moving to run-flats, or going the other way and swapping out your current run-flats for a set of traditional radials, you should make sure to consult with your dealership’s technicians prior to making your final decision. These automotive experts know more about your car than anyone else does – the Internet and tire-shop salesman included – and they are in an excellent position to advise you as to whether you will see a substantial benefit from the change.