Run flat tires are becoming a hot topic of conversation. With most of the new BMW, Mini, Chevrolet Corvettes, and even Toyota Sienna AWD models coming without a spare tire, it leaves owners with limited options. While run-flat tires do provide extended mobility, there are mixed reviews on their ride quality, durability, cost, and overall value.
If I was putting my wife in a car and sending her across country in a vehicle without a spare tire, I would most definitely see the value in the run flat tires. Now as a performance junkie, I would have to say that I am not the most impressed with the way some of these tires handle or ride.
Lets start with an explanation of how the run flat tire actually works, and what is different between these and a conventional tire. The major difference is in the construction of the sidewall of the tire. In the illustration below you will see the difference in the thickness of the sidewall and the way it is constructed. The top section is of a standard tire with normal sidewall construction. The second section is of a run flat tire, you will notice that the sidewall is almost twice as dense.
So what does this mean? Well twice as much rubber is twice as hard to flex. So the driver ends up feeling every bump in the road. I personally like to feel connected to the road, but even I have my limits. I talk to Chev Corvette owners regularly, and I can't remember a single one that was happy to pay the premium for run flats, and didn't complain about the wear factor and ride quality....or lack there of.
When the tire loses pressure, the weight of the vehicle actually rests and runs on the sidewall. Think about it! The entire weight of the car is running on the sidewalls! The gotta be stiff to support that!
Where does this leave me on run flat tires? If you are willing to make the swap and take the risk of needing to call a tow truck or flat bed in the event of a flat, you will open up a lot more options at a lower price point, that are superior performing tires, and better riding tires! This is a decision you have to commit to pretty whole heartedly, but if you love to drive, your car will thank you!
But wait! There is a solution that might help! Continental Tire has developed and marketed the Continental Conti Comfort Kit. Say that fast five times! This is an inflation system that is designed to be carried in the trunk that is a combination of a 12v compressor and a high grade can of sealant. This is not intended to be a permanent fix, but will get you off the road if there is a simple puncture.