Getting a flat tire is one of your most unfortunate incidents as a driver. Mainly because you don’t know when it could happen; you might be alone or unprepared with a spare, leaving you stranded.
Nowadays, there are a lot of services like roadside assistance that you can call to help you out in such situations, but they take time. So if you’re running late, there are better situations than this one. If you have stashed a spare in your trunk, you could try to change it yourself, but what if you’re not dressed for the part?
All these scenarios have paved the way for run-flat tires (RFTs) to shine. Run flat tires work so that even if you have a flat tire, you can still drive the vehicle for about 50 miles without any trouble. This means you can drive to an auto shop or a gas station where you might find the assistance you need.
What are run-flat tires?
Zero-pressure tires or Run-flat tires are car tires that allow you to drive at least a few miles even if you encounter a flat tire. Installing RFTs has become popular among car owners compared to when it initially hit the market. The reason is simple- people are more aware of the usefulness of a zero-pressure tire and how it can also impact the driving experience.
However, you should know that even if these tires allow you to keep driving when you encounter a puncture in your tire, it does not mean that you can keep driving it for a long duration. It is only meant to hold on for about 50 miles until you eventually need help or go to an automobile repair shop and get it changed.
Plus, depending on the type of RFTs you have, the speed you can drive your car with punctured tires can vary. So make sure you check the specifications given by the manufacturer before installing them.
Advantages of installing RFTs:
- It offers more stability driving with a puncture than a regular tire.
- You don’t have to worry about changing your tires in the middle of the road in unfamiliar places.
- There’s less weight pressure on your car since you don’t have to always carry a replacement with you wherever you go
- You also get more space in your trunk since there’s no need to carry a spare
Disadvantages of installing RFTs:
- You might not carry a spare tire or repair tools when you need it
- They are more expensive than standard tires of the same size
- You can’t tell just by looking at your tires if you need more air pressure because of the stiff construction of RFTs
- Even with extra reinforced sidewalls, they’re not exempt from sidewall damage such as bulges.
- Many auto repair shops don’t keep run-flat tires in case you need emergency replacements
Can you plug a run-flat tire?
The short answer is yes. You can plug a run-flat tire, but it will not be as effective as when you plug in a regular tire. One of the reasons is that RFTs are built differently than your standard tires.
The design of RFTs is such that it comes with extra reinforced sidewall plies, which help them withstand the car’s weight even after you encounter a puncture and a lot of air pressure. When you have a flat tire, the entire mass of the vehicle falls on these tires, so the structural integrity of these tires is naturally compromised. Unfortunately, even with extra reinforced sidewalls, they’re not exempt from receiving sidewall damage such as bulges.
If you want to retain your zero-pressure tire, you might successfully plug it in to inflate it. But, it may never return to its original shape, compromising safety. Hence, the tires will be unstable and practically unusable especially considering the safety measures of driving a car with uneven tires.
Risks of plugging a run-flat tire
You might successfully plug your run-flat tire, but it won’t return to its original intended shape. A lot of structural damage is incurred in a zero-pressure tire when you drive with the total weight of your car for several miles after encountering a puncture. Hence, even if your mechanic can plug and inflate the tire, the internal structure of the tire is already compromised, so it becomes unstable.
When plugging RFTs, you might be lucky enough to get them inflated, and you may even get a few miles on your tires after repairing them. However, you run a very high risk of your tires puncturing again because of your tires’ lack of structural strength.
Most auto repair shops will advise against repairing run-flat tires because once you let a punctured RTF carry the entire weight of the car while driving, it will cause significant damage to the tire’s internal structure. Even if you can patch or plug the tire and add pressure, you never know when it will give out because it can no longer retain its original shape and strength.
Alternative repair options
Patching is just like a plug; it is only a temporary fix. While plugging might be cheaper, patching up an RTF has the potential to be more effective. The repairer uses a small piece of rubber with strong adhesive and sticks it to cover the puncture hole inside the tire. This reinforces the restoration and gives the repaired tire a longer life.
Replace the tire:
Although an expensive option, getting a new RFT replacement is the safest thing to do; since many repair shops either don’t work with RFTs or don’t have spares, it might be hard to find a place where you can repair it. Plus, not plugging or patching an RTF is neither a permanent fix nor a safe one, so it is best to replace it with a new one.
Nowadays, safety ratings are high on the list for car owners. This is one of the main reasons why run-flat tires are all the craze. They give drivers a sense of a safety net if they’re ever caught in the unfortunate event of a punctured tire.
However, even if these tires are made to withstand the car’s weight and maintain stability in case of a tire puncture, you should try and get the punctured tire fixed or replaced as soon as possible to avoid severe damage.