What Are Run Flat Tires? Pros and Cons (and how they work)

While you may not have heard of run-flat tires, they are not new to the automotive world. They were first used in the 1930s but have recently become more popular on today’s vehicles. With the reinforced sidewall design, a run-flat tire can support the weight of the vehicle after it loses air pressure, so you can get to a service center safely.

But is the cost of the run-flat tire worth the benefits? We look at the reasons to consider this technology and some of the drawbacks you may not have thought of.

What Are Run Flat Tires?

Run-flat tires are reinforced to ensure they can temporarily support the weight of the vehicle when the air pressure drops. However, they are not designed to be driven on as many are only 50 miles (80 km) away at 80 km/h or less.

Normal tires are not made to support the weight of the vehicle without air pressure in them. The air pressure itself is what provides the support. Driving a normal tire without the correct air pressure causes a build-up of heat that leads to tire damage and failure.

Types of run flat tires

1. Self-supporting run-flat tire

The most common form of run-flat tire is the self-supporting construction. This band does exactly what it sounds like.

When air is lost in the tire, the sidewall construction can support the weight of the vehicle. However, there is a limit to how long it will last.

2. Tire support ring system

With the support ring system, the reinforcement is not on the side wall. Instead, this run-flat configuration includes a physical structure attached to the wheel itself.

With this design, it is the wheel that bears the weight of the vehicle, not the tire. However, these tires also last a limited time without the right amount of air pressure.

Run Flat Tires Pros

1. Allows you to drive without air pressure

The most obvious advantage of the puncture-proof tire is that you can continue driving after the air pressure has dropped. Instead of going out in the rain or at night, drive to a safe place and have your tire repaired or replaced.

You should consult your owner’s manual to find out how long you can ride on the tire and what the safest speed is. Some can go 50 miles while others can go up to 100 miles.

2. Stability after a blowout

When the tire burns out in the normal setting, handling and steering become an immediate problem. This problem puts you at risk of an accident or the overturning of the vehicle.

However, this is not the case with a run-flat tyre. These tires support the weight of your vehicle, so the ride itself doesn’t change much. You can safely go to your nearest tire shop for assistance.

3. Reduce Vehicle Weight

Because you don’t have to carry a spare wheel or tools, the total weight of the vehicle is also reduced. However, the weight is not much different because the flat tires weigh a little more due to the extra support.

That said, if you drive a sports car or convertible, it can be helpful not to need a spare tire anymore. Instead, you can use what little space you have for storing groceries or a suitcase.

Run Flat Tires Cons

1. No spare wheel

If your car has a flat tire, you don’t need a spare wheel. Also, you don’t have the tools on board to change a tire.

While this allows the space to be used in other ways, such as adding a third row or creating more cargo space, it can be a problem if you ever need a spare. Run-flats are foolproof and you may be in a time when you need the tools to quickly change tires or another tire, but you won’t have one.

2. The tread does not last that long

Run Flat tires have a tread that wears faster than most conventional tires. Some people speculate that this is because there is a soft compound in the tread to counteract hard driving.

While they may need to be replaced more often, there doesn’t seem to be a lack of satisfaction. In fact, many reports show that customer satisfaction is about the same as that of conventional tire owners.

3. Eruptions May Occur

While less likely, there are things that can go wrong with puncture-proof tires. If you don’t heed the warnings or drive over the limits of the race with under-inflated tires, the tire itself may begin to disintegrate. This concern would have the same destabilizing effect as having a flat tire.

The side wall can also be pierced with rubble. In this case you would be forced to stop and call a tow truck because you would not have a spare wheel on board.

4. Difficult to Diagnose

When you ride on a regular tire, the whole ride changes as the air pressure drops. This change and modern tire pressure sensors make it easy to tell when one of your tires is flat so you can fix the problem before you get stuck.

However, the sidewalls of a run-flat do not change when the air pressure is low. This stiffer construction forces you to rely on the tire pressure monitoring system if something goes wrong. If that system is not working properly and you are not checking the air pressure, you may not know there is a problem.

5. Drive faster

Run Flat tires have a stiff sidewall that provides a harder ride. If you add run-flats to a vehicle that didn’t include them from the factory, you will likely feel the difference.

However, buying a new car with flat tires is often not too much of a problem. The manufacturer tends to tune the suspension for the stiffer ride, which brings more comfort.

6. Higher Cost:

There are two ways the run-flat tire will cost you more. First, the price of tires is, of course, higher. In fact, you can expect to pay $35 to $75 more per tire.

Other than that, the run-flat is less likely to be repairable if something happens. What would have been a $25 tire shop patch on a regular tire becomes a run-flat replacement, again costing you more. Your tires should also always be replaced in pairs.

7. Less Available

Run-flat tires are not as popular as conventional tires. Therefore, it may be more difficult to find the desired set on the shelf.

If you’re in a big city, you’ll have better luck. Otherwise you want to reserve your tires for your appointment. If you need to replace the tires right away, you may have to wait a few days for them to arrive.

Run Flat Tires Cost

Run Flat tires cost between $150 and $500 per tire on a standard passenger car. That is between 35% and 200% more than conventional tyres. You will probably pay even more if you drive a heavy vehicle or a luxury model.

Since your tires will need to be replaced at least in pairs, you’re looking at $300 to $1,000 for a set. However, if you need all four tires, it’s not uncommon to pay $600 to $2000 for the tires without considering installation and alignment costs.