Many people are unable to change a tire themselves on the side of road—be it a busy turnpike or rural back road. Consumer data even shows that a majority of people know how to change a tire and carry a spare, but they prefer to rely on some form of roadside assistance.
Run-flat tires, upon losing air, give you upwards of 50 miles of operation at a maximum speed of approximately 50 miles per hour. Different models vary in their performance, but that’s plenty of distance to safely reach a rest area, service station or that business meeting you can’t afford to be late to.
Run-flat tires maintain a stable ride when they lose air pressure. When a self-supported or auxiliary-supported run-flat tire is “flat”—it really isn’t. They’re engineered to function for a short period of time without any air.
The technology has come a long way since the first tire of its type was introduced by Dunlop in 1972. Continued innovations have expanded the offerings to include the three types of run-flat tires, distinguished by their methods of protection.
Self-Supporting Run-Flat Tires
Sidewall reinforcements allow self-supporting run-flat tires to carry the weight of your vehicle in the event of air loss. These reinforcements minimize the effects of driving on a flat tire, mainly damage, but also sound and drag. A tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is a must for this type of tire because it’s possible to get a puncture and lose a significant amount of air without realizing it. One possible drawback to these tires is the decreased fuel efficiency, caused by the extra weight of the tire construction.
Auxiliary-Supported Run-Flat Tires
This system of run-flat technology features an inner ring secured against the wheel. Picture it like a hard band of rubber going all the way around the surface of the rim. This ring supports the vehicle’s weight in the event of air loss. Because this method can work for longer distances, auxiliary-support run-flats are the tire of choice for armored vehicles, from military transports to Secret Service cars. Not every vehicle will accept an auxiliary-supported wheel-tire system, so verify that your vehicle can use it before you buy.
Self-Sealing Run-Flat Tires
This unique innovation equips an otherwise ordinary tire with protection against hazards like nails and screws by filling an inner lining beneath the tread coats with sealant. The fix, in most cases is instant, and most drivers are none the wiser that their tire just saved the day. Once this occurs, it leads to slow, small amounts of air loss that can eventually cause a full blowout, but your TPMS system and regular air pressure checks can help to detect this.
Once the run-flat tire has been damaged to the point of leaking air, regardless of type, get to a safe place and replace your damaged tire as soon as possible. The range is still limited to shorter distances and reduced speeds – run-flats do not go forever.
Run-flat tires can definitely improve your peace of mind by providing protection against the unpredictable tire hazards that can strand us in the service lane.