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Run-flat tyres

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    Illustration courtesy of BMW.

Before Scottish chemist John Dunlop created his pneumatic tyre late in the 19th century vehicles rolled on wheels shod with solid tyres.

There wasn't much you could say about them that was positive, the roadholding was appalling, the braking feeble, and the ride backbreaking, but they were impervious to punctures.

Dunlop's creation transformed motoring in virtually every way, but unfortunately they were subject to punctures that would regularly strand motorists on the side of the road. The answer was to carry a spare wheel that could be fitted to get you on your way again, but carrying a spare also has its issues. Over the years carmakers have mounted spares on the front guards, the rear bumper, under the rear and in the boot, but no matter where they have located it the spare has got in the way.

For just as long they've also been looking for ways to get rid of them. The only time we appreciate them is when we have a flat, for the rest of the time they are just going along for the ride and getting in the way. Getting rid of the spare would save money and weight, reduce fuel consumption, and liberate space that could be used for other purposes.

Carmakers have tried a number of things to rid themselves of these unwanted items. They've used smaller, space-saver wheels, they've used small conventional wheels and tyres, they've even done away with the spare completely by using a foam to fix a puncture, but the most recent way is through the use of run-flat tyres.

Run-flat tyres have a stiff sidewall that will support the weight of the car in the event of a puncture so you can get to a tyre retailer to repair or replace the damaged tyre. The upside of run-flat tyres is that you don't have to carry a spare wheel, and because you can drive on you don't have to change the wheel on the side of the road.

The downside is that the ride is much harder than with a regular pneumatic tyre, the cost of run-flats is about 50 per cent higher than a regular tyre, and not all tyre dealers have the knowledge and equipment to handle run-flats. Many tyre dealers are also unaware that run-flats can be repaired and pressure owners into buying expensive replacements instead of repairing tyres.

Run-flats can be repaired if owners re-inflate tyres when the puncture warning comes on instead of driving on with a flat tyre and damaging the sidewall to the extent it is beyond repairing.

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 5 comments

  • Hi Mark
    Can you please tell me who the tyre repairer was that you used in Collingwood?

    Many thanks

    Ray Toscano of Melbourne Posted on 04 September 2013 9:08am
  • I had recently punctured Bridgestone 205/50R/17 run flat tyre on mu new BMW 118i F20 model.
    The closest repair centre was K-mart auto tyre. The guy who inspected the tyre found a nail in it and said that tyre can not be repaired. He quoted me a $298 for a new tyre.
    Went to Goodyear Autocare Maroubra , very friendly guy called Tom they remove the nail, put the plug into the tyre. He said that the run-flat tire can be repaired as long as it passes inspection by an authorized tyre repair centre who uses a plug/patch method (following the manufacturer’s recommended repair procedure). Opinions to the contrary are out of date. He also emphasised that no tire, run-flat or conventional, can be repaired if the sidewall is perforated.

    Gorry of Sydney Posted on 15 July 2013 10:21pm
  • Run Flats may be fine for European/western roads, but a disaster for most Asian roads (other than Malaysian and Singaporean?). Combined with the hard ride (even in the ‘Comfort’ mode, the bumpy, uneven road surfaces are bone jarring. I suppose BMW does not care for those sentiments. The way out? Switch back to conventional by any owner? Not that simple as the entire configuration has to be totally redone!

    What to do?
    Change to a Merc!

    Don Peter Sunanthiran of Colombo Posted on 25 April 2013 8:35pm
  • Wife just had a ‘run flat’ on her X1 repaired for $60 this morning in Collingwood by a reputable tyre dealer who explained that if the tyre isnt damaged and its a small puncture not in the sidewall then the tyre can be repaired and meet every standard and will last the required life of the tyre.

    Mark of Melbourne Posted on 20 March 2012 10:29am
  • Run flat tyres are a flawed concept. Continental will not support a dealer repairing a puncture. We had new Continental tyres fitted to our BMW 325i and 3500 km later had a puncture. $425 to replace tyre! We were not advised of this either at the time of vehicle purchase or when we purchased the tyres. This is unconscionable conduct by both BMW and the tyre dealer

    Peter Wilson Posted on 02 July 2011 10:08pm
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